The Colleges and Universities that Produce the Most NBA Players
Does your school make the list? The top blue blood schools here should come as no surprise to anyone, but outside of those traditional powerhouses, there are quite a few surprises. Here are the top 30 colleges and universities in America that produce the most NBA players.
Please note that the number of players per school includes those who played in the ABA as well as the NBA.
30. Memphis Tigers- 36 Players
The Memphis Tigers, formerly known as Memphis State, have made it to three NCAA Final Fours and two championship games, however, their success has always been closely followed by controversy. Two of the Tigers’ three Final Four appearances, 1985 and 2008, have been vacated due to NCAA violations.
Traditionally, the Tigers have been the greatest attraction in Memphis- the Grizzlies of the NBA didn’t make their way to Memphis until 2001. In 2000, John Calipari was named head coach of the Tigers. Calipari, along with star point guard Derrick Rose (above), guided Memphis to the 2008 NCAA Championship Game, losing to Kansas in overtime.
Notable players: Lorenzen Wright, Anfernee Hardaway, Tyreke Evans, Derrick Rose
29. Washington Huskies- 36 Players
The Huskies haven’t won an NCAA Championship and have only one Final Four appearance- back in 1953. But the school continues to produce top NBA talent year in and year out. Some top dogs in Husky history include Detlef Schrempf, everybody’s favorite German NBA player until Dirk Nowitzki supplanted him, Isaiah Thomas, and Nate Robinson.
Thomas and Robinson are interesting cases because of their diminutive stature. Despite both being listed at 5-foot-9, Thomas and Robinson excelled in the NBA, with I.T. being one of the league’s most productive scorers when healthy and Robinson winning a remarkable three Slam Dunk Contests.
Notable players: Isaiah Thomas, Nate Robinson, Detlef Schrempf, Brandon Roy
28. Florida State Seminoles- 36 Players
Today, many people may think of Florida State strictly as a football powerhouse, and while the football team has undeniably (and rightfully) garnered the majority of the school’s attention, the basketball team has been consistently solid for decades. The Seminoles have made the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight three times and the Final Four once.
The Seminoles have a respectable .591 win percentage and have remained competitive in basketball’s toughest conference, the ACC. Today, the Florida State Seminoles are coached by Leonard Hamilton, who took over the program in 2002.
Notable players: Dave Cowens, Sam Cassell (above), Charlie Ward, George McCloud
27. Purdue Boilermakers- 37 Players
They may not be the flashiest team on the list, but Purdue has been a consistent presence in the national spotlight for over a century. They embody hard work, fundamental basketball, and preparation, and the results are impressive. Purdue has won the most Big 10 Conference regular-season championships with 23, one ahead of Indiana.
The Boilermakers have also produced two No.1 overall picks- Joe Barry Carroll and Glenn Robinson. The Boilers, whose main rival is in-state basketball powerhouse Indiana, are coached by Matt Painter who was handed the reins back in 2005.
Notable players: Brad Miller (above), Joe Barry Carroll, Glenn Robinson, Russell Cross
26. California Golden Bears- 37 Players
For the plethora of athletes Cal has produced, it’s relatively surprising that they’ve only made it to the Elite Eight and Final Four three times, with their most recent appearance coming way back in 1960- hardly recent. California has a fairly consistent presence in the NCAA Tournament but has not been able to build on that success and become one of the nation’s truly elite teams.
Ironically, one of Cal’s most recognized basketball players, Tony Gonzalez, decided to ditch the court and make a name for himself in football, becoming a Hall of Fame tight end.
Notable players: Jason Kidd (above), Jaylen Brown, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Kevin Johnson
25. Connecticut Huskies- 37 Players
Since the mid-90s, the UConn Huskies have been one of America’s premier teams, and deservedly so. They’ve won four NCAA Championships and appeared in five NCAA Final Fours, all since 1999. Although UConn is no longer a member of the Big East, they are still tied with Georgetown for most Big East Basketball Tournament championships with seven.
