We’ve seen a jump in Virginia Basketball’s presence in the NBA in the last few years. With that in mind, I’ve decided to rank the top NBA careers of former Virginia players. You won’t see any of the recently drafted Hoos on here, as I only included players that have played more than 100 games in the professional ranks. This isn’t about potential, its about results. With that in mind, let’s dive in.
10. Rick Carlisle
Okay so yeah, I’m starting this off controversially. Did Carlisle have a notable professional playing career? His 2.2 PPG would suggest not so much. Are there other Virginia players with significantly more impressive professional playing careers? Certainly. But, name for me another former UVA player that had as crucial a role in winning a ring as Carlisle did for the Mavericks in 2012 (he was like, y’know, the coach).
9. Cory Alexander, SG
Alexander, drafted 29th overall by the Spurs, had a rough first year (w/ Injuries), before getting decent minutes his 2nd and 3rd years, averaging 7.2 PPG and 8.1 PPG those two seasons. Career high was 28 points and 12 assists. But after those first 3 years he never again played more than 40 games in a season. He even spent 3 years out of the NBA, before returning for a final 16 games with the Charlotte Bobcats. Nevertheless, he did play solid minutes in the NBA and averaged 5.5 PPG for his career.
8. Roger Mason SG
Starting his career with a disappointing first 4 years in the NBA, Mason played in Greece for 2 years before returning to the NBA for the next 8. He had two impressive years, 2007-2008 and 2008-2009, when he averaged 9.1 and 11.8 PPG. He was also in the 3 point contest in 2009.
7. Mike Scott PF
Following a few quiet seasons, Scott has found himself a home in Philly, a city that loves him (despite his Redskins fandom, google it) and a team where he has a valuable role as the 6th man. He’s never going to put up high scoring numbers, but his consistent play in Atlanta, Los Angeles (Clippers), and Philly has established him as a solid player in today’s NBA.
6. Wally Walker SF
Through Walker’s 8 season, 565 game career he never really made much of splash, never averaging double figures in a season. He did, one year, start 70 games for the Seattle Super Sonics and averaged 9.9 PPG. Walker played for 3 teams and was a steady hand for each. He won two rings with Portland as a role player, scoring 5.2 PPG and 4.8 PPG those seasons.
5. Joe Harris SG
Do I need to go further than mentioning that last year he led the league in 3pt shooting? Not good enough? Try beating Steph Curry, in Curry’s hometown of Charlotte, for the NBA 3pt Shooting Contest? No? How about that beard?
In all seriousness though, Joe Harris has found himself a niche in Brooklyn and has consequently established himself as one of the best shooters in the league. The arrival of Kyrie, and next year the return of KD, will bring Harris and the Nets to national prominence.
4. Bryant Stith SG
8 seasons with Denver, 1 with Cleveland, and 1 with Boston resulted in career averages of 10.1 PPG and 3.4 RPG for Stith. The first player (and only retired player) to average double figures since Ralph, Stith carved out a starting role with the Nuggets for those 8 years. He was even the captain of the team that upset 1 seeded Seattle as the 8 seed in Denver. He did however struggle with injuries, only once playing more than 55 games after his first 4 seasons. His early career was much more consistent, playing 82, 81, and 82 games in his 2nd, 3rd, and 4th seasons, averaging 13 PPG during that stretch.
3. Olden Polynice C
The leader in career NBA games among Virginia players, Polynice played a whopping 1058 over 16 seasons. He was a steady player over those 16 years, and for a 6-year span was a double-digit scorer. For his career he averaged 7.8 PPG to go with 6.7 RPG. Drafted in 1987, he began as a depth player before becoming a full-time starter in the ’93-’94 season. Essentially ending his NBA career in 2001, Polynice played a year in both the ABA and CBA before returning for two games in the NBA in 2003. While he may never have been a star, his consistency is what puts him so high on this list.
2. Malcolm Brogdon PG/SG
While only in his 4th season in the NBA, the 2nd ever ROTY from Virginia (I’ll get the 1st in a minute) has established himself as a very good player. His skills on either side of the floor would make him a valuable piece for any team, and the versatility on both ends has defined his career. Guarding players from Lebron to Kawhi to Steph, he’s seen it all in just 3 years. Brogdon’s first year with the Pacers will see him take on an increased role, and his impact will also be likely to continue to grow.
1. Ralph Sampson C
Over 9 seasons and 456 games Virginia’s GOAT averaged 15.4 PPG, 8.8 RPG, and 2.3 APG. Many view his professional career as a disappointment as significant, nagging injuries prevented him from reaching the potential his illustrious college career set. An absolute stud early on, he averaged 21 PPG and 11 RPG in his first 3 seasons, before falling to just 10 PPG and 7 RPG in his last 8, to go with a very quiet final 4 (pun intended) years. Still though, he had the most successful NBA career of any UVA player as he played with 4 different teams throughout his 9 years. A few former Virginia players in the league right now may eventually pass him in professional success (Brogdon and Hunter are the most likely), but for now, he’s the greatest Hoo to take on the NBA.
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