From The Summit to the NBA

From The Summit to the NBA

Editor's Note: The feature below originally ran in the 2014 Summit League Basketball Championships program, March 8-11 in Sioux Falls, S.D.

A record 10 former Summit Leaguers have played in the National Basketball Association or NBA Development League this season, led by the 2008 and 2013 Summit League Players of the Year in the NBA.

George Hill was a first round draft choice, 26th overall, by the San Antonio Spurs in 2008 following his senior season at IUPUI. While in San Antonio, Hill finished as runner-up for the NBA's Most Improved Player award following the 2009-10 season. He was traded to his hometown Indiana Pacers in June 2011. Beginning with the 2012-13 campaign, Hill has been the Pacers' starting point guard, leading the team to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2013 and to the top of the standings during the current season. A standout off the court as well, the NBA presented Hill with its October (2013) Kia Community Assist Award in recognition of his efforts in the community and his humanitarian work.

A second round draft choice, 38th overall, following his senior season at South Dakota State, Nate Wolters was part of a pair of draft night trades before landing with the Milwaukee Bucks. By game three of his NBA career, Wolters was in the starting lineup, where he continued for seven consecutive games.  He garnered additional starting assignments as the season continued.

When the Pacers and Bucks played Nov. 15, both Hill and Wolters were in their team's respective starting lineups and it marked the first NBA meeting of Summit League draft picks since the 1992-93 season.

Eight more former Summit League players have been knocking on the NBA's door by competing in the D-League this season. Former Fort Wayne standout Frank Gaines, selected with the first pick in the second round of the 2013 D-League Draft, is among the most recent additions to The Summit League's NBA hopefuls. He joined Damen Bell-Holter, Moses Ehambe, Ron Howard, Trey McKinney Jones, Larry Owens, and Charlie Westbrook on February's active rosters while Reggie Hamilton also played in the D-League earlier this season.

Wolters and Keith Benson, who also played in the NBA, gave The Summit League two draft picks in a three-year span from 2011-13. That duo, coupled with Hill, meant that three of the league's eight all-time draft choices have come since 2008.

The Summit League's history of NBA players is highlighted by Kevin Duckworth, who was a two-time all-star selection (1989, 1991) and recipient of the Most Improved Player Award (1988) during his 11-year pro career. Other notables include Tony Bennett (current head coach at Virginia), Bryce Drew (current head coach at Valparaiso and an NBA first round pick in 1998), Winston Garland (a seven-year NBA veteran) and Jim Les (the NBA's leading three-point shooter in 1991).