What’s even more impressive than their recent success is the quality of NBA players UConn has produced. In 2018, Dan Hurley became the storied program’s 19th head coach, replacing former player and coach Kevin Ollie.
Notable players: Ray Allen (above), Richard Hamilton, Kemba Walker, Andre Drummond
24. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets- 39 Players
Georgia Tech has been a top NBA-talent producing school for virtually its entire existence, but that elite talent hasn’t yet translated to NCAA Tournament dominance. The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have made it to the Final Four twice and the championship game once, losing in 2004 to the aforementioned UConn Huskies.
As of late, the Yellow Jackets have lost a bit of their sting and have not made it to an NCAA Tournament since 2010. Despite the dry spell, Tech continues to have a large NBA presence.
Notable players: Chris Bosh (above), Jarrett Jack (above), Stephon Marbury, Jon Barry, Kenny Anderson
23. Marquette Golden Eagles- 40 Players
Dwyane Wade (below) is, bar none, the most famous of the Golden Eagles to reach the NBA, but, Wade aside, Marquette has been churning out NBA talent at a healthy clip long before America became aware of the future Hall of Famer.
The Golden Eagles have reached the Final Four three times, the championship game twice, and won the entire tournament back in 1977. In 2003, Marquette resurfaced to the national spotlight thanks to an improbable run to the final four led by Wade. Today, the program is still searching for its next signature player.
Notable players: Dwyane Wade, Doc Rivers, Jimmy Butler, Jae Crowder
22. UNLV Runnin’ Rebels- 41 Players
In the late 1980s and early 90s, the Runnin’ Rebels were the team to beat. They had the swagger, the players, the coaches, and the fanatical aura of Las Vegas backing them up. The Rebs are fifth all-time in winning percentage at .698. In 1990, UNLV blew out Duke University in the NCAA Championship game by a shocking final score of 103-73.
However, since iconic coach Jerry Tarkanian retired, the Rebels have sputtered, failing to continue their dominance of the early 90s. Part of their problem stems from an inability to find a stable, long-term coach willing to work through the program’s growing pains.
Notable players: Shawn Marion (above), Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony, Anthony Bennett
21. Maryland Terrapins- 42 Players
The Maryland Terrapins, known as the Terps, made back-to-back Final Four appearances in 2001 and 2002, winning the championship over Indiana in 2002. Led by point guard Steve Blake (below), that team is widely considered to be the best in Maryland history and, to this day, is the only team to win an NCAA championship.
Defining success strictly by championships, though, would not be the greatest metric of success. Maryland has sustained itself as an elite program by producing plenty of NBA players and reaching the NCAA Tournament seemingly every year.
Notable players: Joe Smith, Steve Blake, Buck Williams, John Lucas, Chris Wilcox
20. Louisiana State Tigers- 43 Players
Another school primarily thought of as a football powerhouse, Louisiana State is no slouch when it comes to their basketball program. The Tigers have made it to four Final Fours and six Elite Eights. Much to the dismay of Tiger fans, LSU’s basketball team has yet to win a championship, something its football team has done three times.
Pictured below is the one and only Shaquille O’Neal, one of two Tigers to be selected first overall in the NBA Draft, the other being Ben Simmons. The Tigers play their home games in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center
Notable players: Shaq, Ben Simmons, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf (aka Chris Jackson), Stromile Swift, Pete Maravich
19. Illinois Fighting Illini- 43 Players
The Illinois Fighting Illini rank 12th all-time in winning percentage in NCAA history, but the storied program has seen better days. That being said, the Fighting Illini still hold the Big 10’s second highest overall winning percentage at .645. In 2005, led by star guards Deron Williams (below) and Dee Brown, the Illini made it to the championship game, ultimately losing to North Carolina 75-70.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Illinois was a staple at nearly every NCAA Tournament, but in recent years the squad has been struggling to find its identity and has lost its shine.
