The NBA Draft is always a fun event but as mid-major fans far too often we're sitting on draft night without some of our favorite players having a chance to cross the stage. Sure, there is one of our heroes who will likely get a shot but it's far and few between, and besides...the second round is way past my bedtime.
With all that being said, who are some of historic heroes from the mid-major ranks who have heard their names called and made an impact in the NBA? Here is a list of each mid-major conference and their top draft pick of all-time.
Note: We're look at this from current conference affiliation.
Vin Baker, Hartford
Rd 1, 8th Overall
Simply put, Baker was a beast at Hartford and set a school record with 2,238 career points. The Milwaukee Bucks took a shot on the small school kid who ended up playing in the NBA for 13 years and even made four consecutive All-Star games.
Julius Erving, UMass
Rd 1, 12th Overall
There are plenty of people to choose from in the A10 from Larry Hughes to Marcus Camby to Lamar Odom but you can't just skip over Dr. J. The UMass product was actually selected by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1972 despite playing for the Virginia Squires of the ABA the year prior. Erving didn't make his NBA debut until 1976 with the 76ers.
Artis Gilmore, Jacksonville
Rd 7, 117th Overall
Much like Erving, Artis Gilmore was selected in the NBA Draft by the Bulls but went straight to the ABA where he played for the Kentucky Colonels. Gilmore did eventually play for the Bulls starting in 1976 and ended up being an 11 time all-star in the ABA and NBA combined. Gilmore did play two years at Gardner-Webb before heading to Jacksonville.
Damian Lillard, Weber State
Rd 1, 6th Overall
A lot of people were left saying "WHO?" when the Trail Blazers took a chance on Lillard with the 6th overall pick a couple of years ago. We knew who he was and we knew he could be this special early on. Lillard may be the poster boy for mid-majors in the NBA right now.
Jerome Kersey, Longwood
Rd 2, 46th Overall
Speaking of the Trail Blazers, they grabbed another mid-major gem in the 80s when they took Longwood's Jerome Kersey. Kersey ended up playing in the NBA until 2001 with stops with the Warriors, Lakers, Spurs, SuperSonics, and Bucks. He scored nearly 12,000 points in the league and won a championship with the Spurs in 1999.
Bryon Russell, Long Beach State
Rd 2, 45th Overall
Russell was a key member of the Jazz during their "glory years" with Karl Malone and John Stockton. He wasn't the flashiest player but he ended up playing professionally until 2009 including stops with the Wizards, Lakers, and Nuggets.
Colonial Athletic Association
Speedy Claxton, Hofstra
Rd 1, 20th Overall
Claxton gave America East coaches nightmares and eventually ended up being drafted in the first round by the 76ers. He won a championship with the Spurs in 2003 before having his best year with the Warriors and Hornets in 2004-05 averaging 11.5 points and 6 assists.
Karl Malone, Louisiana Tech
Rd 1, 13th Overall
The Mailman first started his deliveries with Louisiana Tech before scoring nearly 37,000 points in the NBA. Malone ended up being a 14 time all-star and an MVP winner twice. He'll likely be the all-time leading scorer for the Utah Jazz for a long, long time.
Willie Green, Detroit
Rd 2, 41st Overall
2003 NBA Draft
The SuperSonics took Willie Green in 2003 and a decade later Willie Green has had a pretty solid NBA career with the 76ers, Hornets, Hawks, and Clippers. His best year came in 2007-08 when he started 74 games with the 76ers averaging 12.4 points per game.
Chris Dudley, Yale
Rd 4, 75th Overall
This would probably go to Jeremy Lin but Lin was went undrafted out of Harvard. Instead of Lin we get Bill Dudley from Yale who ended up playing until 2003 with stops with the Cavs, Nets, Trail Blazers, Knicks, and Suns.
