Elite college basketball programs all have unique identities carved by their head coaches’ visions of what championship basketball leans upon. Defense wins championships, but offense has a more delicate balance of what’s right and what’s wrong. Does the system have restrictive bounds? Or is freedom important to a certain extent?
The answer lies within a thin grey-area of allowing players to utilize their own strengths and talents within an organized playbook. Balancing those two schemes defines winners. Who’s job description fits that? The point guard.
Thus, it’s a fairly consistent trend that some of the best college basketball programs in the nation regularly produce NBA-level point guards. At Arizona, Hall of Fame coach Lute Olson placed the onus on the point guard position, and his recruitment of elite guards dubbed his program Point Guard U. That was a result of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when a short-list of Olson’s point guards who went league included Steve Kerr, Damon Stoudamire, Mike Bibby and Jason Terry. Leading into Olson’s retirement in the late 2000s, that trend remained true, but ultimately nothing could compete with the frequency and potency of what Arizona’s roster had shed into the NBA during the decade and a half beforehand.
Arizona fielded a number of four-year point guards through the 2000s, some of which made the NBA and some that didn’t. Going back to year 2000, I’ve analyzed which college team could argue for the title of Point Guard U, considering all point guards taken in the 2001 NBA Draft and afterward.
For the sake of clarity, the main players that will go into a school’s consideration will be those who were either drafted or those who worked their way onto any NBA roster and earned any number of minutes in the league. Combo guards who were interchangeable at either the college or NBA level will also be in the conversation.
Will the Wildcats of Arizona remain at the top of the list? Let’s find out.
Wildcat PGs who made the NBA:
The NBA-level talent in the 2000s was a definite drop-off from the big names that gave Arizona the Point Guard U nickname. However, the group isn’t too shabby. Four-year guards Jason Gardner and Nic Wise, who both easily made it in the Euroleagues, had perhaps the best basketball IQs of the four guys who made it onto NBA rosters.
Longhorn PGs who made the NBA:
For some reason, the guys in the backcourt always tend to play second-fiddle to the wings and big men on the Texas Longhorns. But there have been some savvy guards sitting shotgun next to the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant. Most of these guys have carved out solid roles on NBA squads.
Blue Devil PGs who made the NBA:
Of course the Blue Devils are going to show up on this list. Williams’ career was tragically ended in a motorcycle accident, and my only recollection of Ewing was letting Raja Bell drain a three-pointer over him as the Clippers choked in the NBA playoffs. Still, Coach K knows how to pick’em.
Wildcat PGs who made the NBA:
Rondo not counting, John Calipari single-handedly makes up for eight players in this list that includes of 29 total point guards, and he’s got the resume to prove that having elite point guards is a good idea if you want to win. Presuming he doesn’t give the NBA another try, Cal might bring Kentucky to No. 1 on this list in due time.
Tiger PGs who made the NBA:
Quietly, the Memphis Tigers run out what could arguably be the most blatantly talented roster of point guards since the year 2000. While we’re not sure if Wagner and Evans are really point guards, they still get on the list because, like Arenas, they’ve played the position at one time or another.
Bruin PGs who made the NBA:
This is the oddest team that could be labeled Point Guard U, but it’s also the most talented. The two best pros on this list also had the most underwhelming college careers in Westwood. That’s because it’s hard to judge them in that respect because of how unimpressive Ben Howland‘s system can make individual players look on paper and in person. Once they go league, however, UCLA players generally blow up big-time.
Who do you think is the new Point Guard U?
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