Thursday, January 29, 2009

NBA's Greatest Wisconsin-Born Players

Thanks to Southside Andy G., Wisconsin's #1 all time basketball guru/art director.
(An interesting list. Made me think of the many Wisconsin-born players who got into the NBA but either exited early (UWGB's Logan Vandervelden from Valders, Wis.)or were badly injured before they could really blossom (All time leading NCAA 3 point percentage shooter- UWGB's Tony Bennett, born and raised in Green Bay, currently NCAA coach of the year with Washington State)
By Truman Reed
1. Terry Porter
The pride of Milwaukee's South Division High School and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Porter was chosen by the Portland Trail Blazers with the 24th selection in the 1985 NBA Draft and blossomed into an NBA All-Star in 1990 and '91. Porter scored 15,586 career points, but more significantly was one of the mainstays of a Trail Blazers team that ranked among the NBA's best from 1985-95. During that span, the 6-foot-3-inch guard became the Trail Blazers' all-time assists leader with 5,319. He had his jersey No. 30 retired by Portland in December of last year. He also played three seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, one with the Miami Heat and three with the San Antonio Spirs. Following his playing career, Porter entered the coaching ranks as an assistant with the Sacramento Kings in 2002. After returning to Milwaukee to serve as head coach of the Bucks from 2003-05, he worked as an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons from 2005-08 before becoming head coach of the Phoenix Suns in 2008.

2. Fred Brown
Many who caught the act of Milwaukee Lincoln High School's teams of 1966 and '67 consider them the most dominant Wisconsin has ever seen. Milwaukee natives Brown and Clarence Sherod were two of the linchpins of those ballclubs. One rival City Conference coach, who went on to coach at the NCAA Division-I level, called Brown the best high-school player he had ever seen. The 6-foot-3-inch Brown, who picked up the nickname "Downtown" for his long-range marksmanship, played two seasons and became a third-team All-American at the University of Iowa before scoring 14,018 points over a 13-year NBA career with the Seattle Super Sonics. He averaged a career-best 23.1 points per game, which placed him eighth in the league, in 1975-76, and ranked among the NBA's top 10 free-throw shooters seven times.

3. Latrell Sprewell
Yet another Milwaukee native, Sprewell starred at Washington High School before becoming one of the nation's premier junior college players at Three Rivers Community College of Poplar Bluff, Mo., and then a standout at the University of Alabama. Don Nelson and the Golden State Warriors made Sprewell the 24th selection in the first round of the 1992 NBA Draft, and he went on to score 16,712 career points over a span of 13 years. The 6-foot-5-inch guard made NBA All-Star Game appearances in 1994, '95, '97 and 2001 -- the first three with the Warriors and the last with the New York Knicks. He made the all-NBA First Team and all-NBA Defensive Second Team following the 1993-94 campaign and averaged a career-best 24.2 points per outing in 1996-97.

4. Caron Butler
Butler, who was born in Racine and began his prep career at Racine Park High School before spending his senior season at Maine Central Institute, entered the NBA as the 10th overall pick in the 2002 draft by the Miami Heat. He was a first-team all-NBA Rookie Team selection in 2003 before being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers and then the Washington Wizards. The 6-foot-7-inch forward emerged as an NBA All-Star with the Wizards in 2006-07 and again last season, when he averaged career highs of 20.3 points and 4.9 assists per game. He entered the current campaign with 7,314 career points over six seasons.

5. Don Kojis
Kojis scored 1,398 points during his prep heyday at Milwaukee's Notre Dame High School from 1954-57, averaging 31.3 points in his senior year. The 6-foot-3-inch forward stayed close to home and staked his claim to collegiate fame at Marquette University. He led the Warriors in scoring twice and in rebounding three times, averaging 18.6 points and 15.1 rebounds over his three years at MU, and left the school as the program’s all-time leading scorer. He had his jersey No. 44 retired by the school. Kojis was chosen in the second round of the 1961 NBA Draft by the Chicago Packers with the 12th overall selection. The 6-foot-3-inch Kojis began making his mark as a pro when the NBA had just nine teams, competing against a who's who of Hall-of-Famers. He developed into an NBA All-Star, representing the San Diego Rockets in 1968 and '69, finishing 10th in the league in scoring in 1968-69 at 22.5 points a game and ripping down 9.5 rebounds a night. He amassed 7,314 points over his 12-year pro career with the Rockets, the Baltimore Bullets, the Detroit Pistons and the Chicago Bulls.

6. Nick Van Exel

Van Exel, born and raised in Kenosha, was a scoring machine at St. Joseph’s High School, compiling 1,282 career points and leading the WISAA State Tournament in scoring in both his junior and senior years. He developed into a combo guard during his years at Trinity (Texas) Valley Community College and the University of Cincinnati. The 6-foot-1-inch southpaw guard became a first-team All-American under coach Bob Huggins with the Bearcats, yet was relegated to the second round of the 1993 NBA Draft before being selected with the 37th overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers. Van Exel considered his draft position a snub and used that to his advantage throughout a 13-year NBA career that spanned 880 games. He racked up 12,658 points and 5,777 assists. He made an NBA All-Star Game appearance in 1998 during a season in which he averaged 15.4 points and 7.8 assists for the Lakers. He enjoyed his most prolific scoring season in 2001-02, averaging 19.1 points during combined stints with the Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks. He later played for the Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs and logged a total of 76 career playoff appearances.

