When Lance Stephneson was selected in the second round by the Indiana Pacers in the 2010 NBA Draft, it marked the 56th time a Cincinnati Bearcat had been selected in the annual event. In the years since, UC has not sent anyone to the league via the draft, but that doesn't mean the program doesn't have a history with the draft.
This was a fun era for Cincinnati basketball, as 11 players were selected during the decade, including the program's first ever first-round selection. Connie Dierking has the honor of being that first first rounder, as he was selected sixth overall by the Syracuse Nationals, who went on to become the Philadelphia 76ers. Dierking played in 12 seasons in the NBA and averaged 10 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.
Jack Twyman was the biggest NBA star to come out of Cincinnati during the 50s, however. He played in 823 games during a 10-year career from 1956 to 1966, averaged 19.2 points per game. He also led the entire league in field goal percentage (.452) and effective field goal percentage (.452) in his third season (the first of his six All-Star campaigns) while playing for the Cincinnati Royals, who are now the Sacramento Kings.
Charles Barkley lists Oscar Robertson as the second-best NBA player of all time. While that debate will rage on into eternity, there is no doubt that Robertson was well deserving of being the first ever No. 1 overall pick out of UC. He was selected by the Cincinnati Royals in 1960 and went on to play 10 years for them before going to the Milwaukee Bucks, where he won his only NBA title (1971). Robertson was a 12-time All-Star and a nine-time first-team All-NBA performer. I'd say the return on investment for drafting the Big O was a bit better than taking Anthony Bennett.
Paul Hogue (first round, second overall by the New York Knicks in 1962), Ron Bonham (second round by the Boston Celtics in 1964) and Rick Roberson (first round, 15th overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1969) were all picked in high slots as well.
Once again, a transcendent Cincinnati player kicked off a decade of drafts by being selected in the upper first round, as Jim Ard was taken sixth overall by the Seattle SuperSoncs. Don Ogletree was also taken that year, going in the 12th round (!). Prior to 1974, there were 21 rounds and there were still 10 until 1985, when it was shortened to seven.
Ard didn't end up playing in the NBA until 1974, deciding to join the ABA first before eventually ending up on the Boston Celtics. He played more than 50 games at the NBA level just three times before ending his basketball career in 1978.
There were no other first or second rounders out of UC in the 70s, although Pat Cummings and Gary Yoder both earned third round selections.
The 80s were not the high-point of Cincinnati's basketball history and that is evident when looking at the list of draftees during the decade. Only four players had their name called, highlighted by Eddie Lee (third round to the Denver Nuggests in 1980), and not a single one came after 1985 when the lottery was introduced and the draft was chopped to seven rounds. (It would be sliced down to two rounds in 1989).
After a 10-year run without a player being drafted, the Bearcats got on the board with Corie Blount, who was selected 25th overall by the Chicago Bulls in 1993. Blount played for 10 years in the NBA, but mainly as a reserve, as he averaged 3.6 points and 15.6 minutes per game. He played for seven teams in total before hanging things up in 2004.
Nick Van Exel was taken in the same draft as Blount and rose to much higher heights. He is second to Robertson in minutes played by a Bearcat alum (880) and assists (6.6 apg) while the third-highest scoring Bearcat pro (14.4 ppg). He earned an All-Star bid in 1998 and was named to the NBA All-Rookie team in 1994. He unfortunately failed to ever reach the peak of the NBA Finals, despite playing for the Los Angeles Lakers (1993-1998) and a handful of other teams before his retirement in 2006.
Dontonio Wingfield (second round, 37th overall by the Seattle SuperSonics in 1994) and Danny Fortson (first round, 10th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1997) were also Bearcats who were drafted and went on to have semi-successful professional careers.
Kenyon Martin made the bulk of his impact at UC during the 90s but he was taken in the Y2K version of the NBA Draft. Fresh off his National College Player of the Year campaign, K-Mart was the easy first choice in the 2000 draft for the New Jersey Nets. He was followed by teammates DerMarr Johnson (first round, sixth overall by the Atlanta Hawks) and Pete Mickeal (second round, 58th overall by the Dallas Mavericks). However, Martin was undoubtedly the best of the trio, playing for 15 years, earning an All-Star appearance in 2004 and ending up with a career-average of 12.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. (He played 757 total).
Jason Maxiell (first round, 26th overall by the Detroit Pistons) is another notable ex-Bearcat to make it to the NBA and the last one to be taken in the first round, as Kenny Satterfield (2001), Steve Logan (2002), James White (2006) and Lance Stephenson (2010) all went in the second. Stephenson, as the last drafted Bearcat, has been a solid NBA player although he has certainly ruffled some feathers.
Sean Kilpatrick is the most recent Bearcat to make an NBA roster, but he had to scratch and claw his way there as he was not drafted. That may be the fate of Octavius Ellis and Farad Cobb, who are the closest thing to draft prospects the Bearcats are presenting this season. Odds are, the draft drought will continue but we'll have to wait until Thursday to see for sure.