Top 10 NBA Players Ever From Non-Division I Schools: Part 2

Not one – but two – of the players listed here did this to Wilt.

Continuing on our countdown from last week’s Top 10 list of the best NBA (and ABA) players who played for a Division II, III or NAIA school. And, yes, I fully admit it: I cheated by actually cramming in eleven players.

5. Caldwell Jones

College: Albany State (Georgia)

NBA Draft: Round 2/Pick 32 by Philadelphia 76ers

ABA Playing Career: 1973-76

NBA Playing Career: 1976-90

All-Star Appearances: 1 as ABA All-Star

Career High Averages

Points per game: 19.5

Rebounds per game: 10.0

Assists per game: 2.1

Steals per game: 1.1

Blocks per game: 4.0

50.7 % FG

83.7 % FT

One of six brothers from McGehee, Arkansas to play at Albany State, “CJ” left with his family’s highest career rebounding average at 20.3 rpg. Even before his first pro game, the 6-11 post man made quite an impression on his rookie head coach, 37-year-old Wilt Chamberlain.

Chamberlain, then 7-1 and approaching 300 pounds, was “Godzilla in sweat pants and Converse All-Stars,” with  “nostrils flaring, chest heaving, grinning a grin that had some evil in it,” as former San Diego Union sports reporter Joe Hamelin put it.

On the Conquistadors’ first day of drills, Wilt the Stilt lined up his new players to test their manhood. They “stood in a row until summoned, one by one, to dribble down the lane to their doom, to where Chamberlain was waiting like a Mayan god demanding sacrifice,” Hamelin wrote.

With little apparent effort he rejected their pitifully human layups, fly-swatting them to various distant parts of the USD gym. Contempt was etched into his face. Whap! Whap! Wilt was letting them know who was boss.

And then came CaIdwell Jones.

The rest had tried to go around Chamberlain. Jones, 6-11, built like a fence post and full of flight, chose to go over him!

Launching himself into the air like some enormous bony bird, Jones went up over Chamberlain till his waist was even with the big fellow’s unbelieving eyes. Then he brought the ball down with all the youthful exuberance in him, slamming it through the cords so hard it struck Chamberlain solidly on the shoulder and bounded 10 feet in the air. From the look on Wilt’s face, you’d have thought he’d been shot.

Caldwell Jones put up his biggest numbers in the ABA and went on to serve as a defensive anchor for the Dr. J-led 76er conference champion teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

4b. Dennis Rodman

College: Southeastern Oklahoma State

NBA Draft: Round 2/Pick 27 by Detroit Pistons

NBA Playing Career: 1986-2000

All-Star Appearances: 2

Career High Averages

Points per game: 11.6

Rebounds per game: 18.7

Assists per game: 3.1

Steals per game: 0.9

Blocks per game: 0.9

59.5 % FG

31.7 % 3PT

Rodman was a dominant force at NAIA Southeastern Oklahoma State, not only on the boards (career average 15.7 rpg) but also scoring (career average 25.7 ppg). That, of course, changed once the 6-8 forward hit the NBA, where he focused on defense and rebounding for the Pistons, then Spurs and Bulls. By 1998, he was a five-time NBA champion.

4a. Elmore Smith

College: Kentucky State

NBA Draft: Round 1/Pick 3 by Buffalo Braves

NBA Playing Career: 1971-79

All-Star Appearances: 0

Career High Averages

Points per game: 18.3

Rebounds per game: 15.2

Assists per game: 2.5

Steals per game: 1.1

Blocks per game: 4.9

53.1 % FG

69.2 % FT

The mascot of Division II Kentucky State is the Thorobred, and the 7-0 Smith certainly played like one during his tenure there. Smith averaged more than 20ppg and 22rpg and kept being a dominant force during his first three professional years in Buffalo and Los Angeles. In one game for the Lakers, he blocked 17 shots – a NBA record which stands to this day.

Bad knees cut Smith’s career short; he remains one of the most underrated post players of the 1970s.

3. Terry Porter

College: Wisconsin-Stevens Point

NBA Draft: Round 1/Pick 24

NBA Playing Career: 1985-2002

All-Star Appearances: 2

Career High Averages

Points per game: 18.2

Rebounds per game: 4.6

Assists per game: 10.1

Steals per game: 2.0

Blocks per game: 0.2

51.9% FG

43.5% 3PT

Porter’s improvement within the first two years of college was stunning. The 6-3 shooting guard went from a 2 ppg, .08 apg player as a freshman, to a 11.4 ppg, 5.2 apg, 3.9 rpg producer as a sophomore and then 18.8 ppg, 4.2 apg, 5.2 apg monster as a junior.

Porter successfully transformed in a point guard in Portland, which he helped lead to two NBA Finals. He remains the Blazers’ all-time assists leader.

2. Earl Monroe

College: Winston-Salem State University

NBA Draft: Round 1/Pick 2 by Baltimore Bullets

Playing Career: 1967-80

NBA All-Star Appearances: 4

Career High Averages

Points per game: 25.8

Rebounds per game: 5.7

Assists per game: 4.9

Steals per game: 1.5 (likely higher as he played eight years before this stat was kept)

Blocks per game: N/A

51.7 % FG

87.5 % FT

During his senior year at Division II Winston-Salem State, Monroe averaged 41.5 ppg while shooting over 60% from the field. “Earl the Pearl” was still able to employ his improvisational, juke-and-jive style in the NBA, where he helped lead the New York Knicks to the 1973 title. In New York, the 6-3 guard teamed with Walt Frazier to form one of the greatest backcourts of all time.

1. Scottie Pippen

College: University of Central Arkansas

NBA Draft: Round 1/Pick 5 by Seattle Supersonics

Playing Career: 1987-2004

All-Star Appearances: 7

Career High Averages

Points per game: 22.0

Rebounds per game: 8.7

Assists per game: 7.0

Steals per game: 2.9

Blocks per game: 1.2

52.0 % FG

37.4 % 3PT

Of all stories in which a player swings from utter anonymity to eventual superstardom, the most celebrated belongs to Pippen. From 6-1, 150-pound team manager as a freshman to 6-8, 200-pound all-conference player just a year and a half later, it’s likely no star’s story will ever come close to matching Pippen’s rise. By the time he was a senior at his Conway, Ark. NAIA school, Pippen averaged 23.6 ppg, 10.0 rpg and over three steals a game.

In the pros, the six-time champion’s calling card was defense but it shouldn’t be forgotten he packed a devastating arsenal on offense, too:

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