Why can't most elite college scorers translate to play in the NBA?

Like many other former leading scorers in college hoops, Erick Green didn't immediately connect at the NBA level. (USATSI)
Like many other former leading scorers in college, Erick Green didn't immediately connect at the NBA level. (USATSI)

News came late Tuesday that former Virginia Tech stud scorer Erick Green would play next season overseas, in Italy. It's reportedly a one-year deal with the Siena club, a respected outfit in the Euroleague that has won seven straight titles in the Italian League.

The Nuggets, who drafted Green, will basically hope he gets better and can eventually bring him in to their franchise down the road. (Green was drafted by Denver and they still own his rights on the NBA side of things.)

The news seems surprising -- or does it? After all, Green did it all for Va. Tech last season, scoring 25 per game in addition to four rebounds and 3.8 assists. He led the nation in scoring, and pretty much did it from November to March. Is it uncommon for a stat-stuffing shooter/scorer like Green to not even make it to August with an NBA team? Don't these guys -- the leading scorers at the highest level of college hoops -- usually get at least a look through the summer to play for an NBA team? Actually, no.

In light of this news, I wondered how the past 10 leading scorers in college hoops fared in their first foray after leaving school.

2012: Reggie Hamilton (Oakland, 25.7 PPG): Undrafted, signed with VL Pesaro of Italy. Currently plays in D-League for Idaho Stampede. Has not played in the NBA.
2011: Jimmer Fredette (BYU, 28.5 PPG): Selected 10th overall, went to the Sacramento Kings, where he still plays and averages 7.4 points in 16.2 minutes.
2010: Aubrey Coleman (Houston, 25.6 PPG): Undrafted, signed with Aliaga Petkim of Turkey. Currently plays for Cimberio Varese (Italy). Has not played in the NBA.
2009: Stephen Curry (Davidson, 28.6 PPG): Selected seventh overall by the Golden State Warriors, where he still plays and averages 19.2 points in 35.3 minutes.
2008: Reggie Williams (VMI, 27.8 PPG): Undrafted, signed with JDA Dijon of France. Picked up by Golden State toward the end of the 2009-10 season and has played for three teams since. Has averaged 8.6 points in 20 minutes over 177 games.
2007: Reggie Williams (VMI, 28.1 PPG): see above.
2006: Adam Morrison (Gonzaga, 28.4 PPG): Selected third overall, went to the Charlotte Bobcats. Played for them and the Lakers before going to Serbia and Turkey in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Started 28 games in his career, averaging 7.5 points in 20.4 minutes.
2005: Keydren Clark (St. Peter's, 25.8 PPG): Undrafted, signed with Egaleo of Greece. Has not played in the NBA.
2004: Keydren Clark (St. Peter's, 26.7 PPG): see above.
2003: Ruben Douglas (New Mexico, 28.0 PPG): Undrafted, signed with Panionios of Greece. Has not played in the NBA.
2002: Jason Conley (VMI, 29.3 PPG): Graduated from Missouri in 2005. Undrafted, signed with Telekom Baskets Bonn. Has not played in the NBA. 
2001: Ronnie McCollum (Centenary, 29.1 PPG): Undrafted, signed with Liaoning Flying Leopards of China. Has not played in the NBA.

Tens of thousands of points scored in D-I between the 10 players above, yet six of them left college hoops as a leading scorer and never donned an NBA jersey in a game. And of the four who did, only one has been a genuine impact player (Curry, who shockingly still has not made an All-Star Game), while another is still yet to prove himself after a myth-making college career (Fredette). Morrison by almost any measure was one of the more notable NBA busts of the past decade, while Williams actually managed to grit his way to a sustainable living and a multi-year contract after grinding it out at the lower levels for a few years.

It's interesting to see how this pattern plays out. Broadly speaking, the ability to score is the most cherished asset any player can have. Yet the ones who did it well at the highest college level haven't translated. Is it purely system, or perhaps the fact many of the players above didn't come from major conferences? (Keep this in mind with Doug McDermott finishing out at Creighton next season in what should be a Player-of-the-Year campaign due in large part to the kid's awesome ability to score in many ways.)

I've not yet done the research, but I'd be interested to know what the trend line/translation for leading rushers, receivers and passers in college football is at the NFL level. What about the leading scorer in college hockey? Or the OPS champ in college baseball? (Granted, the last two can be skewed due to different draft rules for the respective sports.)

The list above is why scoring never means everything, strange as it seems. We love when guys fill it up, but when it comes to making a career of playing basketball, few can rely solely on a shooter's touch to get them there.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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