Every year the NBA draft ends and several big college stars are left undrafted.
Many of these players could have gone back to college and shined. Additional valuable experience could have boosted their stock. Instead, they fought for free agent contracts, hoping to get a glimpse at the NBA Summer League in a bid to secure a roster spot.
This year’s draft was even tougher as only 58 players were chosen, with two picks held up due to team violations.
There were several former college students who waited nearly five hours, not to hear their names called.
Here’s a look at my “should have stayed in school” team. They went through the draft process undrafted and will now try to hang on without many guarantees.
The two-time all-Big East first-team selection ranked second in the conference with 19.2 points per game in 2021-22. One of five Julius Erving Award finalists, Champagnie has hit double figures 26 times in 31 appearances with 14 20-plus-point efforts, including a 30-point trio. He worked for a number of teams but was unsuccessful and signed with the Philadelphia 76ers.
The seven-footer was a double-double guy, averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game for the Fighting Illini. If he returned to school, he could play transfers Terrence Shannon Jr. (Texas Tech) and Matthew Mayer (Baylor) to a strong Illinois team. Instead, he signed a free agent contract with the Utah Jazz, where he could back up Rudy Gobert. Playing against Gobert in training could benefit Cockburn.
The 6-7 guard led UCLA in scoring 15.6 points per game, shooting 43.2 percent from the field. Two years ago he was in the Final Four. Like Cockburn, he signed a deal with the Jazz, a team with no draft picks in 2022. Cockburn and Juzang have legitimate opportunities to not only make the roster, but also contribute.
A first-team All-Big East selection, he averaged 16.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, earning Big East Most Improved Player honors. It has a long wingspan which should help at the next level. He signed a contract with the Chicago Bulls.
Scottie Pippen’s son has averaged more than 20 PPG in each of the past two years at Vanderbilt. He signed with the Los Angeles Lakers and could fight for a spot on the roster. Pippen Jr. was born in Los Angeles.
The 18th Annual Dick Vitale Gala, benefiting the V Foundation, will be held on May 5, 2023 at The Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota, Florida. For more information, visit dickvitaleonline.com.