Notable players: Deron Williams, Derek Harper, Dee Brown, Eddie Johnson, Kendall Gill
18. Georgetown Hoyas- 45 Players
The District of Columbia has four Division I basketball schools, but one of them stands head and shoulders above the others- Georgetown University. The Georgetown Hoyas and their visually appealing blue and gray uniforms are tied with UConn for most Big East Tournament championships with seven.
With 30 NCAA Tournament appearances, five Final Fours, and one national championship, Georgetown has been a force to be reckoned with since the program’s inception back in 1907. Since 2017, former player Patrick Ewing has navigated the Hoyas through the turbulent waters of the Big East
Notable players: Patrick Ewing (above), Allen Iverson, Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo
17. NC State Wolfpack- 46 Players
Although nowhere near as celebrated or as iconic as their in-state rivals, the University of North Carolina, North Carolina State has been one of college basketball’s most stable programs since the 1970s. Over the years, the Pack have had no trouble reaching the NCAA Tournament, but getting to the promised land, or at least the final four, has been a different story.
The last time the Pack reached the Final Four was during their magical and improbable run to the title back in 1983, considered one of the greatest tournaments in NCAA history.
Notable players: Spud Webb (above), Nate McMillan, David Thompson, Vinny Del Negro, Kenny Carr
16. Ohio State Buckeyes- 46 Players
Another school that is unquestionably thought of as a football school, Ohio State’s dominance on the basketball court is almost equal to that of its football team. Needless to say, the Buckeyes athletic department is doing something right. The Buckeyes have reached the Final Four 11 times (counting their since-vacated 1999 appearance) and have been the tournament runner-up four times.
Their one championship came in 1960. Ohio State is currently second with four Big 10 Conference Tournament championships. Pictured above are two future NBA players, No.1 Mike Conley Jr. and No.20 Greg Oden.
Notable players: Mike Conley Jr., Greg Oden, John Havlicek, Jerry Lucas, Evan Turner, Jim Jackson
15. Minnesota Golden Gophers- 48 Players
Today, the Minnesota Golden Gophers aren’t on too many peoples’ radar. That’s because they have largely been irrelevant in the Big 10, overshadowed by powerhouses such as Michigan, Indiana, Ohio State, and Michigan State. In 1997, the Golden Gophers made it to the Final Four only to have their appearance vacated following a scandal that rocked the university and its athletic department.
Minnesota has yet to win a Big 10 Conference Tournament since the tournament began play back in 1998. Their main rivalry, however one-sided it may be, is with the Wisconsin Badgers.
Notable players: Kevin McHale (above) Mychal Thompson (Klay’s dad), Lou Hudson, Bobby Jackson
14. Villanova Wildcats- 48 Players
Although Villanova may be one of the smallest colleges on this list, the Catholic university located just outside of Philadelphia is easily one of the more accomplished programs. The three-time NCAA-champion Wildcats have made it to six Final Fours and won two of their three championships (2016, 2018) in a three-year span.
Villanova ranks eighth in NCAA history for most tournament appearances with 37 and their .654 win percentage puts them in the top 15 all time. And when the city of Philadelphia couldn’t get excited about the Eagles, they had the trusty Wildcats to fall back on.
Notable players: Kyle Lowry (above), Tim Thomas, Kerry Kittles, Ed Pinckney, Doug West
13. Michigan State Spartans- 49 Players
The University of Michigan is the superior football school, but the Michigan State Spartans can, without question, lay claim to being the state’s premier basketball school. In 1979, State won their first national championship on the back of Magic Johnson’s (below) outstanding performance. That game, pegging Johnson’s Spartans versus Larry Bird and his unbeaten Indiana State squad, was the most-watched college basketball game in history.
In 2000, the Michigan State Spartans won their second title by defeating the Florida Gators. Overall, Michigan State has been to nine Final Fours, placing them seventh all time.
