SECAUCUS, NJ, March 14, 2007 -- The current crop of Southeastern Conference players in the NBA is at a crossroads between "those who were great" and "those who are yet to be."
Ten years ago you'd go ga-ga over a roster that featured Shaquille O'Neal, Antoine Walker and Antonio McDyess, but today, that's not the case. Aside from Shaq, the other four starters on the All-SEC NBA Team only account for two NBA All-Star appearances between them (both belonging to Joe Johnson).
I wouldn't call the team young and inexperienced, this is more of a case of a collection of late bloomers. Mo Williams was a second-round pick and averaged less than 15 minutes per game as a rook. Tayshaun Prince played even less in his first year with Detroit as he was trying to establish a niche on an already stacked Pistons team. Johnson and Gerald Wallace were both one-and-done college stars and it took a few seasons to get their feet under them.
The inactive list is occupied by three vets who are good to keep around (Robert Horry, McDyess, Walker) and the Select Squad also looks promising, with Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas and Renaldo Balkman having all showed signs that they could be impact players in this league.
The advantage this team would have is that, outside of the big fella manning the middle, the other four starters can all play multiple positions. Mo Williams can play the two, Johnson can bring the ball up or match up with threes, Tayshaun is a hybrid 2-3-4 and Wallace can man both forward spots.
While the SEC Basketball Tournament rages on this weekend at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, the real best team associated with the conference appears below.
Résumé: SEC Freshman of the Year (2002), All-SEC 3rd Team (2003)
After breaking into the league with Utah as a second round steal in 2003, Williams has made a name for himself in Milwaukee as a floor manager with a penchant for hitting huge shots. (Ask the Pacers
(Video), or the Wizards
(Video).) He's an often overlooked member of the heralded rookie class of 2003 and his game has improved year by year. He's averaging career bests in points per game (17.8) and assists per game (6.3), not to mention his shooting percentages across the board are the highest they've ever been.
Résumé: Two-time NBA All-Star (2007, 2008)
Now in his seventh season, Joe Johnson is coming into his own. Owning a skill set with shades of Kobe Bryant (same frame, same versatility on offense, same keen passing ability), JJ is as good an option as anybody to be the guy taking the lion's share of your team's shots.
Résumé: Three-time All-NBA Defensive 2nd Team (2005, 2006, 2007)
There's a reason why Prince is on the U.S. National Senior Men's Basketball Team, and thus an obvious All-SEC selection. In fact, there are several reasons. There's his extreme length that allows him to block the shots of opponents and make you think he's employing Inspector Gadget's go-go Gadget arms; There's his experience as a two-time NBA Finals participant and one-time NBA champion; And there's his outside shooting that is equally unattractive and effective.
Résumé: All-SEC Freshman Team (2001)
Gerald Wallace says that his days at power forward are over, but he has to do a tour of duty at the four for the All-SEC team first. "Crash" is a do-it-all type of player that can get a block on the defensive end, outlet the ball to a teammate to start the break and then follow the action down the court and end up finishing the play as the primary option, or cleaning up a teammate's mess with an o-board and putback. I had David Lee in this spot originally, but he is used to bringing energy off the bench and I don't want to mess with that.
Résumé: NBA Most Valuable Player (2000), NBA Finals MVP (2000, 2001, 2002), Rookie of the Year (1993), 14-time NBA All-Star, NBA at 50 Top 50 Players
Even as the sun starts to set on his career, Shaq is still a game changer. Whenever O'Neal is on the court, the other team has to be cognizant and adjust their game plan or else he'll still give you 20 and 10. He's the most dominant player to come out of college in the last 20 years. He's the Big Diesel, the Big Aristotle, the Big SEC.
Résumé: Five NBA Championships as a Coach, Three-time NBA Coach of the Year (1997, 1993, 1990), NBA at 50 Top 10 Coaches
Read his profile and pick an impressive feat: The most 50-win seasons as an NBA coach (17), second in all-time playoff wins, third in all-time regular season victories, tied for third in all-time titles as a coach, two more titles as a player and he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys to play football out of Kentucky. Sorry Mike Dunleavy, Pat Riley is the no-brainer for All-SEC coach.
There are 12 schools that participate in SEC Basketball: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt.
There are 38 players hailing from SEC schools in the NBA.
There are two head coaches (Pat Riley, Mike Dunleavy) and eight assistant coaches from the SEC in the NBA. SEC school(s) with the most NBA players – University of Kentucky (10) SEC school(s) with the least NBA players – University of Mississippi, Vanderbilt University (0) NBA team(s) with the most SEC players – Charlotte (4), Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, New York (3) NBA team(s) with the least SEC players – Cleveland, L.A. Clippers, L.A. Lakers, Philadelphia, Portland, Sacramento, Toronto, Washington, (0) SEC schools ranked by number of NBA players – Kentucky - 10, Florida - 9, Alabama - 5, LSU - 5, Arkansas - 3, Georgia - 2, Auburn - 1, Mississippi State - 1, South Carolina - 1, Tennessee - 1, Mississippi - 0, Vanderbilt - 0