With the NBA regular season tipping off this week, there is no better time than now to check our which former Tigers stars are playing in the pros.
First, however, a special shout out to former star Tiger point guard Keyon Dooling. The former Mizzou legend retired from the NBA in the offseason after a 12-year NBA career.
Three former Mizzou basketball players call the NBA their home.
Linas Kleiza played two seasons for the Tigers after leaving his home country of Lithuania. Kleiza dominated at Missouri, putting himself into position to be drafted in the first round of the 2005 NBA Draft. The Trailblazers drafted Kleiza, but traded his rights to Denver before the season even started. At Denver, Kleiza played four seasons before going back to Europe for a season. Europe wasn’t cutting it for Kleiza, however, and he returned to the NBA with the Toronto Raptors, where he is entering his third season this year. The Lithuanian has been dealing with knee issues as of late and the Raptors have a lot of depth on the wing, so don’t look to this former Tiger for a lot of significant playing time this season.
DeMarre Carroll will always be in the University of Missouri record books, leading the Tigers to the Elite Eight in his senior season after transferring from Vanderbilt before his junior year. Despite a serious liver disease being revealed before the draft, Carroll was still a first round pick by the Memphis Grizzlies in the 2009 NBA Draft. The former Mizzou big man played sparingly in Memphis, before being sent to the Houston Rockets. Carroll struggled in Houston and then Denver after, getting cut by both teams. He has now found a home in Utah, where he will be a key contributor off the bench for the Jazz. Carroll got some starts last year for the Jazz, so look for this former Tiger to be a part of some big NBA games this season.
The final former Tiger to make his NBA debut is Kim English. English wowed in his four years at Missouri, scoring over 1,000 points at Mizzou and leading the team to a Big 12 Title last season. His leadership on and off the court made him a favorite of many Missouri fans. English impressed the Detroit Pistons with his skill set, so the team drafted him in the second round of last year’s draft. English is set to compete for some minutes as a backup in his rookie year, behind his hard defense and three-point shooting abilities.
So, what happened to the other seniors from last year’s historic basketball team? Two Tigers from last year’s squad are still playing professionally, just not in the NBA. Big man Ricardo Ratliffe went undrafted into the NBA, but is playing professionally for Ulsan Mobis Phoebus of the Korean Basketball League after being picked sixth overall. He was the first American player selected in the draft. Shooting guard Marcus Denmon was drafted in the second round by the San Antonio Spurs, but decided to sign a one year contract overseas with Élan Chalon of the French League when it became apparent he wouldn’t be able to make an impact in the NBA this season. The Spurs still own Denmon’s rights, so look for him to play for them at some point in the future.
The Missouri Tigers are only getting better, as Frank Haith is turning the team into a perennial power in college basketball. Look for more and more former Tigers to start making NBA debuts in the near future, as Mizzou becomes one of the best college basketball has to offer.