Did the Ivy League really, once upon a time, have three players taken in the first 15 picks of the NBA draft? It did, indeed – in 1970, to be exact. Princeton’s Geoff Petrie went eighth to the Trail Blazers, Columbia’s Jim McMillian went 13th to the Lakers and another Princetonian, John Hummer (of Washington-Lee High School in Arlington) went 15th to the Buffalo Braves.
Seems hard to believe now. Heck, no Ivy Leaguer has been drafted in the first round since Princeton’s Armond Hill in 1976 (ninth, Hawks). No Ivy Leaguer, for that matter, has gone in the first 30 picks – which would make him a first-rounder today – since Penn’s Tony Price in ‘79 (29th, Pistons). That, certainly, is part of the “Linsanity” surrounding Jeremy Lin, the Knicks’ sudden star. The guy played at Harvard, for goodness sakes. Harvard is a great place to go if you want to, oh, invent Facebook, but it ain’t exactly the hoops capital of the Western World.
In fact, by the end of the season, Lin may well be considered one of the Top 10 Ivy Leaguers in NBA history. That’s how slim the pickings are, folks. Here’s the team he’s trying to work his way onto (in one man’s opinion):
● Rudy LaRusso, Dartmouth, 6-7 forward-center (Lakers 1959-66, Warriors ‘67-69) – The 10th pick in the 1959 draft. Played in six NBA Finals with Los Angeles during the Jerry West-Elgin Baylor era … and lost them all (to the Celtics). Moved to the Warriors for his final two seasons and averaged 20 points a game. Four All-Star games. Career totals: 11,507 points, 6,936 rebounds, 1,556 assists. Per-game averages: 15.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists.
● Bill Bradley, Princeton, 6-5 forward-guard (Knicks, 1967-77) – A territorial selection in 1965 (costing the Knicks their first-round pick, which was second overall). Helped New York win its only two NBA titles in 1970 and ‘73, serving as a versatile swing man on teams led by Willis Reed, Walt Frazier and Dave DeBusschere. Never played in the All-Star game, and is in the Basketball Hall of Fame as much for his storied college career as for his pro exploits. Career totals: 9,217 points, 2,354 rebounds, 2,533 assists. Per-game averages: 12.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists. Later, of course, he represented New Jersey in the U.S. Senate and sought the Democratic nomination for president.
● Jim McMillian, Columbia, 6-5 forward (Lakers 1970-73, Buffalo Braves 1973-76, Knicks 1976-78, Trail Blazers 1978-79) – The 13th pick in the 1970 draft. A major contributor on two Lakers clubs that reached the Finals, winning a ring in 1972 (when L.A. won a record 33 consecutive games). Averaged 20.1 points a game in the ‘73 playoffs. Career totals: 8,736 points, 3,319 rebounds, 1,557 assists. Per-game averages: 13.8 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists.
● Geoff Petrie, Princeton, 6-4 guard (Trail Blazers 1970-76) – The eighth pick in the 1970 draft. Starred in the backcourt for the expansion Blazers in the first six seasons of their existence. Had great shooting range in the days before the three-point basket and twice scored 51 points in a game, which stood as the Portland record until 2005. Played in two All-Star games and shared the 1971 Rookie of the Year Award with the Celtics’ Dave Cowens. A knee injury cut short his career. Career totals: 9,732 points, 1,271 rebounds, 2,057 assists. Per-game averages: 21.8 points, 2.8 rebounds. 4.6 assists. Is now president of basketball operations for the Kings.
● Brian Taylor, Princeton, 6-2 guard (Nets 1972-76, Kings ‘76-77, Rockets ‘77-78, Clippers ‘78-82) – The 23rd pick in the 1972 draft (by the Sonics). Signed instead with the ABA’s New York Nets. Won two titles with the Nets (1974, ‘76) – Julius Erving’s team – before they joined the NBA. Also played in two All-Star games and won the 1973 Rookie of the Year Award. A strong defender. Career totals: 7,868 points, 1,608 rebounds, 2,478 assists. Per-game averages: 13.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists.
● Chris Dudley, Yale, 6-11 center (1987-2003 with the Cavaliers, Nets, Blazers, Knicks and Suns) – The 75th pick in the 1987 draft. Had the longest NBA career of any Ivy Leaguer, 16 seasons and 886 games. Mostly a backup, his main value was as a rebounder. Played on the Knicks club that lost in the 1999 Finals to the Spurs. Career totals: 3,473 points, 5,457 rebounds, 375 assists. Per-game averages: 3.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 0.4 assists.
● Corky Calhoun, Penn, 6-7 forward (1972-80 with the Suns, Lakers, Blazers and Pacers) – The fourth pick in the 1972 draft. Bit player on the Portland team that won the ‘77 championship. Career totals: 2,896 points, 1,962 rebounds, 601 assists. Per-game averages: 5.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists.
● Ernie Beck, Penn, 6-4 guard-forward (1953-61 with the Philadelphia Warriors, St. Louis Hawks and Syracuse Nationals) – A territorial selection in 1953 (costing the Warriors their first-round pick, which was third overall). Member of the Warriors club that took the ‘56 title. Career totals: 2,325 points, 1,191 rebounds, 669 assists. Per-game averages: 6.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists.
● Armond Hill, Princeton, 6-4 guard (1976-84 with the Hawks, Sonics, Clippers and Bucks) – The ninth pick in the 1976 draft, making him the last Ivy Leaguer to be selected in the first round. A solid set-up man, he was traded, at various times in his career, for former Maryland Terps John Lucas and Ben Coleman. Career totals: 3,214 points, 917 rebounds, 2,194 assists. Per-game averages: 6.9 points, 2.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists.
● Dave Wohl, Penn, 6-2 guard (1971-78 with 76ers, Blazers, Buffalo Braves, Rockets, Nets) – The 46nd pick in the 1971 draft. Made the playoffs only once in seven seasons (‘75 Rockets). Career totals: 2,553 points, 558 rebounds, 1,397 assists. Per-game averages: 6.2 points, 1.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists. Went on to become the Nets’ head coach from 1985 to ‘87. Currently an assistant with the Timberwolves.
● This space reserved for Jeremy Lin. (In terms of celebrity, he’s already made the team. But the kid has started only five games. Let’s see where he is in another few months.)