In the long, storied history of the University of Dayton men’s basketball program, the school has had its fair share of memorable teams, games, players and coaches.
One thing this historical program does not have, however, is a rich NBA tradition.
Since 1953, when UD legend and recent Atlantic 10 Hall of Fame inductee Monk Meineke was selected by the Fort Wayne Pistons in the 1953 draft, UD has only sent 19 players to the NBA Negele Knight, who retired in 1999, was UD’s last player to play in the NBA.
That was until a breakout of new NBA talent in the past two seasons, as UD has seen three of its recent graduates make teams. Those three players were 2008 grad Brian Roberts, 2011 grad Chris Wright and 2012 grad Chris Johnson.
For those unfamiliar with these recent UD stars, Roberts was a four-year starter for the Flyers from 2004-08. A three time All-Atlantic 10 performer, he finished his storied UD career fourth on the all-time scoring list with 1,962 points.
Wright was a three-year starter for UD from 2007-11. One of Dayton’s best above the rim players ever, he is 10th in career rebounds and first all-time on the blocked shots and dunks lists. Wright also is 15th on the career scoring list with 1,601 points.
Johnson was also a four-year starter for the Flyers from 2008-12. A do it all guard, he’s 11th on the all-time rebounding list, fifth on the all-time 3-points list.
Since their time at UD, all three players have taken different paths in making an NBA roster and have done exceptional jobs representing the school.
For Roberts, his path to the league was rather unconventional. Out of college, he went overseas to begin his professional career, first signing to play with Hapoel Gilboa Galil of the Israeli Super League. After one season, he signed with the Brose Baskets, a team from Germany, and played there from 2009-12, winning three straight league titles.
Following his time in Europe, Roberts signed a summer league contract with the New Orleans Hornets in the 2012 NBA offseason, and after a productive run of games, the Hornets signed him to a two-year contract. So far, in his NBA rookie season, Roberts has a been a spark off the bench for New Orleans, averaging 14.4 minutes per game, 6.6 points, 2.3 assists, as well as shooting 38 percent from three.
Wright made it to the league quicker then Roberts but still experienced a whirlwind of a path.
Wright went undrafted in the 2011 NBA draft, and due to the ongoing NBA lockout, had no opportunities to sign with a franchise. He was eventually drafted by the Maine Red Claws in the first round of the NBA developmental league draft. Following an impressive year, Wright signed a training camp contract with the Golden State Warriors, survived three rounds of cuts and made the regular season roster.
He would have an up and down year, as three separate times he would be called up and sent down to the Warriors’ D-league affiliate, the Dakota Wizards. The following offseason, Wright signed an offseason contract with the Toronto Raptors but was released before the start of the season.
Wright has since re-signed with the Red Claws this season. In 26 games, he is averaging 17.8 points, while adding close to 10 rebounds and two blocks per game. Wright was also named to the NBA D-League All-Star game team, and is ranked as the 11th best prospect by the league on its website.
Johnson got his start in signing with the Philadelphia 76ers to fill its summer league roster but was eventually released.
The Orlando Magic gave him his next opportunity in October 2012 but also released him later that month. In November, Johnson was taken in the first round of the NBA D-league draft by the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
Following a solid start to the season, his NBA dream was realized when the Memphis Grizzlies signed him to a 10-day contract, on Jan. 23. In eight games with the team, he averaged 13 minutes and scored 3.6 points per game.
The Grizzlies would sign Johnson to a second 10-day contract but released him after it expired. Johnson re-joined the Valley Vipers on Feb. 22, where he is averaging close to 30 minutes and 12 points per game this season.
While UD has yet to put a genuine star into the NBA, the new trend of NBA talent coming from its roster has to be a promising trend— one that can only mean big things for the future of UD’s program, and possibly mean it is well on its way to sending consistent talent for NBA fans to watch.