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HBCU NBA Draft History: Part I

1950

Earl Lloyd, West Virginia State 
9th round, 100th pick by Washington Capitols 

This former CIAA star was the first black man to play in the NBA.

1956

Sam Jones, North Carolina College 
7th round, 58th overall by Minneapolis Lakers

Jones was drafted by the Lakers, but he returned to college to complete his degree after his military service, voiding the Lakers’ pick and allowing…

1957

Sam Jones,  North Carolina College
1st round, 8th overall by Boston Celtics

Red Auerbach drafted Jones without seeing him play. It worked out pretty well as he won 10 NBA Championships during his Hall of Fame career.

Woody Sauldsberry, Texas Southern
8th round, 60th overall by the Philadelphia Warriors 

Sauldsberry would go on to win Rookie of the Year and become the first HBCU alum to play in the NBA All-Star Game.

1958

(Boston.com photo)



Bennie Swain, Texas Southern 
1st round, 8th overall by Boston Celtics

1959

Dick Barnett, Tennessee State
1st round, 4th overall by Syracuse Nationals

After leading Tennessee State to three consecutive NAIA titles, Fallback Barnett embarked on a decade-plus career as a clutch scorer, most famously with the Knicks of the early 1970s.

1960

(Source: A&T Register)

Al Attles, North Carolina A&T 
5th round, 39th overall by Philadelphia Warriors

The defensive ace is best remembered for being the second-leading scorer during Wilt Chaimberlain’s 100-point game and leading the 1974-75 Warriors to the NBA Title.

1961



Cleo Hill, Winston-Salem State
1st round, 8th overall by the St. Louis Hawks

The super-talented guard from Newark, New Jersey only played one

1962

Zelmo Beatty, Prairie View
1st round, 3rd overall by St. Louis Hawks

Drafted ahead of John Havlicek.

1964



Willis Reed, Grambling 
2nd round, 8th by New York Knicks

Reed was the centerpiece of the late 60s, early 70s Knicks teams that are remembered fondly to this day. Was the NBA, All-Star and Finals MVP of 1970 and had arguably the greatest pro career of any player from the HBCU ranks.

1967

Earl Monroe, Winston-Salem State
1st round, 2nd overall by Washington Bullets

Selected after Jimmie Walker (Jalen Rose’s dad), Monroe remains the highest drafted player from a historically black college. He proved his 41.5 points per game average was no fluke by winning Rookie of The Year honors.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Ed Manning, Jackson State
8th round, 80th overall by Baltimore Bullets

You may not have heard of Ed Manning, but you’ve probably heard of his son, Danny. The former Kansas Jayhawk and long-time NBA veteran is now Wake Forest’s head coach.

(Source: Pinterest)

Mike Davis, Virginia Union
1st round, 14th overall by Baltimore Bullets

Apparently the Bullets were so thrilled with the high-scoring CIAA guard they got the year before, they drafted another one. Davis didn’t have the career that Monroe did, but he did well enough to make the All-Rookie team and was runner up to some guy named Lew Alcindor for Rookie of The Year.

Bob Dandridge, Norfolk State 
4th round, 45th overall by Milwaukee Bucks

Another CIAA star, Dandridge was a versatile big man on Norfolk State’s high-scoring late 1960s teams that routinely averaged over 100 points per game, without a three-point shot. Dandridge would become a four-time NBA All-Star while helping the 1971 Bucks and the 1978 Bullets to NBA titles. He averaged 18.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists for his career.

(Sourc: EBay)

Wil Jones, Albany State
5th round, 69th overall by Los Angeles Lakers

Jones was the first of four brothers to play in the NBA, however, he started his career in the ABA with the Miami Floridians.

Richard “Pee Wee” Kirkland, Norfolk State
13th round, 172nd overall

Kirkland led Norfolk State to the 1968 CIAA Championship by scoring 17 points in three overtime periods to lead NSU to a 134-132 win over A&T. He chose not to report to the Bulls, however, picking the streets over the league. One of the biggest “what ifs” in basketball history.

1971 

Elmore Smith, Kentucky State
1st round, 3rd overall by Buffalo Braves

Smith had a solid NBA career, averaging 13 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks per game. But he’s best known for being one of five players the Lakers sent to Milwaukee in exchange for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

(Source: Tradingcard.com)

Mike Gale, Elizabeth City State 
3rd round, 47th overall by Chicago Bulls

A contemporary of Monroe and Davis, Gale made his living as playmaker and a defender.  He started out in the ABA with the Kentucky Colonels, New York Nets and San Antonio Spurs. After the merger, he played with the Trail Blazers and Warriors.

1972

Travis Grant, Kentucky State 
1st round, 13th overall by Los Angeles Lakers

Grant was a scoring machine at Kentucky State, scoring 4,045 points in four seasons. He never became a star in the pro game, but he did average 25 points per game with the San Diego Conquistadors in 1974-75.

Lloyd Neal, Tennessee State 
3rd round, 31st overall by Portland Trail Blazers

The 6’7 center was a gritty player and was a complementary piece to the Blazers’ 1977 NBA Championship. His career was cut short by injuries.

1973

(Source: NBA.com) 

Caldwell Jones, Albany State 
2nd round, 32nd overall by Philadelphia 76ers

The second of the Jones foursome to make it to the pros, Jones is best remembered as part of the trade that brought Moses Malone to Philadelphia, setting up the 1983 NBA title.

1974

Truck Robinson, Tennessee State 
2nd round, 22nd overall by Washington Bullets

Robinson’s career started off slow in Washington, but took off when he was traded to the Hawks. He was selected to two NBA All-Star teams, and put up a ridiculous 22.7 points and 15.7 rebounds with the New Orleans Jazz in 1978.

Aaron James, Grambling State 
2nd round, 28th overall by New Orleans Jazz

James had a short but solid NBA career, averaging 10 points and four rebounds per game in five seasons. He later coached and served as AD at his alma mater.

1975

(Source: Sports Illustrated)

Marvin Webster, Morgan State
1st round, 3rd overall by Atlanta Hawks

The MEAC’s first super star was considered a can’t-miss player when he was drafted by Atlanta. After starting his career in the ABA, he would be a key component of Seattle’s 1978 NBA Finals team before playing six seasons with the Knicks and finishing his career with the Bucks in 1987.

Eugene Short, Jackson State 
1st round, 9th overall by New York Knicks 

Short’s career was…well…short. He played just 34 NBA contests.

1976

Larry Wright, Grambling
1st round, 14th overall by Washington Bullets

The former SWAC Player of The Year was one of three HBCU alums, along with Dandridge and Joe Pace, on the 1978 NBA Champs. After leaving the NBA in 1980, he spent much of the decade playing overseas. He went on to coach at his alma mater from 1999 to 2008.

Major Jones, Albany State 
2nd round, 20th overall by Portland Trail Blazers
The third of the Jones boys, Major took a while to land in the NBA, playing in the CBA and the WBA before landing with the Rockets. He played with Moses Malone and, eventually, his brother Caldwell. 
(Source: NBA.com)

Joe Pace, Coppin State
2nd round, 31st overall by Washington Bullets

Pace played just two seasons in the NBA, but managed to win a ring with the 1978 Bullets.

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