The NBA draft will be held Thursday in Brooklyn and some people have suggested Purdue guard Dakota Mathias, an Elida High School graduate, has a chance to be selected in the second round.
If that would happen, he would be the first player from Lima or Allen County to be picked in an NBA draft. The closest players to Lima to hear their name called in an NBA draft are New Knoxville’s Evan Eschemeyer (second round to the Nets in 1999) and Findlay’s Dave Sorenson (second round to the Cavaliers in 1970).
The approach of the draft got me thinking about who were the top Ohio players selected in past NBA drafts.
To make the list they had to have played high school basketball in Ohio. Just being born in Ohio doesn’t count, so there’s no Steph Curry, who was born in Akron, on it. Just playing college basketball in Ohio isn’t enough, so Oscar Robertson doesn’t qualify.
To paraphrase Bo Schembechler, this list will be filled by Ohio men.
Here’s how I’d rank the list of Ohio players, which doesn’t have a lot of surprises, but does have one you might not have been expecting unless you watched the NBA in the 1960s:
1. LeBron James. Went No. 1 overall to Cleveland Cavaliers in 2003. Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary. He’s LeBron. No further explanation needed.
2. John Havlicek. The No. 7 overall pick of the Boston Celtics in 1962. Bridgeport High School and Ohio State. Thirteen-time NBA All-Star, eight-time NBA champion. Averaged 20.8 points a game and scored 26,395 points in his career.
3. Jerry Lucas. First-round choice of the Cincinnati Royals as a territorial draft pick in 1962. Middletown High School and Ohio State. Seven-time NBA All-Star. Averaged 17.0 points and 15.6 rebounds a game as a pro. Later became a memory expert and will probably never forget being ranked behind Havlicek.
4. Nate Thurmond. Went No. 4 overall to the then San Francisco Warriors in 1963. Akron Central High School and Bowling Green. Thurmond was known as one of the best defensive centers in NBA history. Averaged 15 points and 15 rebounds in his career. He scored 14,437 points in his career.
5. Gus Johnson. Went No. 11 overall to the Baltimore Bullets in 1963. Akron Central High School and the University of Idaho. He was a five-time NBA All-Star in his 10 seasons in the league. Averaged 16.2 points and 12.1 rebounds. Played above the rim before it was called that. He and Thurmond were high school teammates at Akron Central, which somehow didn’t win a state championship.
6. Clark Kellogg. The Indiana Pacers made him the No. 8 overall choice in 1982. Cleveland St. Joseph and Ohio State. Kellogg lived up to expectations for three years in the NBA but chronic knee problems forced him out of the league after five seasons.
7. Jim Jackson. The No. 4 overall selection by the Dallas Mavericks in the 1992 NBA draft. Toledo Macomber and Ohio State. Jackson was a first-team All-American twice, but he played for 12 teams in 14 seasons as a pro, scored 12,690 points in his career and never was an NBA All-Star.
8. Ron Harper. The Cavaliers made him the No. 8 overall draft choice in 1986. Dayton Kiser and Miami University. He was a high flyer his first 3 ½ seasons before a torn ACL took away some of his speed and jumping ability. The Cavaliers trading him ranks near the top of the list of bad Cleveland trades. He won three NBA championships with the Bulls and two with the Lakers.
9. Jim Paxson Jr. Selected No. 12 overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 1979. Kettering Alter and the University of Dayton. He was a two-time All-Star and scored 11,199 points in his career.
10. Michael Redd. A second round choice, No. 43 overall, by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2000. Columbus West and Ohio State. He got the last laugh on people who said he should have stayed at Ohio State for his senior season when he played 12 years in the NBA and earned $101,000,000.