With up to three 1st round picks in the 2022 NBA Draft and one 2nd round pick via the 'Loss' Angeles Lakers, the San Antonio Spurs will have plenty of chances to take a flyer on a player who could be boom or bust. With a top pick seemingly locked up and two more mid-to-late firsts from Boston and Toronto, the Spurs can gamble with their later picks.
While it’s true that the best players tend to play for bigger schools in the power five conferences, occasionally a star will come from a no-name school and make big waves in the NBA. Damian Lillard, Paul Millsap, Gordon Hayward, and Paul George all found NBA success after going to a smaller school.
As the NCAA begins the big tournament, conferences have already wrapped things up and decided who they will send to the Big Dance. Here, I'll be looking at the conference leaders from the Missouri Valley Conference and Horizon League and the runner-ups from the West Coast Conference and ASUN to see if the best of the little guys can carve out an NBA career in the Silver and Black.
Missouri Valley Conference, Loyola Chicago: Lucas Williamson
The Ramblers have become a fixture of March Madness in recent years, but they are still a smaller school in a smaller conference. While they seem to be poised for another Cinderella run this season with a tournament berth, they have one player who might live out his NBA dreams.
Combo guard Lucas Williamson is about to finish his fifth season with the Ramblers, which makes him one of the older players in the draft class. That being said, he has shown steady improvement over his career, going from a secondary scoring option to leading the team in points, rebounds, and steals. He was also second in assists.
Scoring 14 points a night is not bad, but it’s not great, either. But his efficiency is what stands out. He shot the three-ball at a 40% clip this season, which is something every NBA team would like to add. The only concern is if it can translate into success against NBA competition.
Sam Vecenie of The Athletic suspects he will spend most of his career in the G League. As a second-round pick, would the Spurs be willing to roll the dice? Probably not, considering how loaded their backcourt already is with young talent.
Spurs fans should keep their eye on the Ramblers throughout the tournament and even during the next few seasons. Even if they don’t produce NBA talent, their 30-year-old coach Drew Valentine has already been an assistant on a Final Four team, and in his first season at the helm has led Loyola to a tournament appearance. The pros might start calling soon, and with vacancies in the upcoming absence of Gregg Popovich and Becky Hammon, going extremely young might not be a bad thing.