By Brandon Cruz
Luke Babbitt, Ramon Sessions and JaVale McGee are just a few of many players who started their collegiate basketball careers at the University of Nevada, Reno, and found their way to the NBA’s courts. While Nevada may not be looked at as a powerhouse basketball program, the players it’s produced say otherwise.
With the 16th pick in the 2010 NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Babbitt. Directly following being drafted, Babbitt and his teammate Ryan Gomes were shipped off to Portland in a two-for-one trade for the Blazers’ Martell Webster. Babbitt would go on to spend his next three seasons with the Blazers, averaging a well-deserved 468 minutes a season, 160 points and a shooting percentage of 65. Following his three-season span in Portland, Babbitt became a free agent after leading the league in 3-point percentage at 51.3. The New Orleans Pelicans picked him up for the 2013-2014 season, where Babbitt is still playing at this moment. Although Babbitt has only started in 30 games out of 245, he has played in the NBA, he is a strong bench player and he adds much-needed depth to any team in need of a versatile small forward/power forward.
Sessions has been a journeyman in the NBA ever since the end of his second season with the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks drafted Sessions with the 56th overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft. Out of the 30 teams the NBA boasts, Sessions has played for seven of them, the most current of which being the Washington Wizards. Sessions is a jack of all trades, in the sense that he has the ability to create his own shots, create shots for his teammates and deter his opponents from making shots. He is averaging 960 points a season, 377 assists and a consistent 60.4 steals. Sessions started a decent amount of games earlier in his career, but as he began to age, he became a focal part of any bench he was a part of. His off-the-bench production allows the stars on the teams he’s played for much-needed rest so that they can help close the game when the time comes. Sessions is the oldest active player in the NBA from Nevada.
Another notable name to come out of Lawlor Events Center is McGee. The 7-foot center from Chicago, Illinois, was drafted by the Washington Wizards with the 18th overall pick in the midst of the 2008 NBA draft. McGee has made his presence in the NBA felt since joining the Wizards. He became the first player in Wizard franchise history to compete in the Slam Dunk Contest as well as finish second in the NBA in total blocked shots (193) and blocks per game (2.4) in his 2010-2011 campaign. While McGee is by no means a stat-sheet stuffer in terms of points and assists, he is always a threat on the boards and when attempting to block shots. Over the course of his lengthy career, McGee has averaged 279.6 rebounds a season and a steady 89 blocks every campaign. In McGee’s third season with the Wizards he started 75 out of the 79 games he played. But like Sessions and Babbitt, McGee soon turned into a productive bench player.
These three players are just a few of the many talented basketball players who have come out of Nevada. They have paved a way for Nevada’s current and future basketball players to make their way to the greatest basketball league on Earth, the NBA.
Brandon Cruz can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.