7. Nick Fazekas
If you’re a fan of college basketball, you know exactly who Nick Fazekas is. If you’re not, you missed out on a four-year period in which Fazekas was one of the most dominant mid-major players in the country.
To put it simply, this young man is nothing but a winner.
Fazekas is a 6’11” power forward with a soft shooting touch and a relentless attacker of the backboard. This not only led Nevada to four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, but it helped Fazekas become one of the most decorated players of his era.
He left college as a three-time WAC Player of the Year, a two-time Wooden Award finalist, a two-time All-American and a member of the rare 2,000 point and 1,000 rebound club.
To truly understand what Fazekas was capable of, one must understand how large the target was on his and Nevada’s back every season. They were consistently known as one of the best in the WAC, which led every opponent to locking in on Fazekas in an attempt to slow them down—to no avail.
Fazekas finished his career with 61 career double-doubles. This set the tone for what some believed could be a promising NBA career, as Fazekas fit the bill of what we now refer to as a “complete stretch 4.”
Had he come along just five years later, it could have been a different story.
Fazekas did play 26 games for the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers, collectively. After dominating the D-League for a season, however, Fazekas opted to move overseas.
Fazekas started out with one of Belgium’s top teams, BC Oostende. After that, he would become a journeyman, spending time with two teams in France and eventually returning to the D-League to play for the Reno Bighorns. When Fazekas left the D-League, he ended up with career averages of 17.9 points and 9.0 assists.
As it presently stands, Fazekas is making his way through Asia. He played for two teams in the Philippines, dominating the competition, and is now playing for the Toshiba Brave Thunder in Japan, averaging 22.0 points and 12.1 rebounds.
8. Matt Howard
If we’re talking about mid-major stars, how could we not touch on former Butler Bulldog big man Matt Howard? After all, it is Howard who bailed Butler out of countless NCAA Tournament scares, specifically with one of the most riveting buzzer-beaters in recent memory.
So where is he now? The answer is Roanne, France.
To put it simply, Howard is the same player today that he was with Butler. He hustles on every play, lives in the trenches down low and makes a living out of doing the dirty work for an otherwise finesse team.
For perspective, let’s take a look at why you might remember him.
Despite standing at just 6’8″, Howard battled bigger defenders for offensive rebounds, protected the rim with energy and never gave up on a play, no matter how dim the outcome appeared.
The best way to describe Howard is as an undersized Omer Asik. It may not be pretty, but he’s going to get the job done.
This is what enabled Howard to win the 2009 Horizon League Player of the Year award. It also led to an All-American honorable mention and two Horizon League Tournament MVP awards.
Howard wouldn’t get any run in the NBA, but he received a big break when Olympiacos of Greece picked him up. The famed club offered him scarce minutes, but Howard stepped up as an energy player and other squads took notice. More specifically, Neckar Riesen Ludwigsburg of Germany.
This is where Howard re-discovered his stride, as he averaged 12.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Once again, Howard proved willing to do the things that the average player would not. Whether that’s diving on the floor for loose balls or boxing out without the reward of a rebound, Howard continued to embody the term “team player.”
Howard is currently playing quality minutes for Chorale Roanne Basket—nothing has changed but the name on the front of his jersey.
9. Chris Lofton
In 2007, Chris Lofton was the SEC Player of the Year. He achieved this feat by averaging 20.8 points on a slash line of .479/.419/.811, thus leading the Tennessee Volunteers to a berth in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2000.
Through his first three seasons with the Vols, Lofton never shot worse than 46.6 percent from the floor or 41.9 percent from beyond the arc. To this day, purists will refer to Lofton as one of the greatest shooters in college basketball history.
As a senior, however, Lofton shot 39.9 percent from the field and 38.4 percent from distance. We knew something was wrong, but we didn’t know what.
It turned out to be the worst case scenario—testicular cancer.
Lofton found out about the disease after being randomly selected to submit a drug test prior to the 2007 NCAA Tournament. While the results may have shaken Lofton’s world, they also saved his life.
Forget about statistics for a second, it’s a testament to his will that Lofton survived and returned to basketball.
Although his NBA dream would not be realized through the draft, Lofton continues to work at achieving his ultimate goal. The dynamic sharpshooter has spent time in Spain, Russia, Turkey and the D-League. Lofton is currently rehabilitating injuries and looking to return sometime soon. At 26, one can’t help but imagine the limitless possibilities his skill set presents.
10. Chris Wright
Last week, we took a look at Chris Wright of Dayton Flyers fame. This week, I come through on my promise and present you with the other Chris Wright who is lighting up the D-League.
Let’s refresh your memory on who it is we’re talking about.
Scouts knew that Wright was a special talent ever since he played high school ball. Not only was he a McDonald’s All-American, but he won the 3-point contest at the event.
Once the game started, Wright picked up four assists and held his own against players such as Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon and Jerryd Bayless. This only strengthened his campaign as one of the brightest stars entering what many expected to be a star campaign at Georgetown University.
Unfortunately, Wright suffered a broken ankle early and re-aggravated the injury at a later point of his freshman season. While he’d return to provide quality minutes, the consensus around the nation was that it was a lost season.
As a sophomore, Wright made up for lost time. The 6’1″ point guard consistently put on a show for Big East crowds, slicing through defenses and making no-look passes that even his teammates couldn’t see coming.
Perhaps no moment was more thrilling than the 2009 overtime thriller in which Wright led the Hoyas against Jonny Flynn and the Syracuse Orange. Both players finished with 25 points, as Wright proved himself to the Big East elite as one who belongs.
During his final two seasons, Wright would establish a reputation as one of the top point guards in the conference. He was known as a big-game player that consistently stood up to the challenge of competing with opponents who were believed to be better than he.
When it was all said and done, Wright ended up sixth on Georgetown’s all-time assist leaderboard—ahead of playmakers such as Allen Iverson, Jeff Green and David Wingate.
After leaving college, Wright would head overseas to play for Olin Edirne Basket of Turkey. He played more than 20 games there, averaging 12.7 points and 4.1 assists in the process.
Since returning to the U.S., we’ve seen Wright’s game take quite the finesse turn. Wright now plays for the Iowa Energy of the NBA D-League, where he’s averaging 15.1 points, 7.0 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game.
As a result, he was named a D-League All-Star earlier this month. Don’t be surprised to hear this name again soon, folks, as he’s something special.
As always, please feel free to leave us a comment or reach me on Twitter for any players you’d like to see hunted down for next Thursday’s edition of Where Are They Now?