Rik Smits, Marist
Rd 1, 2nd Overall
1988 NBA Draft
The "Dunking Dutchman" was a huge part of the Pacers success in the 90s and even ended up being an all-star in 1998. Smits ended up playing until 2000, all with Indiana, and posted nearly 13,000 career points.
Ron Harper, Miami (OH)
Rd 1, 8th Overall
1986 NBA Draft
The MAC has had plenty of solid NBA prospects but none ended up with 5 championship rings the way Ron Harper did after spending time with the Bulls and Lakers. Harper was drafted by the Cavaliers and even made the All-Rookie team in 1987.
Rick Mahorn, Hampton
Rd 2, 35th Overall
Rick Mahorn was drafted by the local Washington Bullets coming out of Hampton but he was more known for his work with the 1989 NBA Champion Detroit Pistons where he was a key member of the "Bad Boys". Mahorn's gritty style even got him on the NBA's all-defensive squad in 1990.
Larry Bird, Indiana State
Rd 1, 6th Overall
I don't think we need to go into too much detail here about the 12 time All-Star and Dream Teamer. Kudos to the Sycamores.
Carey Scurry, LIU Brooklyn
Rd 2, 37th Overall
It's kind of slim pickens in the NEC when it comes to the current slate of teams. There is Othyus Jeffers from Robert Morris but he wasn't drafted. So...ummm... all I can really say about this guy is that he played for the Jazz from 1985 to 1988.
Anthony Mason, Tennessee State
Rd 3, 53rd Overall
Kenneth Faried might pass Mason at some point but the Tennessee State product put up a solid NBA career including an all-star appearance with the Heat and being named the NBA's 6th Man of the Year in 1995 with the Knicks.
David Robinson, Navy
Rd 1, 1st Overall
The Admiral terrorized the CAA during his college days and now gets some Patriot League love. Robinson finished his career as a Dream Teamer, MVP, 10 time All-Star, and two time NBA Champion.
Stephen Curry, Davidson
Rd 1, 7th Overall
The Wildcats are in the SoCon for a couple more days so we'll give them Stephen Curry. Curry has blossomed into one the NBA's most fun players to watch with the Golden State Warriors and is already an All-Star for Steve Kerr's squad.
Scottie Pippen, Central Arkansas
Rd 1, 5th Overall
Pippen barely beats out McNeese State product Joe Dumars who had a special career with the Pistons. Pippen was also a Dream Teamer with fellow '87 pick David Robinson and ended up winning 6 championships with the Bulls and appeared in 7 All-Star Games.
Lindsey Hunter, Jackson State
Rd 1, 10th Overall
Lindsey Hunter got a double dip of SWACtion in college at Alcorn State and Jackson State. He went on to play in the NBA until 2010 with the Pistons, Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, and Bulls. He won a championship with both the Lakers and Pistons.
Derek Fisher, Arkansas Little Rock
Rd 1, 24th Overall
The new head coach of the New York Knicks played nearly 20 years with the Lakers, Thunder, Mavericks, Warriors, and Jazz. He ended up with 5 NBA Championships and was even the President of the NBPA.
George Hill, IUPUI
Rd 1, 26th Overall
The Summit League has only had three players make their way to the league but so far George Hill has been a good one. Hill played for the Spurs until 2011 and now is a key player for the Indiana Pacers in their continued pursuit of a championship.
Steve Nash, Santa Clara
Rd 1, 15th Overall
This might bring out the Gonzaga boo birds out because of John Stockton but I have to give the nod to the two time MVP Steve Nash. Nash has been one of the NBA's most dynamic players and has now appeared in 8 All-Star games. He's still playing at age 40 and will go down as one of the best point guards in league history (with Stockton).
Clint Richardson, Seattle
Rd 2, 36th Overall
Nothing too exciting going down in the WAC but Seattle's Clint Richardson did last seven years in the league and won a championship with the 76ers in 1983. He ended up averaging just over 7 points per game with the 76ers and Pacers over his career.