The Most Underachieved College Basketball Players


College basketball is officially in full swing, and it is apparent that many college basketball players today play at a very high level.  It seems that if you are able to compete with the best of college and achieve greatness, your game should translate well to the NBA.

This is quite the contrary.  Many college basketball players who are successful at college unpredictably end up NBA busts.  Here is a short list of the most underachieved college basketball players of the past 15 years.

Ed Cota –Guard, University of North Carolina

Ed Cota was best known for playing point guard for the University of North Carolina from 1996-2000.  At UNC, Cota led the Tar Heels to three Final Fours in his four years as a starter. During the 1997-1998 season, Cota was a member of new coach Bill Guthridge’s successful “Six Starters” rotation with Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Shammond Williams, Ademola Okulaja, and Makhtar N’Diaye.

During his collegiate career, Cota was named the 1997 ACC Rookie of the Year and a 1997 Freshman All-America.  Cota was the leading vote-getter on the 1997 All-ACC Freshman Team.  He earned 2nd-Team All-Conference honors three years in a row, as a sophomore (1998), junior (1999) and senior (2000).  As a sophomore, he broke the ACC record for most assists in a single season. Cota was named a 1999 AP All-America Team Honorable Mention and earned three NCAA All-Regional Team selections as a senior while leading UNC to another Final Four.  By the time his college career concluded, he had become the first player in NCAA basketball history to score 1,000 points, and have 1,000 assists and 500 rebounds in a career.  Additionally, he finished with the third highest assist total in NCAA history, and owns the record for most assists in a career at Carolina.  Remarkably, Cota also played an NCAA record 138 games without ever fouling out.

Cota was not drafted by the NBA after graduating from North Carolina.  His lack of height (6′ 0″) and jump shot were cited as a major impediments to success as a pro.  Instead, he was drafted by the Gary Steelheads of the minor league CBA, where he spent the 2000-2001 season.  After that season, Cota left the CBA and began what would become a basketball career in Europe.  Despite his success overseas, Cota continued to work toward the goal of playing in the NBA.  Over the years, he has played on the NBA Summer League squads of the Los Angeles Clippers, Indiana Pacers, and Washington Wizards, but has yet to make a team.  Cota is currently looking for a new club.

Mateen Cleaves – Guard, Michigan State

Cleaves, a three-time Michigan State University captain, led the Spartans to the 2000 national championship, and was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

The school’s only three-time All-American, Cleaves was named Big Ten Player of the Year twice.  He led MSU and the conference in career assists with 816, and is Michigan State’s all-time steals leader (193). In his final home game on senior night in East Lansing, Cleaves dished out 20 assists, breaking the Big Ten single-game and career assist marks.  On February 3, 2007, Cleaves became the eighth MSU player to have his number retired.

In 2000, Cleaves was drafted by the Detroit Pistons with the 14th pick. During his rookie season, he played in 78 games, averaging 5.4 points and 2.7 assists.  Cleaves was traded to the Sacramento Kings shortly before the 2001–02 season and, after two seasons playing sparingly, he signed as a free agent with the Boston Celtics, but was waived before 2003–04’s regular season began. He was then signed by the Seattle SuperSonics, was cut during 2004–05, and re-signed during the following campaign.  Following his NBA stint, Cleaves appeared for the for several CBA teams and summer camps.  His career was essentially over before it really ever began.  Cleaves now works as an analyst and  owner of a record label All Varsity Entertainment.

God Shammgod –Guard, Providence

Shammgod played for two seasons at Providence College, where he averaged 10.3 PPG for his college career. He was selected to the Big East All-Rookie Team as a freshman in 1996 after setting the Big East freshman assist record, which has since been broken.   As a sophomore, Shammgod teamed with future NBA player Austin Croshere in leading the Friars to the 1997 Elite Eight, where they lost to eventual NCAA Champion Arizona in overtime. Shammgod registered 23 points and 5 assists while matching up against current NBA player Mike Bibby in the loss.

Shammgod was drafted by the Washington Wizards in the 2nd round (17th pick) of the 1997 NBA Draft.  He appeared in 20 games for them that season and later played in the Chinese Basketball Association.  Shammgod has essentially disappeared off the face of the earth.

Antonio Reed – Guard, University of Tulsa

As a three-year letter winner, Antonio Reed has played in 96 career games in his three years at Tulsa .  His career average were of 7.2 points, 2.7 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals.  With 257 career assists, he ranks 13th on the school’s career assists chart and entered  the 2002-03 season needing 28 assists to move into the top-10 on the school’s all-time list.  Reed led the Hurricanes in scoring 14 times, in assists 21 times and in steals 29 times in his three seasons.  He scored at a 18.0 clip and had 2.5 assists in the 2002 NCAA Tournament, while shooting 50-percent from the field and 53% from three-point range.  Reed was named the CBS-Chevrolet Player of the Game in both of Tulsa’s 2002 NCAA Tournament games.

Reed’s career ended after he was busted for possession of marijuana with intent to sell.  He was dismissed from the Tulsa program.  Reed went undrafted in the 2003 NBA draft and his career ended there.


Honorable Mention:  Keith “Tiny” Gallon, University of Oklahoma; Adam Morrison, Gonzaga; Sherron Collins, University of Kansas

-Deshawn (@ShonJay714)

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    • Erik
      December 12, 2012

      How did Tiny Gallon make Honorable Mention? I’d put that forgettable kid that was his point guard before him. What was his name, Mason?

      • shonjay714
        December 12, 2012

        Lol yeah mason Griffin try us tru, biggest mistake was entering the draft when he did… Sheer baffoonery

    • Marcus
      December 13, 2012

      Hey, Mateen Cleeves couldn’t help it. Did you see dude dance?!
      I never understood why Cota couldn’t make it. Short or not, dude was mean on the court.


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