Since 1991, high school players have accounted for only five percent of first-round picks. About 11 percent have been foreign players. That has left a wealth of college talent -- 84 percent of first-rounders -- to flood our NBA teams. So where’s this elite college talent coming from, and which legendary programs are producing the bulk of it? Here’s are the schools with the most first-round picks in the past 20 years.
No. 6 Arizona, UCLA
The Bruins and Wildcats have each produced 12 first-round picks since 1991. UCLA has won a record 11 national championships only one in the past 20 years. Still, from Baron Davis to Kevin Love, the Bruins are well represented in the NBA. Meanwhile, legendary coach Lute Olson developed a pipeline of talent during his 25 seasons at Arizona, taking the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament every year from 1985 until his retirement in 2008. (The ‘Cats won it all in 1997.) Most notable first-rounders to play in Tucson: Mike Bibby, Richard Jefferson and Andre Iguodala.
No. 5 Georgia Tech
Coach Bobby Cremins helped put the Yellow Jackets on the map, and Paul Hewitt, despite his recent dismissal, has kept them there. Georgia Tech has produced 13 NBA first-round picks in the past 20 years. (Sharp-shooting Dennis Scott missed the cut by a year as the fourth overall pick in 1990.) Tech has yet to win a national title, but it has been to two Final Fours and was the NCAA runner-up in 2004 behind Hewitt. Most notable alumni: Kenny Anderson, Stephon Marbury and Chris Bosh.
No. 4 Connecticut
UConn has had 14 first-rounders in this span. Jim Calhoun brought the Huskies to prominence with a trip to the Elite Eight in 1990, and they returned to the national quarterfinals seven more times since. Calhoun’s resume sparkles with two national championships and a place in the Basketball Hall of Fame. A perennial national contender, UConn continues to put Huskies in the NBA with first-rounders including Caron Butler, Richard Hamilton and Ray Allen.
No. 3 Kansas, Kentucky
We have our second tie. Kansas and Kentucky have produced 16 first-round picks apiece in the past two decades. Kansas has to be good, considering its first head coach (James Naismith) also created the game of basketball. The Jayhawks have a long history of success, including five Final Fours and a national title since ’91. Most notable Jayhawk during that time? Let’s go with Paul Pierce. Kentucky has littered the draft as of late. In 2010, UK saw five of its players drafted in the first round, a feat no other school has ever accomplished. Tayshaun Prince, John Wall, Rajon Rondo and Antoine Walker all played home games at Rupp Arena.
No. 2 Duke
With Cameron Indoor Stadium and Mike Krzyzewski, Duke claims one of the country’s most iconic gyms and one of the all-time great coaches. The Blue Devils have had 17 players selected in the first round in the past 20 years, which doesn’t even do the program’s recent success justice. Since 1991, Duke has been to the Final Four seven times and has cut down the nets after four of them. Its list of first-rounders includes Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, Corey Maggette, J.J. Redick, Jay Williams, Shane Battier and Elton Brand. That’s a heck of a resume, but Duke still trails …
No. 1 North Carolina
Carolina tops the list with 20 first-round picks in the past 20 years. The Tar Heels have three national championships (advantage: Duke), including two in the past six years, and nine trips to the Final Four since 1991. After two short-term head coaches, UNC has found a mainstay in Roy Williams to maintain the rich tradition of Carolina Basketball that Dean Smith established long ago. North Carolina’s roll call of first-rounders: Rick Fox, Hubert Davis, Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansbrough and Raymond Felton, among others. It’s clear that when it comes to college talent
in the NBA, Tobacco Road is a good place to start.