Although in recent years we’ve seen an influx of international basketball prospects enter the NBA, college basketball is still the best place to look for NBA prospects. In fact, we’ve seen various college basketball stars adjust well enough to make a jump into the NBA. However, that isn’t always the case. For various reasons, some college basketball stars fail to acclimate themselves at the NBA level. For this piece, let’s take a look at 10 NBA players that only did well in college.
Anthony Bennett played one season for UNLV, averaging 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per outing. Given that he was a double-double threat in the NCAA, the 2013 NBA Draft saw him get selected as the top overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Unfortunately, that would mark the beginning of the end of his NBA career. Bennett became an NBA bust and carved out a journeyman career, having stopovers with the Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors, and the Brooklyn Nets. His four-year NBA career saw him average only 4.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Playing for the Texas Longhorns, Mo Bamba was one of the most exciting big men to watch. Equipped with the right physical tools, Bamba was a double-double machine. He averaged 12.9 points and 10.5 rebounds per outing in the NCAA. The Orlando Magic then selected him with the sixth overall pick at the 2018 NBA Draft. However, with exception to a respectable 2021-2022 season, Bamba has struggled to make waves in the league. With Nikola Vicevic’s rise to All-Star levels, Bamba hardly saw minutes on the floor. To make matters worse, Bamba also suffered various injuries to keep him glued to the sidelines. With the Magic shipping him to the Lakers, things can still change for the former Texas star.
As a star for Texas Tech, Zhaire Smith averaged 11.3 points and five rebounds per game. He was both a Big 12 All-Defensive team and Big 12 All-Newcomer team member. After starring in college, the Sixers selected him as the 16th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. However, foot injuries prevented Smith from carving out an NBA career. In only 13 games across two seasons for the Sixers, he put up only 3.7 points per outing.
Speaking of the Sixers’ bad luck in terms of first-round picks, Markelle Fultz was one of the casualties. Fultz starred for the Washington Huskies, tallying 23.2 points, 5.9 assists, and 5.7 rebounds per game. He looked like a franchise cornerstone for the rebuilding Sixers. Unfortunately, injuries also hounded Fultz. In addition to this, the Sixers were also trying to make him change his shooting form, which affected his production negatively. Although a move to the Orlando Magic has improved his NBA tenure, Fultz has yet to match the output of his college days.
Nick Fazekas is considered to be one of the best basketball players to play in a Nevada uniform. While playing for the Wolf Pack, Fazekas averaged 18.8 points and 9.6 rebounds per outing. He also holds the all-time leading points with 2,464. However, his production wasn’t enough to turn heads in the NBA. Fazekas was drafted in the second round by the Dallas Mavericks before being glued to the bench in lieu of Dirk Nowitzki. After four games, Fazekas was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers where he also played garbage minutes. After averaging only 4.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, Fazekas had to settle overseas to continue playing basketball.
If you get selected over Kevin Durant in the 2007 NBA Draft, big things are waiting for top pick Greg Oden. Oden was a star for Ohio State, putting up 15.7 points and 9.6 boards per game. However, that failed to translate in the NBA. Mainly due to injuries, Oden never had a complete season in the NBA. In fact, he only played 105 games across seven seasons in the league. While he did register some good games in the NBA, Oden never gained enough traction and struggled to stay healthy.
In the college ranks, Tyler Hansbrough was a star for the University of North Carolina. In fact, he even led them to an NCAA championship and was crowned the National College Player of the Year. But despite a decorated college basketball career, Hansbrough never really thrived in the NBA scene. He mostly served as a backup power forward. Although he put up a decent sophomore season, Hansbrough’s career would decline from there. After playing for the Pacers, he bounced around from the Indiana Pacers to the Toronto Raptors and to the Charlotte Hornets before settling overseas.
In four seasons, Jimmer Fredette wowed the college basketball scene with his daring long-range bombs. Fredette averaged 18.7 points while shooting 39% from deep for BYU. However, Fredette ultimately struggled in the NBA. After getting selected as the 10th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, he failed to consistently score. In six seasons in the NBA, Fredette only averaged 6.0 points per game, while shooting 41% from the field and 37% from rainbow country. Because of this, Fredette had to make do overseas to showcase his basketball wares.
The Los Angeles Clippers have a lot of bad history as an organization. In fact, one of their regrets has been drafting Michael Olowokandi with the first overall pick at the 1998 NBA Draft. While Olowokandi turned in respectable numbers for the Pacific Tigers, he turned out to be a bust for the Clippers. The former University of Pacific star only averaged 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, on top of a horrendous 60% clip from the charity stripe.
Coming out of a top basketball program at Duke, J.J. Redick finished his career as the top leading scorer of all-time in the school’s record books with 2,769 points. He also accumulated the most three-point field goal conversions. But while the potential was there, Redick never became a star in the NBA, unlike when he was in college. Redick only served as a role player for several NBA teams and was only a starter at best. In 15 seasons in the NBA, Redick only averaged 12.8 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game. While those numbers were respectable, his production was a far cry from the impact he made with Duke.