Drafting a plan: Best first-rounders in Illini history

Drafting a plan: Best first-rounders in Illini history

With Meyers Leonard primed to become the 15th first-round draft pick in Illinois history, staff writer Marcus Jackson looks at how the previous 14 fared in the NBA (best to worst)

1. Deron Williams 3rd 2005 Utah

n The three-time All-Star and Olympic gold medalist, who scored a career-high 57 points against Charlotte last season, is one of the most coveted free agents this summer after averaging 17.6 points and 9.2 assists during his seven-year career with the Jazz and Nets. Will vie for a second gold medal at the London Olympics.

2. John Kerr 6th 1954 Syracuse

n The former voice of the Chicago Bulls, Big Red was a three-time All-Star center and helped lead the Nationals to an NBA title in his rookie season (1954-55) while averaging 10.5 points and 6.6 rebounds. Kerr, who was the NBA Coach of the Year with the Bulls in 1967, averaged 13.8 points and 11.2 rebounds in 12 seasons with the Nationals, 76ers and Baltimore Bullets.

3. Kendall Gill 5th 1990 Charlotte

n Made an immediate splash in the NBA, earning a spot on the league's All-Rookie team. The 15-year veteran led the NBA with 2.7 steals in 1998-99. The swingman averaged 13.4 points, 3.0 assists and 4.1 rebounds in his career while suiting up for Charlotte, Seattle, New Jersey, Miami, Minnesota, Chicago and Milwaukee.

4. Derek Harper 11th 1983 Dallas

n A defensive specialist, the point guard finished in the top 10 three times in the NBA in steals, averaging a career-best 2.3 in 1989-90 with the Mavericks. In 16 seasons with Dallas, New York, Orlando and the Lakers, the two-time second-team All-Defensive team selection averaged 13.3 points and 5.5 assists.

5. Don Sunderlage 9th 1951 Philadelphia

n The guard played two seasons in the NBA and was an All-Star with the Milwaukee Hawks after averaging 11 points, 2.75 assists and 3.3 rebounds and also was among the league leaders with 263 fouls. Played the following season with the Minneapolis Lakers. In 113 career games, Sunderlage averaged 7.7 points, two assists and 2.5 rebounds.

6. Nick Anderson 11th 1989 Orlando

n The first draft pick in Magic history, the former Illinois Mr. Basketball from Simeon averaged 14.4 points per game in 13 seasons with the Magic, Kings and Grizzlies. Four times Anderson finished in the top 10 in the league in three-pointers made, making a career-best 179 in 1994-95.

7. Ken Norman 19th 1987 Clippers

n "The Snake," a second-team All-American, spent 10 seasons in the NBA playing power forward. In seven of those seasons, Norman averaged double figures in scoring, with a career-best 18.1 points to go along with 8.3 rebounds in 1988-89 with the Clippers. Averaged 13.5 points and 6.1 rebounds while also playing for the Bucks and Hawks.

8. Nick Weatherspoon 13th 1973 Washington

n An All-Rookie team selection with the Washington Bullets, the forward burst onto the scene averaging 7.6 points and 6.1 rebounds. Weatherspoon averaged 9.0 points and 5.0 rebounds in seven seasons with Washington, Seattle, Chicago and the San Diego Clippers. He averaged a career-best 13.8 points in 1978-79 with the Clippers.

9. Brian Cook 24th 2003 Lakers

n The former Big Ten Player of the Year has spent nine seasons in the NBA, most recently with the Clippers and Wizards. As a reserve, Cook has averaged 5.5 points and 2.6 rebounds while playing with the Lakers, Magic, Rockets, Clippers and Wizards. Cook averaged a career-best 7.9 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 83 percent from the foul line in 2005-06 with the Lakers.

10. Luther Head 24th 2005 Houston

n The guard has spent parts of six seasons in the NBA, the most productive coming in 2006-07 with the Rockets where he averaged 10.9 points and finished sixth in the league with 177 three-pointers made. With Houston, Miami, Indiana and Sacramento, Head averaged 8.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists while shooting 39 percent from beyond the arc.

11. Kenny Battle 27th 1989 Detroit

n The forward, considered by many to be the heart and soul of the Flyin' Illini, spent parts of four seasons in the NBA for Phoenix, Boston, Denver and Golden State. In 134 NBA games, Battle averaged 4.7 points, 2.4 rebounds and shot 50 percent from the floor.

12. Frank Williams 25th 2002 Denver

n The Big Ten Player of the Year spent three seasons in the NBA. Williams played his first two seasons with the Knicks. The point guard averaged a career-best 3.9 points in 56 games with the Knicks in 2003-04. For his career, which included a year with the Bulls, Williams averaged 2.9 points and 1.9 assists in 86 games.

13. Mike Price 17th 1970 New York

n The guard played 119 games in the NBA, 62 with the Knicks and 57 with the 76ers. Price averaged 3.3 points and shot 77 percent from the free throw line.

14. George Bon Salle 7th 1957 Syracuse

n A second-team All-America center, Bon Salle never played with the Nationals. He played a year in Italy, spent a season in the NIBL with the Denver Truckers and one year with the NBA's Chicago Packers, which is now the Washington Wizards franchise.


News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments

chan wrote on June 19, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Eddie Johnson was a second round pick, and his career statistics in the NBA are significantly better than most of the first round picks listed.

jimyanaway wrote on June 20, 2012 at 12:06 pm

There are only two Illinois basketball players that are in the top 100 NBA all-time scorers. Eddie  Johnson (#44) with 19,202 points and Derek Harper (#90) with 16,006 points. I would agree that Eddie Johnson deserves to be included near the top of this list.