Duke's Kyrie Irving most likely will be the first player taken in the NBA Draft this Thursday, which would make him the third Blue Devil to be chosen No. 1 overall, following Art Heyman (1963) and Elton Brand(notes) (1999). It would bring about two notes of distinction: Making Irving the third one-and-done draft pick coming out of Duke (Corey Maggette and Luol Deng were the others), and making Duke the first school to produce three No. 1 overall picks.
Yep, you heard that last one right. Though Duke is a place that recruits only academically highly accomplished players and usually shuns me-first prep superstars, coach Mike Krzyzewski hasn't exactly won four national titles with overachieving chumps. The Blue Devils have had plenty of talent on their rosters throughout his 31-year tenure in Durham, N.C., and their NBA alumni are legion.
But Duke made it only to No. 2 on our list. The school that's produced the most current NBA talent? UCLA.
Even though the Bruins have won just one title since 1975 and none since 1995, the legacies of the Wizard of Westwood continue to churn out great pros even though Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton have long retired. Under Ben Howland, UCLA made it to three straight Final Fours in the mid-2000s and those teams were stocked with solid future NBA pros, including Russell Westbrook(notes), Jordan Farmar(notes) and Darren Collison(notes). UCLA's most ballyhood one-and-done was a good one, too: Kevin Love(notes).
Now six years into the NBA's one-and-done era, there is a distinct divergence of recruiting philosophies for the top basketball programs. Some schools, like Kentucky under John Calipari, have gladly taken the risks and recruited players they knew would bolt after just one year in college. Others have been more judicious, such as Duke and North Carolina, though no one can be quite certain if any freshman wouldn't be tempted by the next level after a successful initial season.
Calipari's 2010 Wildcats produced five first-round draft picks, including four one-and-dones, led by top pick John Wall(notes). Yet Calipari is completely undeterred, and restocked the 2011 team with top talent and made it to the Final Four, losing by one to eventual champion Connecticut. He'll lose another talented freshman, point guard Brandon Knight, to the draft, but he's already hauled in another class with four five-star recruits.
UCLA, Duke, Kentucky. What do they all have in common? Well, they happened to combine for 22 NCAA championships. So pedigree matters. In fact, six of the seven schools that have won more than two national championships are all on our list, with only Indiana not making the cut. It is indeed a perpetual cycle: The best players tend to flock to the best schools, and the NBA tends to pluck them out of those schools, whether they're still freshmen or seniors.
We put together our list off the rosters of the just-completed NBA season to see which schools currently are having the most impact on the pro game. The rankings are both quantitative and qualitative, based on the performances of these players in the NBA. Here's our top 10 colleges to produce NBA pros.
The top five:
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