USA basketball: Breaking down Olympians’ college careers
USA basketball will begin Olympic play on Saturday against China, and all 12 of the American players got their start on the college level.
Some were national champions; others played at little-known schools and received less publicity in college. Regardless, let’s take a trip down memory lane and see how these players fared way back when.
MORE: NCAA in the Olympics
F Carmelo Anthony, Syracuse, 2002-2003
Who better to kick things off with than Anthony? Perhaps the greatest one-and-done we’ve ever seen, the former Syracuse forward averaged 22.2 points per game in his lone season for the Orange en route to their first ever national championship.
Anthony featured an offensive repertoire well beyond his years at Syracuse, and for his efforts, he was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2003 NCAA tournament.
F Harrison Barnes, North Carolina, 2010-2012
One of the most highly-touted high school prospects in recent memory, Barnes was a very good Tar Heel. In his two seasons in Chapel Hill, the 6-8 forward averaged 16.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game.
The current Dallas Maverick scored 40 points in an ACC tournament game against Clemson in 2011, which is the most ever by a freshman in an ACC tournament contest.
F Jimmy Butler, Marquette, 2008-2011
A three-year player for Buzz Williams, Butler is one of the many NBA success stories to come out of Marquette. Known as a fierce two-way player today, Butler was locking down wings, bigs and guards in the ‘old’ Big East several years ago.
Butler steadily improved each season he played for the Golden Eagles; he averaged 5.6 points per game in his rookie campaign, and that number skyrocketed to 15.7 in his final season in Milwaukee.
C DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky, 2009-2010
Cousins only played one season at Kentucky, but he was part of one of the most entertaining teams we’ve watched in a long time. With John Wall as his point guard, the dynamic big man flourished for the Wildcats, averaging 15.1 points and 9.8 rebounds per game in just 23.5 minutes of action per night. Those numbers on a per-40 scale? 25.8 points, 16.8 rebounds. Wow.
Cousins was a second-team All-American in 2010, and his Kentucky squad made it to the Elite Eight before bowing out to West Virginia.
G DeMar DeRozan, USC, 2008-2009
One of the more explosive college players we’ve seen, DeRozan skied at USC like he currently does in the Air Canada Centre.
Alongside Taj Gibson, DeRozan and the Trojans won 22 games and triumphed in their NCAA tournament opener in 2009. DeRozan averaged 13.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game on the year.
F Kevin Durant, Texas, 2006-2007
Durant got buckets in Oklahoma City, and he will likely do the same in Oakland. But before all of that, Durant was a double-double machine in Austin for the Texas Longhorns.
KD captured the 2007 Naismith Award by a landslide, averaging 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds per game at Texas. He was the first freshman ever to earn the honor, and earn it did he ever. Durant made the most of his limited time in college.
F Paul George, Fresno State, 2008-2010
George may not have been a household name during his two-year college stint, but he was no slouch. The current Indiana Pacer wasn’t as polished as he is these days, but while at Fresno, George flashed elite athleticism and posted some impressive numbers along the way. In his sophomore year, he put up 16.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game for the Bulldogs.
F Draymond Green, Michigan State, 2008-2012
Given its length, Green has the most storied college career of any player on Team USA. As a freshman for the Spartans, Green had conditioning issues, played spot minutes and only averaged 3.3 points per game.
By the time he was a senior, he was Michigan State’s unquestioned leader and a jack-of all trades; he notched 16.2 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists in his final year in East Lansing. Green was a consensus first-team All-American in 2012, and he also made a Final Four as a Spartan.
G Kyrie Irving, Duke, 2010-2011
The reigning NBA champion was expected to do great things when he enrolled at Duke, but his lone campaign was hampered by a toe injury. Irving only played 11 games for the Blue Devils, but he showed off his scoring wizardry that we’re accustomed to seeing these days. The silky point guard averaged 17.5 points and 4.3 assists per game for Duke.
C DeAndre Jordan, Texas A&M, 2007-2008
Jordan was extremely raw during his time in College Station, but his athleticism and explosiveness always shined through. Jordan’s NBA success proves why it’s tough to give up on a Skal Labissiere-level talent after one up-and-down season.
Jordan struggled with foul trouble while at Texas A&M, and he barely cracked 20 minutes per game. But his per-40 numbers were solid; the current Los Angeles Clipper notched 15.8 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per 40 minutes as an Aggie.
G Kyle Lowry, Villanova, 2004-2006
2005-06 Villanova may not have reached the heights that 2015-16 Villanova did, but it was an extremely fun team to watch. The Wildcats reached the Elite Eight in 2006 with a three-headed monster in the backcourt consisting of Lowry, Randy Foye and Allan Ray.
Though all three players were capable of running point, Lowry was the primary ball-handler in Philadelphia that season, averaging 3.7 assists per game. Lowry was a linchpin for all of the success Jay Wright and the Villanova program has had in the past 10 years.
G Klay Thompson, Washington State, 2008-2011
Washington State never reached the NCAA tournament during Thompson’s stint as a Cougar, but that wasn’t due to a lack of effort from its star player.
Thompson shot 39 percent from 3-point range and averaged 17.9 points per game in his three years at Wazzu. As a junior, he had an extremely impressive year: 21.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game on a 22-win Cougar squad.