New head coach Larry Drew played four seasons in the early 1980s for his hometown Kansas City Kings. As he put it to me, “those opportunities don’t come around much.”
Indeed. Here is a comprehensive list of people who were born in Milwaukee that grew up and played for the Bucks: _____________.
(Note: Milwaukee native Mike Wilks, who played for 10 NBA teams, was waived by the Bucks before the regular season in 2002.)
Then again, if you watched Caron Butler’s introductory press conference, you know that the Racine native is feeling right at home here. When Butler makes his debut, he will become just the fourth Wisconsinite to play in the regular season for the Bucks, joining Reece Gaines (Madison), Tony Smith (Wauwatosa), and Joe Wolf (Kohler).
Homecomings like this are rare, and there is going to be a different type of feeling when Butler does something really important for the first time this season. I don’t know what it will feel like right now, which is a nice feeling in itself.
Last summer, I Google Mapped every player in franchise history, as well as every Wisconsinite to ever play in the NBA, and the 2012-13 team. It was time-consuming and it was enjoyable and educational for me. I didn’t plan on doing this again for the team this season… but with 11 new players, here we are.
Florida is the only state with multiple Bucks this season. And the two Floridians are important ones: starting center Larry Sanders (Fort Pierce, FL) and starting point guard Brandon Knight (Fort Lauderdale, FL).
Moving up the East Coast, next is Khris Middleton (Charleston, SC). Then we have John Henson (Greensboro, NC), the only North Carolinian on the team.
This leads me to a brief interlude about demonyms, the term that is used to describe residents of specific U.S. states. For example, Henson is a North Carolinian. Each state has an official recommended demonym via the United States Government Printing Office (U.S. GPO). So while you may know people from North Carolina as Tar Heels (or perhaps as Tar Boilers?), more formally they are called North Carolinians. You might just have a rollicking fun get-together with someone special in your life on a Friday night by trying to guess what you call someone from each state. (Full disclosure: I can personally testify in regard to the rollicking fun.) Guess what you call someone from Connecticut in the comments.
Back to Henson. While he was born in North Carolina, he actually went to high school first in Texas and then in Florida for his senior year. So, another important Florida connection.
When I think of West Virginia, I think of Jason Williams and Randy Moss, two of the most YouTube-worthy, pre-YouTube stars of my youth who somehow played high school basketball together in small-town West Virgina. Now I also think of O.J. Mayo (Huntington, WV).
Gary Neal (Baltimore, MD) hails from the same city as only one other Buck ever: Sam Cassel.
The Midwest, South, and West
Butler (Racine, WI) is the only Wisconsinite on the team, though not the only Midwesterner.
Nate Wolters (St. Cloud, MN) will become the seventh Minnesotan to play for the team, following Jeff Nordgaard (Dawson, MN), Brad Lohaus (New Ulm, MN), Jeff Lamp (Minneapolis, MN), Joe Przybilla (Monticello, MN), Randy Breuer (Lake City, MN), and Jon Leuer (Long Lake, MN).
Meanwhile, Ekpe Udoh (Edmond, OK) is one of three Oklahomans in Bucks history, along with Lee Mayberry (Tulsa, OK) and Darnell Jackson (Oklahoma City, OK).
The team is surprisingly light on the West Coast, with California kids Brandon Jennings (Compton, CA) and Drew Gooden (Oakland, CA) gone. Luke Ridnour (Couer d’Alene, ID) is the only current Buck born west of Oklahoma. He and the inimitable Gary Freeman (Boise, ID) are the only two Idahoans* in Bucks history. (*Additional Idahoans are welcome to apply for future Bucks player positions).
The Bucks picked up three new players born outside of the United States in the offseason. And two of them are on their second tour with the team.
Carlos Delfino (Santa Fe, Argentina) returns to the Bucks after one season with the Rockets and remains the only player in franchise history from South America. Zaza Pachulia (Tbilisi, Georgia), who played one season for the Bucks as a 20 year-old in 2004-05, hails from the European country of Georgia by way of the American state of Georgia, where he played with the Atlanta Hawks.
Brand new Bucks are rookies Giannis Antetokounmpo (Athens, Greece) and Miroslav Raduljica (Belgrade, Serbia). Antetokounmpo is the first Buck to hail from Greece, a country with a proud basketball heritage. Raduljica joins Mirsad Turkcan (Novi Pazar, Serbia) as Bucks from Serbia.
And last but certainly not least: Ersan Ilyasova (Eskişehir, Turkey) is probably already the second most accomplished player in franchise history born outside of the United States. Mbah a Moute could make a case, while Toni Kukoc (Split, Croatia) was a master of basketball even in his late-thirties here in Milwaukee, but it was too little (four seasons) too late to compare to Ilyasova. In any event, Ilyasova’s recent trajectory might just have him on a path to eclipse Andrew Bogut (Melbourne, Australia) soon enough.
Then again, who can really predict Ilyasova’s path? After all, no one on the team was born further from Milwaukee than him, and yet no one on the team has been in Milwaukee nearly as long either.