Since UC Riverside’s inception in the mid 1950s, the Highlanders have had a decent amount of success in just about every sport played on campus. We’ve sent athletes to the MLB, the NFL and even to the PGA. Some of these players went as far as winning a championship for those teams.
But the one sport UCR has yet to excel in is basketball.
UC Riverside is one of the few Big West programs that lacks NBA-caliber players. Long Beach, Fullerton, Irvine, Hawai’i, Santa Barbara and even Pacific have all sent at least one player to the NBA. Boise State and San Diego State—who will be joining the conference next year—have also graduated NBA-caliber athletes. But not UCR.
It’s not like we haven’t come close, however. Last year’s basketball standout, Phil Martin, was drafted to the NBA Development League, but the downside is that he hasn’t received playing time yet. Former UCR standout Larry Cunningham also made it to the NBA’s D-League, but he only managed to play in a total of five games, averaging 0.6 points per game.
Sam Cash, a two-time CCAA Men’s Basketball Player of the Year in the early 1970s at UCR, actually got pretty close. He managed to get drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the fifth round of the 1972 NBA draft. The downside: he never played a game for them. He did play for the eventually-discontinued ABA, however.
But that’s as far as any UC Riverside player has gone.
Is there anyone in our current roster who can actually go the distance? Freshman Josh Fox has a bright future at UCR. He’s currently leading the team in points. Chris Patton is also a solid newcomer, averaging nearly a double-double in each game. Can any of these players make it?
UCR Athletics has definitely come a long way since the 1950s. We’ve had MLB All-Stars, Super Bowl Champions and PGA Tour winners. But the program still lacks an actual NBA player.
It’s a shame, really. As most UCR students know, basketball is the school’s most popular sport. It would be great seeing one of our players graduate to (and actually play in) the ultimate professional level.