7. Jim Chones

Chones enjoyed a dominant career at Racine Park and St. Catherine’s high schools. He led St Cat’s to the WISAA state title and a 26-0 record in his senior year and was named UPI State Player of the Year. The 6-foot-11-inch center moved on to play for Coach Al McGuire at Marquette University and became a first-team All-American in his junior year, 1972-73. He left school after that season and broke into the professional ranks with the New York Nets of the American Basketball Association, averaging 11.4 points and 7.1 rebounds as a rookie. He spent the following year with the ABA’s Carolina Cougars before making his NBA debut in 1974 with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He went on to play eight NBA seasons with the Cavs, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Washington Bullets, earning a championship ring with the Lakers in 1980. He retired following the 1981-82 season with ABA/NBA totals of 9,821 points and 6,427 rebounds over 788 games.

8. Devin Harris

Harris, a Milwaukee product, garnered 1,083 points during his Wauwatosa East career, which spanned 1998-2001. He tallied 582 points in his senior campaign and was named AP Player of the Year and Wisconsin’s Mr. Basketball. The 6-foot-3-inch guard spent his next three years 80 miles westward at the University of Wisconsin, where he broke into the starting lineup as a freshman and helped the Badgers win the Big Ten Conference championship. Wisconsin repeated as Big Ten champ in Harris’ sophomore year. He enjoyed a breakthrough season as a junior, averaging 19.5 points, 4.4 assists and 4.3 rebounds to earn the Big Ten Player of the Year Award as well as second-team All-American honors. He was chosen in the first round of the 2004 NBA Draft with the fifth overall pick by the Washington Wizards, who traded his draft rights the same day to the Dallas Mavericks. He played 251 regular-season games and 38 playoff contests over three and a half years with Dallas before being dealt to the New Jersey Nets in a Feb. 19, 2008 deal that sent Jason Kidd to the Mavericks. He averaged 15.4 points in 25 games with the Nets to finish the season, bringing his career total to 2,749 points. He is enjoying a breakout year for New Jersey in 2008-09, averaging 23.1 points and 6.6 assists. And many believe his best days are still ahead of him.

9. Kurt Nimphius

Veteran Wisconsin prep basketball fans will remember the 6-foot-10-inch Nimphius towering over the competition in leading South Milwaukee High School to the 1976 WIAA Class A state championship (over Coach Dick Bennett’s Eau Claire Memorial team in the title game). After scoring 97 points in his three state tourney games, 695 as a senior and 986 for his career, Nimphius, who was born in Milwaukee, was named UPI State Player of the Year. He went on to play four seasons at Arizona State University, then was taken in the third round of the 1980 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets. He made his NBA debut in 1982 and played a total of 564 games through 1990, totaling 3,602 points and 2,472 rebounds while wearing the uniforms of the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, Detroit Pistons, San Antonio Spurs and Philadelphia 76ers.

10. (tie)

Joe Wolf & Tony Smith

Wolf, a native of Kohler, was voted the top high school basketball player in Wisconsin history by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel when the state marked the 100th anniversary of its state tournament in 2005. The 6-foot-11-inch Wolf scored 2,086 points over a four-year career at tiny Kohler High School that spanned 1979-83 and played in the 1983 McDonald’s All-American Game. He helped the Blue Bombers win three WIAA Class C state championships and was named AP and UPI State Player of the Year and Wisconsin’s Mr. Basketball following his senior year. Wolf played four seasons at the University of North Carolina, accumulating 1,231 points and 707 rebounds, and was chosen 13th overall in the first round of the 1987 NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Clippers. During his 11 NBA seasons, Wolf played for the Clippers, the Denver Nuggets, the Boston Celtics, the Portland Trail Blazers, the Charlotte Hornets, the Orlando Magic and the Bucks. In 592 games, he scored 1,279 points and collected 1,933 rebounds. He put in two-year head-coaching stints with the Idaho Stampede and Colorado 14ers of the National Basketball Development League from 2004-08 before joining the Bucks staff as an assistant coach last summer.

Smith, a Milwaukee native, was a standout at Wauwatosa East High School from 1983-86. He scored 1,006 points during his years in a Red Raiders uniform, including 500 in his senior campaign. He was a first-team AP and UPI All-Stater as a senior and went on to star at the collegiate level just a few miles away from Tosa East at Marquette University. The 6-foot-3-inch guard established MU records for points in a game (44) and season scoring average (23.8 ppg) and was named an All-American in 1990. MU’s fifth all-time leading scorer was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round of the 1990 NBA Draft with the 51st overall pick. Smith split his 10 NBA seasons with the Lakers, the Phoenix Suns, the Miami Heat, the Charlotte Hornets, the Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks. He scored 2,504 points in 457 career games spanning 1990 through 2001. He is now a television analyst for Bucks games on FSN


Jill and Kevin said...

As opposed to many pro athletes, Devin Harris is also a nice guy. When the Badgers won the Big Ten Championship our daughter was a cheerleader. Right before half time she got hurt and watched the rest of the game from the sidelines in a wheelchair. After the big celebration on the court at the conclusion of the game, as he was running past her on his way to the lockerroom, he stopped and asked her if she was okay. Now how many players would stop to ask a cheerleader is she was okay? ESPECIALLY in the excitement of just winning the championship? VERY nice guy. He used to come in the Nitty Gritty after games too and was always nice to everyone in there, signing autographs for anyone who wanted one. Actually all of the Badger b'ball players that we met were nice guys. Bo Ryan does a great job with them. Badger Nation should be proud.

Anonymous said...

Wes Matthews will be on this list by the end of his career

Anonymous said...

loooks like someone forgot about Wayne Kreklow (Neenah,circa 1975, Creighton, Boston Celtics)