It’s safe to say that Mountain West fans know their players. In an era where top college basketball players are only around for a single season; there seems to be a bit more stability in The Mountain West Conference. After years of rooting for or against a player MWC fans take great pride when "one of their own" has his name called on draft day. With the 2015 NBA Draft in the books, here is a quick rundown of players drafted from current MWC members during the last 10 drafts aka the "1 and done era".
Note, only players from current Mountain West members are listed. Former members who had players drafted during this time are not included. Players who were members of schools from other conferences during this time are included.
The Best of the Rest Not every school has had the privilege of having a player selected in the past 10 drafts. Those schools include: Boise State, Utah State, Air Force, and San Jose State.
Nevada: Nick Fazekas 2007, Ramon Sessions 2007, JaVale McGee 2008, Luke Babbitt 2010, Armon Johnson 2010. When it comes to quantity Nevada is the leader of the pack (pun intended). However, they have not had a player drafted in half a decade. Nevada has had mixed result since joining the conference in in 2013. With former NBA head coach Eric Musselman now at the helm, some optimism exists that pros will come back to Reno.
New Mexico: J.R. Giddens 2008, Darington Hobson 2010, Tony Snell 2013, Cameron Bairstow 2014. New Mexico went on quite a roll from 2008-2014, winning four regular season conference championships, and three consecutive tournament titles. The players they’ve sent just in that time period just have not had a significant impact on the next level. Giddens has carved out a fine international career; Hopson has won a NBA D-League title, while Snell and Bairstow try to become regulars in the Chicago Bulls rotation.
San Diego State: Kawhi Leonard 2011, Jamaal Franklin 2013, Xavier Thames 2014. Without question the most accomplished Mountain West alum in the NBA is Kawhi Leonard. In four years Leonard has compiled two Finals appearances, an NBA title, a Finals MVP, and a Defensive Player of the Year award. Leonard looks to remain a cornerstone of the dynastic San Antonio Spurs. Meanwhile Steve Fisher is stockpiling talent at SDSU, look for more players to be drafted in the near future.
UNLV: Anthony Bennett 2013, Rashad Vaughn 2015. With a Sweet Sixteen appearance and several highly rated recruiting classes it’s hard to believe that UNLV has not had more players drafted. However, they boast having a top overall pick in Anthony Bennett. Bennett has struggled to live up to his draft position, and was traded after only one season. Despite his professional woes, Bennett remains an example of the potential that exists in Las Vegas. As long as Dave Rice remains the head man at UNLV the talent will keep flowing.
Fresno State: Dominic McGuire 2007, Paul George 2010. Paul George has the potential to become one of the best players in the NBA year after year. Before a gruesome leg injury in 2014, George was widely considered among the elite players in the game. At only 25 a return near the top of the NBA Mountain is not out of the question. As for Fresno State, they have experienced a talent influx under head coach Rodney Terry. If Terry can start consistently winning, draft picks may start flowing out of Fresno.
Colorado State: Jason Smith 2007, Colton Iverson 2013. Colorado State has had a good run over the last decade, but has not quite been able to remain atop the conference. While they have produced a string of solid players, few have has ability to play on the next level. Despite being plagued by injuries Jason Smith has stuck around the league as a role player. On the other hand, Colton Iverson has yet to crack an NBA roster. Back in Fort Collins, Larry Eustachy has been active in acquiring transfers that can play at a high level.
Wyoming: Larry Nance Jr 2015. Who would have guessed that Larry Nance Jr would become the most discussed late-round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft? In his first week as a Los Angeles Laker, Nance Jr has learned that Twitter is forever. If Nance Jr can overcome calling his legendary teammate a rapist, he will be the lone NBA flagbearer for Wyoming. Larry Shyatt is building a strong program in Laramie. But the fact remains that it is very difficult to recruit NBA caliber players to play for Wyoming.