The South Carolina basketball program has seen nearly 40 former players drafted into the NBA, dating all the way back to 1951, when Jim Slaughter was taken in the fourth round by the Tri-Cities Blackhawks (now the Atlanta Hawks). The league didn’t move to a two-round format until 1989. This year, we could see another, with guard AJ Lawson hoping to hear his name called during the event this Thursday.
Former Gamecocks have gone on to play in NBA championships, be inducted into the Hall of Fame, lead the league in scoring, and even participate in the Slam Dunk competition. Which ones had the best overall careers, though?
With the NBA Draft kicking off this week, we’ve decided to run through the Gamecocks’ all-time greatest professional players, starting with a guard who would later go on to be one of the league’s coaches of the year.
No. 5 – Mike Dunleavy, Sr.
Dunleavy played for the Gamecocks between 1972 and 1976. He totaled double figures in each of his four seasons on campus, culminating with senior year where he averaged 14.7 points and 4.2 assists per game. He’d go on to be selected with the 99th pick in the ’76 Draft.
Dunleavy played for Philadelphia, Houston, San Antonio, and Milwaukee over an 11-year career, averaging 8.0 points and 3.9 assists as a pro. He played in the NBA Finals in his rookie season, and would enter coaching following his retirement.
As a head coach, Dunleavy won Coach of the Year in 1999 in Portland. He led the Trailblazers to four playoff appearances, as well as to the league’s top overall record in the ’99-’00 campaign.
No. 4 – Jim Fox
Fox played for seven different teams over his 10-year NBA career, averaging 9.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. He was selected with the 70th overall pick in the 1965 draft following a two-year stint with the Gamecocks. In his senior season in Columbia, Fox averaged 17.8 points and 13.6 rebounds a game.
Between 1968 and 1974, Fox averaged more than 11 points a contest, and tallied five seasons in which he notched double figures. He had the most success during a two-year run with the Phoenix Suns. The big man retired after the 1977 season.
No. 3 – Tom Owens
Owens was a member of the 1971 ACC title winning team in Columbia, capping off a three-year career with the Gamecocks in which he averaged 15.8 points and 13.3 boards a contest. He was a three-time all-conference performer before being selected in the fourth round of the 1971 draft.
As a pro, Owens totaled 11.5 points and 6.1 rebounds a game over his seven-year career. The forward played for Detroit, Houston, Indiana, and Portland. He also played five seasons in the ABA, before finishing up his career in Italy.