Orange Watch: Syracuse basketball has rich history of first round NBA Draft selections

Syracuse players James Southerland and Dion Waiters box out on free throws
Syracuse has produced 23 NBA first round picks overall, and 11 since the 2003 national championship
Syracuse players James Southerland and Dion Waiters box out on free throws
Syracuse has produced 23 NBA first round picks overall, and 11 since the 2003 national championship

Item: With Thursday night’s NBA Draft at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center likely to produce two-year Syracuse standout Tyler Lydon as the latest former Orange player to be chosen by one of the league’s 30 teams (30 teams since 2004) in the two-round process (two rounds since 1989), and he’s been projected to be a second-round pick. If that turns out to be the case, it will be the first time no ex-SU player has gone in the first round since 2011, and only the second year in the last 10 in which there has not been a ‘Cuse first rounder.

While all-time great Dave Bing was the first Syracuse first-rounder in 1966 by the Detroit Pistons, it was 12 more seasons until Marty Byrnes (Phoenix Suns) was the next No. 1 selection in 1978, followed by Danny Schayes (1981-Utah Jazz) and Leo Rautins(1983-Philadelphia 76ers) to round out the early Jim Boeheim and Dome era.

It was during this period that Boeheim was often criticized not only for his failure to advance far in the NCAA Tournament (until 1987), but also for the program not developing a multitude of NBA players.

That all changed once Pearl Washington came upstate from Brooklyn in 1983, and the program never looked back by annually recruiting plenty of blue chip prospects from all over to play in front of large crowds in the Dome. By the time SU returned to the final four in 1996, six (with John Wallace) Orange players went in the first round, including No. 1 overall pick Derrick Coleman by New Jersey in 1990, and five players in the second round, so much for the program under Boeheim not producing enough NBA talent.

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Going back over the last 10 seasons, just before national championship team number one selections Carmelo Anthony and Hakim Warrick were chosen in 2003 and ’05 respectively, Syracuse has made two Final Four appearances, three trips to the Elite Eight, and five appearances in the Sweet 16, along with producing first round picks every season except 2007 and 2011, and additionally likely to occur this year.

That’s pretty impressive to be in the company of programs like Kentucky and Duke in turning out first-round talent in recent years, tied directly to the one (or two)-and done rule with too much money at stake for the caliber of the likes of Donte Green, Jonny Flynn, Fab Melo, Dion Waiters, Michael Carter-Williams, Jerami Grant, Tyler Ennis, Chris McCullough, and Malachi Richardson to turn down.

Here’s a quick Orange Watch first-day-of-summer quiz: Of the following seven players listed, who was a first round pick, and who was not? (Answer below.)

*Etan Thomas
*Demetris Nichols
*Louis Orr
*David Johnson
*Lawrence Moten
*LeRon Ellis
*Conrad McRae

(Answer: Thomas, Johnson, and Ellis were first round picks, the other four were second round picks.)

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.