Turner Battle. Mitchell Watt. Yassin Idbihi. Javon McCrea. Arguably four of the greatest players ever to suit up in a Buffalo Bulls uniform, but do you know the one thing that all four of them have in common?
They all went undrafted into the NBA.
McCrea and Watt both played for NBA summer league teams, most recently for the Dallas Mavericks and the Golden State Warriors, respectively. However, all four have played or are still currently playing professionally overseas, with McCrea and Idbihi both playing in Germany, and Watt playing in Israel after being waived from the Warriors this past September.
In fact, UB has only produced one player that was drafted into the NBA, and that was Bob Vartanian who was drafted in the 13th round by the Buffalo Braves in the 1973 Draft, and Vartanian never played a game in the NBA. The only UB player to ever have played in the NBA regular season was Sam Pellom.
So, what makes Shannon Evans and Justin Moss any different?
Bobby Hurley and March Madness.
Everyone already knows the story of how he was one of the greatest collegiate point guards of all-time, so I'm not going to bother rehashing that story, but it is important to realize that Shannon Evans is getting the coaching directly from a man that understands the point guard position arguably better than any other coach in the nation.
Evans is only a sophomore but the Hurley effect is easily noticeable; and he consistently displays a quickness and court vision that rivals that of 5th year seniors on other squads. Combine that with his 38% shooting from beyond the arc, and his willingness to slash to the basket and drive the lane, he is as well-rounded as guards come, which makes for some NBA intrigue.
While Evans is a tad undersized at 6-1, 170 pounds, the Suffolk, Virginia product more than makes up for it with his athleticism, court vision, and ball handling skills. While he may make a boneheaded play every now and then, he is doing it much less frequently, and he's getting better every week, and he still has two more years to play.
As for Justin Moss, he's a slightly undersized forward in the same light as Javon McCrea at 6-7 and 240 pounds, but the way he plays is totally different than McCrea. Moss is light on his feet, and for such a big guy he has the quickness and athleticism similar to that of a guard, but he also has the power to get to the basket in the low post and score both on layups, and from the foul line by drawing contact.
Moss has flourished in Hurley's free flowing system, and shown that he is capable of being a dominant player, even with a hobbled ankle (see: MAC Championship Game), and with a serious heart condition that he fought the odds to overcome (see: any article on Moss, ever, especially recently).
While both men are excellent players and both have bright futures ahead of them, there is one major obstacle that stands in their way: the structure of the draft.
The NBA's two-round, 60 pick draft obviously is much different than the 7-round 200+ pick NFL draft, making it much less likely that a player will be drafted out of the pool of draft eligible players. Add to the fact that many international players are also in the draft pool along with the host of players from the NCAA, the odds go down even further.
However, one gigantic advantage that Evans and Moss have over McCrea, Watt, Idhibi, and Battle is the national attention that UB is getting from going to the NCAA tournament for the first time in the school's history. With this national spotlight, Evans and Moss will have the platform to display what they are capable of, and the media attention will certainly carry over into next season when the Bulls will be even better than this year. Javon McCrea made his way into the second round of some mocks even without that spotlight.
So, as we head into the Bulls' match-up with West Virginia this Friday, something to keep in the back of your mind is how the game and media attention could have implications on the Bulls' future NBA prospects.
Is UB's next NBA-er on the roster?
I certainly think so.