San Antonio Spurs: Top three NBA players who were born in the River City
By Dylan Carter
There aren’t any current San Antonio Spurs players who originated in the River City, but there are a few noteworthy NBA players who did.
Though basketball culture is strong in the Alamo City, the San Antonio Spurs don’t have any San Antonio natives on their team and haven’t for quite some time. The closest thing is star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who was born in Dallas and was a Texas Longhorn in Austin during college.
San Antonio doesn’t have a whole lot of top-tier professional talent roaming the NBA, but there are some noteworthy names that are putting in work elsewhere who represent their hometown well.
The most influential player who had roots in San Antonio before entering the NBA is Shaquille O’Neal, who attended Robert G. Cole Junior-Senior High School in San Antonio. Though Shaq bounced around due to his stepfather’s military background, moving from Newark, NJ to Germany, then to San Antonio, he established himself as a dominant high school basketball player in the River City and earned his scholarship to LSU from there.
Over the course of the NBA’s progression, Texas has become an increasingly reliable place to draft players from due to the importance of athletics throughout the state. As the largest state in the continental U.S., it’s inevitable that great basketball talent would emerge from the region.
While Texas is known best for its football products, some of the league’s marquee names like Jimmy Butler, Trae Young, Julius Randle and DeAndre Jordan hail from the Lone Star State.
Without further adieu, we present the five greatest San Antonio natives in the NBA today.
Next: Taurean Prince
3. Taurean Prince
A fourth-year forward from Baylor, Brooklyn Nets forward Taurean Prince has been asked to do a lot in his young professional career. After being drafted 12th overall in 2016 by the Utah Jazz, Prince was traded to the Atlanta Hawks, where he became an instant-impact role player in his rookie campaign.
Prince started 10 games as a rookie and a full 82 as a sophomore, averaging a career-high 14.1 points, 4.7 boards and a steal per game. Since then, Prince has been traded to Brooklyn, where his athletic frame, defensive skills and rebounding prowess have been put to use alongside champion Kyrie Irving as they wait for the return of scoring machine Kevin Durant, who is nursing a torn Achilles suffered in the NBA Finals last year.
This season, Prince has struggled mightily, averaging 12.1 points per game on 37.6 percent from the field and just 33.9 percent from three-point range. He’s not a complete minus for Brooklyn, as Prince is averaging a career-high six boards per game while spending an estimated 83 percent of his minutes as a small-ball power forward.
Considering it’s a new role with a brand new team, there’s a good chance that Prince is going to grow more comfortable within his role and get the hang of things as the year progresses. With that said, it doesn’t seem like Brooklyn is doing much to accommodate him as a player as opposed to asking him to accommodate Kyrie Irving and the rest of the lineup.
The jury is not out on Prince, who many have said would make a good fit with the Spurs given his physical profile and gritty style of play. Still, he’s going to have to prove that he’s worthy of the two-year, $29 million extension that the Nets signed him to in October.
Next: Wesley Matthews
2. Wesley Matthews
One of the original 3-and-D wings in the NBA, shooting guard Wesley Matthews has put together a long and successful career beginning when he went undrafted out of Marquette in 2009. The 33-year-old spent one season with the Utah Jazz before signing a five-year offer sheet with the Portland Trail Blazers, where he played a pivotal role next to Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge.
Matthews then spent a few seasons with the Dallas Mavericks before bouncing through the New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers and now finally landing with the Milwaukee Bucks, where he has started all 62 of his games and is competing for an NBA championship with the league’s best team.
Things looked grim for Matthews when he tore his Achilles tendon in 2015 as a member of the Blazers, but he rehabbed from the devastating injury and has been as fiery as ever. Though he’s less athletic than he once was, Matthews has remained a sharpshooter with the ability to create his own shot as needed and play defense against the toughest of competition.
By this stage of his career, Matthews is an ideal veteran to have in your locker room. He’s spent time with some competitive teams and is a complete version of himself nearing the end of his career, so he comes on a decently cheap price-tag for his services.
Though Matthews was born in San Antonio when his father was playing for the Spurs, he was raised in Wisconsin. However, he’ll always have some San Antonio in his heart.
Next: Jordan Clarkson
1. Jordan Clarkson
Although he’s been thrust into some difficult situations since being drafted as the 16th pick in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft, San Antonio native Jordan Clarkson, a 6-foot-4 guard, is finally settling into a helpful role with a good team as a member of the Utah Jazz.
Clarkson was picked by the Washington Wizards but never played for them, spending the first three-and-a-half seasons of his NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was a part of a mid-season trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers along with Larry Nance Jr. to help aid LeBron James in what would be his last season with his hometown team.
Both of Clarkson’s parents served in the United States Air Force, leading his family to move to Military City, U.S.A. when he was six years old. Clarkson was raised in San Antonio and went to Karen J. Wagner High School in San Antonio. It was there that he was noticed by Tulsa, where he first attended college before transferring to Missouri.
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Clarkson has a quick trigger on his jump shot and isn’t afraid to absorb contact on his way to the rack. He’s a bold scorer who hasn’t backed down from a challenge during his six years in the NBA and is having a career-year, averaging 15.1 points, 2.7 boards and two assists on 46.5 percent shooting from the field and 36.8 percent from three-point range, both of which are career-best marks.
Twice now, Clarkson has returned to San Antonio and put on exceptional scoring performances—once as a member of the Cavs and again with the Jazz. He averaged 22.5 points per game in those two outings and scored 15 against the Spurs in Utah.
If the Spurs didn’t have this logjam at the guard positions, Clarkson would be a player who’d make sense for San Antonio to target when his contract expires this offseason. However, the fit wouldn’t be great unless the team has some major overhaul on its roster, clearing the way for Clarkson to have a prime scoring role for the team.
Few players have represented San Antonio as well in the NBA as Clarkson has in his six seasons.