Notable players: Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jason Richardson, Draymond Green, Zach Randolph
12. Syracuse Orange- 51 Players
The Syracuse Orange rank seventh all-time in win percentage and 10th all-time in NCAA tournament appearance. Syracuse is the greatest attraction in upstate New York, save Niagra Falls. They’ve been to six Final Fours and won the tournament in 2003 behind Carmelo Anthony’s (below) remarkable scoring and, oddly enough, leadership.
One thing that helps ‘Cuse stand out from the rest of the NCAA is their home-court advantage. The Orange play at the Carrier Dome, the NCAA’s largest arena. Subsequently, Syracuse often leads the nation in attendance and wins at home.
Notable players: Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Coleman, Danny Schayes, Sherman Douglas, Dion Waiters
11. St. John’s Red Storm- 53 Players
St. John’s is another school that has not been able to sustain its success from the early days of college basketball. Back when America had a few teams and even fewer rules, the Red Storm were considered elite. But as the game evolved, St. John’s was unable to keep up and the private Roman Catholic university has largely been a non-factor when it comes to tournament play.
The Red Storm have been to two Final Fours, with their last appearance coming in 1985. However, despite the recent run of mediocrity, St. John’s ranks ninth all-time in victories.
Notable players: Ron Artest (above), Chris Mullen, Mark Jackson, Malik Sealy, Walter Berry
10. Michigan Wolverines- 55 Players
The Fab 5 (below) was arguably the greatest freshman class ever assembled in NCAA history and led the Wolverines to back-to-back national championship game appearances, losing both times. The Michigan Wolverines, although primarily thought of as a football school, have done remarkably well on the hardwood for a remarkably long time.
The Wolverines have been to the NCAA Championship Game seven times, winning it once back in 1989. Overall, the Wolverines have won 14 Big 10 Conference regular-season championships. Today, the program remains one of the nation’s most competitive and marketable.
Notable players: Chris Weber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Glen Rice, Rudy Tomjaovich
9. Arizona Wildcats- 57 Players
Down in the desert of Tucson, Arizona, you will find one of the nation’s most successful basketball program. The Arizona Wildcats, sometimes known as “Point Guard U,” rank ninth all-time in winning percentage (.657) and 13th all-time in wins. What’s even more impressive than the wins was their 25-year streak of reaching the NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats have reached the Final Four four times and the championship game twice, winning it all in 1997. In 2009, Sean Miller, the former head coach at Xavier, became the new Wildcats head coach.
Notable players: DeAndre Ayton, Steve Kerr, Mike Bibby (above), Andre Iguodala, Jason Terry, Richard Jefferson, Gilbert Arenas, Luke Walton
8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish- 58 Players
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish. What usually comes to mind is their football team and their iconic gold helmets and plain blue jerseys. However, it is their basketball team, especially of late, that has been more consistent and deserves more recognition. The Fighting Irish have been to the NCAA Tournament 36 times, placing them at ninth all time.
Despite all of those appearances, they’ve only made it to the Final Four once and have yet to win the tournament. In the pros, Notre Dame, much like in football, hasn’t produced too many flashy, impact players.
Notable players: Bill Laimbeer (above), John Paxson, Joe Kleine, LaPhonso Ellis
7. Louisville Cardinals- 60 Players
It’s no surprise that multiple schools from the basketball-obsessed state of Kentucky made this list. The Louisville Cardinals have been an elite program for decades but haven’t fully been able to eclipse their in-state rival Kentucky. Despite the large and constantly looming Kentucky shadow, the Cardinals have managed to rack up impressive stats.
They’ve been to 10 Final Fours, won three NCAA championships (yes, we’re including the since-vacated 2013 title), and rank 10th all-time in wins. In 2017, the Cardinals were rocked by a scandal involving head coach Rick Pitino, who was ultimately fired by the university.
Notable players: Donovan Mitchell (above), Terry Rozier, Rodney McCray, Pervis Ellison, Wes Unseld
6. Indiana Hoosiers- 66 Players
Maybe the only state that cares more about its basketball than Kentucky, Indiana has basketball coursing through its veins. It’s the land of Bird and the Indiana Hoosiers, America’s most beloved basketball school. The Hoosiers are god awful on the gridiron which makes perfect sense considering how they’ve devoted all of their time to building a basketball powerhouse.
