SB Nation's Syracuse site, Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician, had what I thought was a pretty good idea in identifying the school's top NBA players of all time.
Pitt's NBA lineage isn't quite as large as that of many programs, but the Panthers did/do have about 20 players that logged game time in the league. Last year during the offeason, Aron ranked the careers of Pitt players in the Jamie Dixon era. I thought it would be fun to do the same for the guys that reached the NBA or ABA.
Over the next five days, I'll reveal two guys on the list each day. My criteria for this is pretty simple - I'm factoring in only what they did in the pros. Any Pitt stuff is irrelevant here. Things I'll be looking at include stats, championships, awards, etc. I'm also only factoring in NBA or ABA careers. Pitt has had a lot of players make out very well professionally in other leagues in Europe or the CBA, but for the purposes of this, we're only looking at careers at the highest level.
Finally, I'll also give the standard disclaimer for these sorts of things that this is all opinion stuff. There's no way to create a list that will be universally accepted by everyone, but that's part of the fun. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what I got right/wrong.
No. 10 - Vonteego Cummings
There was a lot of hope for Cummings, who left Pitt and became a first-round NBA Draft pick. He was taken 26th overall by the Indiana Pacers then shipped in a draft day deal to the Golden State Warriors. If there's one thing the Warriors gave him, it was an opportunity.
In his two seasons there, he played in 141 games, starting 22 of them. He not only appeared in games, but played a lot once in them. Despite being a rookie and second-year player, he still averaged more than 23 minutes a game. His rookie season was actually pretty promising as he averaged 9.4 points per game along with 3.3 assists. But his shooting dropped off the map in his second year when he made only 34% of his attempts and he was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. He did appear in 58 games for them in his year there, but saw his minutes dramatically cut and he was out of the league.
In three NBA seasons, he averaged 6.9 points, 2.7 assists, and 1.9 rebounds per game.
No. 9 - Mel Bennett
Bennett was a local product out of Peabody High School who played for the Panthers in the 1970s. He wasn't drafted, but found his way into the ABA with the Virginia Squires in 1975. He went on to play for the Indiana Pacers for two years in the NBA after that and following a two-year 'break' in the WBA and CBA, he rejoined the NBA with the Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers for parts of two seasons.
All told, he played in parts of five seasons in the ABA and NBA. He had a strong rookie campaign with the Squires in 1975-76, averaging 12.1 points and hauling in seven rebounds per contest. But his NBA years were a bit quieter, averaging about four points and three rebounds per game. All told, Bennett played in 204 games.
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