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Where Have I Seen You Before: Getting Nostalgic About the D-League Draft


Long before Curtis Sumpter won bronze with the Pan Am team this summer and went in the first round of the NBADL Draft, he was a fixture on Villanova teams that restored the long-suffering Wildcats to greatness. Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

It’s easy to forget.

In an era of 140-character pulses and reminders raining down from the Cloud, memory’s on the decline. It’s hard enough to keep track of what you had for lunch, let alone a schedule, without some sort of crutch.

So when a few names popped up in the 2011 NBA Development League Draft powered by Cisco WebEx last Thursday, we got a little sentimental. It'd been years since we'd heard some of these names spoken aloud -- and half a decade in a few cases.

So let’s take a walk back in time, shall we? Back to a time when these guys were all in college, winning national titles, reviving programs, shredding up your bracket and, even for a second, hearing their names spoken in households across America.

In other words, consider this your crutch.

Eric Devendorf
(Idaho, 55th overall)
Where You’ve Seen Him Before:
The Shot That Wasn’t (and for ruining your Thursday two Marches ago)
Blame it on HD. If cameras hadn’t advanced to the point where they can count the salt pellets on soft pretzels, Syracuse guard Eric Devendorf’s would-have-been-game-winner against UConn in the 2009 Big East Tournament might have counted. Syracuse would have won in regulation and the image of Devendorf, standing on the scorer’s table and thumping his chest in front of an orange wall at Madison Square Garden, would have frozen in time.

As it were, the shot was disallowed – the tip of his finger was still on the ball as he released the 28-footer – and the teams went on to play six overtimes before Syracuse finally knocked off the Huskies, 127-117, in probably the greatest game in the history of one of college basketball’s greatest conferences. Devendorf ended that game – which began at 9:30 p.m. on Mar. 19, 2009 and finished at 1:22 a.m. – with 22 points.
Willie Veasley
(Rio Grande Valley, 77th overall)
Where You’ve Seen Him Before:
Up-Ending The College Basketball World
When Butler reached the Final Four in 2008, it had its share of storylines. From its hyper-Cinderella status (coming out of nowhere to play in a Final Four held six miles from campus) to its assortment of stars-in-the-making to Brad Stevens, its very-young and very, very good head coach, the Bulldogs weren’t short on narratives.

And if you asked the Bulldogs, you’d have found out that the one starter nobody was talking about was the one that got them to Indy: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/campusrivalry/post/2010/03/meet-willie-veasley-butlers-very-own-shane-battier/1.
Chris Wright
(Maine, 3rd overall)
Where You’ve Seen Him Before:
On YouTube, or reflected in the frightened eyes of Maurice Acker
Back in 2010, Sports Illustrated called Wright “college hoops’ king of YouTube.” His crowning glory came when he leapt from somewhere in the vicinity of Cleveland, soared over Marquette’s Acker (and delivering a knee to the face) and came crashing down with college basketball’s dunk of the year in 2008, but, as you’ll see, he has many, many more claims to the throne.

Enjoy!
Edwin Ubiles
(Bakersfield, 6th overall)
Where You’ve Seen Him Before:
Smiling at you through a torn-up bracket
Ubiles, who graduated from Siena College in 2010, went to two NCAA Tournaments in his time with the Saints, and thus was at least partially responsible for ruining your bracket. Twice.

The first one came in 2008, when Siena – playing at a Tampa site that saw No. 12 Western Kentucky upset No. 5 Drake and No. 13 San Diego shock fourth-seeded UConn earlier in the day – trounced fourth-seeded Vanderbilt in the Round of 64. Ubiles had 11 points and three assists in the win.

The second, although it only came over a No. 8 seed (Ohio State), might have been even better.

Siena’s Ronald Moore hit the game-winner, sinking a jumper with just under four seconds left in overtime to send the Saints to a 74-72 win over the Buckeyes, but Ubiles led the Saints in scoring, dropping in 20 points to send them onto the Round of 32 for the second straight year.
Durrell Summers
(Maine, 24th overall)
Why You Know Him:
Because of somebody else.
Remember the time Summers scored 26 points for Michigan State against Maryland in the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament? Of course you don’t. Because the game ended on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Korie Lucious.

But who knows where the Spartans – who got to the national championship in 2009 after a Tournament that saw Summers score 9.7 points per game – would have been if Summers didn’t have the game of his life to help MSU keep pace with the Terps.
Cameron Jones
(Fort Wayne, 10th overall)
Why You Know Him:
Because he didn’t declare for the NBA Draft in 2010
Jones, a standout scorer out of the Northern Arizona University, initially declared for the 2010 Draft as a way of “getting exposure,” according to an ESPN story from that year (http://espn.go.com/blog/collegebasketballnation/post/_/id/11320/the-return-of-cameron-jones). After scoring 19.3 points per game in 2009-10, the 6-foot-4 guard out of L.A. figured that his best shot of getting a look from NBA scouts wouldn’t involve waiting for them to show up at Big Sky Conference games – so he went to them.

He decided to return to NAU for his senior season, then proceeded to score 20.1 points per game his senior season and earned a spot in the Reese’s College All-Star Game (held on the Friday before the Final Four at the host arena), where he scored 14 points.
Curtis Sumpter
(Tulsa, 11th overall)
Why You Know Him:
Because you watched Villanova at some point in the last decade
…or If You’re a Really Big D-League Fan:
2011 Pan-American Games
If you felt like Sumpter was at Villanova for most of the 2000’s, you could be excused. Although he only red-shirted one season with the Wildcats (his would-be-senior year of 2005-06, after tearing an ACL in the NCAA Tournament the year before), Sumpter starred for ‘Nova from the end of his freshman year on. Averaging 13.3 points per game for his career – and 17.4 his senior year in 2006-07, after coming back from the knee injury – his career coincided with the beginning of the Jay Wright era, as the two helped take Villanova from an NIT team from 2002-2004 and return the Wildcats to the Tournament in 2005, 2006 and 2007 (and every year since).

In October, Sumpter brought home a bronze medal with USA Basketball at the Pan American Games – the U.S. team’s first medal since 1999. He was the only one of the 12 players on the roster who wasn’t already claimed by a team before Thursday’s Draft.
Charles Okwandu
(Maine, 34th overall)
Why You Know Him:
Look at the ring
Okwandu, UConn’s backup center in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, grabbed five rebounds (of 51 total) for UConn in the Huskies’ 53-41 slopfest win in the 2011 championship game.

In addition to helping UConn take a 26-2 edge in points in the paint, Okwandu also scored two points himself – which was exactly as many as the entire Butler team scored over a 13-minute, 26-second stretch in the second half.
Chris Taft
(Springfield, 48th overall)
Why You Know Him:
You, at some point in your life, in a dim corner of your mind you’d rather not remember, probably had a shot blocked by him.
By the time Chris Taft declared himself Draft-eligible in 2005, the 2004 Big East Rookie of the Year (and all-time University of Pittsburgh record-holder for field goals as a freshman) had already become one of eight players in Pitt history to block 100 shots – in just two years with the Panthers.

Drafted 42nd by the Warriors in ‘05, Taft’s career started to unravel when back spasms and a herniated disc cut him down after just 17 games with Golden State. Diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that he’s now got under control, it’s been a long road back for the swat machine, but he’s still only 26.