Indiana ranks sixth in NCAA Tournament appearances and 11th all-time in wins. They’ve made it to eight Final Fours and have won the tournament five times. Simply put, they are a respected, revered, and storied franchise unlike anyone else.
Notable players: Cody Zeller (above), Victor Oladipo (above), Isiah Thomas, Quinn Buckner, Eric Gordon
5. Kansas Jayhawks- 76 Players
Kansas may not be the most thrilling state in the Union, but the Kansas Jayhawks are one of college basketball’s most exciting teams, year after year after year. Here are a few stats that highlight Jayhawk dominance since the team began hooping in 1898: they rank second in victories, third in winning percentage, third in NCAA Tournament appearances, and hold the longest streak for consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances with 29.
The Jayhawks have won three NCAA championships while being the runner up six times. Their alumni list is bloated beyond belief and includes All-Stars, champions, and Hall of Famers.
Notable players: Paul Pierce (above), Wilt Chamberlain, Danny Manning, Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid
4. Duke Blue Devils- 81 Players
You knew everyone’s favorite team to hate would make this list at some point, and here they are at No.4. The Duke Blue Devils manage to enrage scores of fans each year because of their unabated success, their irritatingly well-executed playing style, their smug athletes, and their spoiled fans. Duke’s stats are almost too numerous to even begin listing here, but some notable accomplishments include five national championships, six second-place finishes, and 16 Final Four appearances.
Their 23-consecutive tournament appearances rank second all time. Blue Devils have been hit or miss at the NBA, with some players excelling while others failing miserably.
Notable players: Kyrie Irving (above), Elton Brand, Danny Ferry, Jay Williams, Marvin Bagley, Grant Hill, Carlos Boozer
3. North Carolina Tar Heels- 94 Players
Duke’s bitter in-state rival is the University of North Carolina Tar Heels. The eye-catching powder blue is just as memorable as the legendary athletes who suited up for UNC. UNC has seven NCAA Tournament championships in addition to five second-place finishes. They are third all-time in wins and second all-time in tournament appearances.
North Carolina is, rightfully so, a gold standard, a benchmark of excellence when it comes to consistency and success. Again, the players listed below are just a few in a ridiculously deep and impressive talent pool.
Notable players: Michael Jordan, Vince Carter (above), James Worthy, Sam Perkins, Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, Bob McAdoo, Phil Ford, Marvin Williams
2. UCLA Bruins- 98 Players
They are no longer the Wizards of Westwood, but UCLA is still one of America’s most prestigious programs. See, UCLA is an exceptional case because they won 10 of their 11 national championships under one coach, John Wooden. Wooden had a stranglehold on recruiting and built his dynasty on bringing in the nation’s best players.
Since Wooden retired, UCLA has struggled to win at such an alarming rate, making it to and winning the 1995 tournament and losing in the 2006 championship game. However, the program still attracts top talent and produces elite NBA players every year.
Notable players: Russell Westbrook (above), Kevin Love (above), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Reggie Miller, Baron Davis, Bill Walton, Lonzo Ball
1. Kentucky Wildcats- 111 Players
If you want to go to the NBA, try going to the University of Kentucky. It’s a factory producing NBA players at a freakishly fast rate. The Wildcats popularized the one-and-done method of entering college for one year before leaping to the NBA. Below are future NBA players DeMarcus Cousins, John Wall, and Eric Bledsoe. Kentucky has the most wins in NCAA history and the highest winning percentage.
They also have the most NCAA Tournament appearances and wins to compliment their eight national championships and four second-place finishes. Thus, it goes without saying that the Wildcats are incredibly well represented in the NBA.
Notable players: Antoine Walker, Rajon Rondo, Anthony Davis, John Wall, Karl Anthony-Towns, Sam Bowie, Jamal Mashburn
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