June 05, 2009
NCAA Riches to NBA Rags is The Dagger's countdown of the best college basketball players who went on to have disappointing NBA careers. For an explanation of the criteria used in compiling this list, check out our introductory entry. Today, we start off our list with No. 10: Duke's Danny Ferry.
There's no such thing as a bad 13-year career in the NBA but considering all the hype that accompanied Danny Ferry's arrival in the league, his might come close. After being one of the most heralded high school and college players of his time, Ferry was little more than a role player during his professional career in Cleveland and San Antonio. He was expected to be an All-Star staple, but rode the bench for most of his playing days, starting just 11 times in his first five seasons.
Ferry was a prep legend at Dematha, the D.C.-area basketball powerhouse coached by basketball legend Morgan Wootoon. After leading the Stags to USA Today's mythical national high school championship in 1985, he became the object of an intense recruiting battle between Tobacco Road rivals Duke and North Carolina. Ferry, of course, chose Duke and ended up becoming the first in a long line of tall, white Duke superstars who were loathed by most of the college basketball public. If George Washington is the Father of our Country, Ferry is the Father of the Floorslappers. He begat Christian Laettner, who begat Cherokee Parks, who begat Josh McRoberts, who begat Kyle Singler.
In 1989, Ferry was the best player in college basketball. He earned national player of the year honors on 22 points and seven rebounds per game. His 6'10" frame made him an ideal post player, but he had a shooter's touch, hitting on 43 percent on threes during his senior season. Ferry earned national player of the year honors ths year and was on the final Olympic basketball team comprised solely of amateur players in 1988. (Their bronze medal was said to provide the impetus for the rule change that allowed for professionals to play basketball in the Summer Games.) Duke made three Final Fours during Ferry's career.
When they drafted him with the No. 2 overall pick in 1989, the Los Angeles Clippers envisioned an All-Danny (Ferry and Manning, the No. 1 pick in 1988) frontcourt leading them out of the basketball doldrums. But Ferry refused to sign with Donald Sterling's team and instead played in Italy for one season before he was able to orchestrate a trade to Cleveland (where he is now the GM).
In retrospect, it's easy to say that Ferry's game wasn't going to translate well to the pros. His versatility might have masked the fact that he wasn't dominant at any specific part of the game, his size wasn't as much of an advantage in the NBA ... all the stuff people say about a bust. But at the time, Ferry was thought to be a sure-thing in the league.
Jim Valvano once praised Ferry's basketball IQ (which was instilled in him not just by his two Hall of Fame coaches, but by his father, who played 10 seasons in the NBA and was the GM for the Washington Bullets), by saying that, "the pro stuff ... he knows it all." He might have known it all, but he couldn't show it on the court.
Ninety-nine percent of college basketball players would kill to have Danny Ferry's NBA career. I doubt Danny Ferry is one of them.