4. Micah Downs
In the spirit of Gonzaga securing their first No. 1 seed in school history, we must honor one of the better postseason performers in school history. That player is former Gonzaga forward Micah Downs.
After spending one year at the University of Kansas, Downs played for the Zags from 2006 to 2009. While he never emerged as a star during the regular season, Downs thrived during the WCC Tournament.
Downs won the 2009 WCC Tournament MVP award. He did so by shooting the lights out, crashing the boards and stepping up with a double-double as Gonzaga blew out Saint Mary’s for the conference crown.
Downs’ success continued during the NCAA Tournament, as Downs topped double-figures in every game as the Zags made a run to the Sweet Sixteen. Unfortunately, that wasn’t’ enough for the lanky forward to get drafted in 2009.
After going undrafted, Downs played for KK Zadar in Croatia. He proceeded to bounce around Europe, putting up solid but not spectacular scoring numbers while becoming a lethal 3-point shooter.
In 2012, Downs discovered his greatest success. He joined Basquet Manresa, S.A.D. of Liga ACB and was honored with the Rising Star award. That’s the same honor that players such as Ricky Rubio, Mirza Teletovic and Gustavo Ayon have received.
In the present day, Downs has returned to the U.S. while playing for the Maine Red Claws of the NBA D-League. He was named a D-League All-Star, and is currently ranked fourth in 3-point field goals made, which has led to an average of 17.4 points per game.
Prior to attending the University of Virginia, Gary Forbes was a McDonalds All-American finalist. Widely considered to be one of the best players in New York City, Forbes garnered the hype as Brooklyn’s next great player.
In fact, Forbes was referred to as one of the Top 20 recruits in the nation by both Rivals and ESPN. This led him to an unlikely destination, as Forbes signed on to play for the University of Virginia in the ACC.
After playing decent, but not an appealing amount of minutes at UVA, Forbes decided to transfer to the University of Massachussetts. This proved to be a wise decision, as Forbes posted the best two seasons of his college career.
That includes 2008, when Forbes averaged 19.4 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists en route to the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year award. He led UMass past Syracuse and Florida en route to an NIT Championship game loss to Ohio State.
Shortly thereafter, Forbes became eligible for the 2008 NBA Draft. Unfortunately, the 6’7″ swingman would proceed to go undrafted.
Forbes split time between the Sioux Falls Skyforce and Tulsa 66ers in the NBA D-League, posting a collective average of 17.4 points per game. After failing to hear from the NBA, however, Forbes opted to move overseas.
Forbes, who was born in Panama, would play for their national team in both the 2007 and 2011 FIBA Americas Championship. Rather than breeding an NBA career, however, that led Forbes to playing in countries such as the Philippines, Venezuela and Italy. He even led the Israeli Basketball Super League in scoring in 2010.
Finally, Forbes received his shot at the big stage. He played 63 games for the Denver Nuggets in 2010-11, starting eleven and averaging 5.2 points in 12.6 minutes. Although his playing time would come sporadically, Forbes consistently scored in double-figures when playing at least 20 minutes.
The following season, Forbes played 48 games for the Toronto Raptors. He averaged 6.6 points in 14.9 minutes and became a consistent rotational option during the final two months of the season.
In his final NBA game, Forbes piled up 23 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Now that’s going out in style.
Since departing from the league, Forbes joined the Zhejiang Lions. He averaged 19.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.3 steals per game.
Perhaps an NBA return is on the horizon for a player who has overcome Type 1 Diabetes to carve out a high-quality career.
From 2009 to 2012, Sundiata Gaines was one of the most efficient point guards in the NBA. From 2004 to 2008, Gaines was one of the top point guards in the SEC.
So what ever came of the former Georgia Bulldog?
Gaines made a career off of defense at both the collegiate and professional level.He was a second team All-SEC selection and an SEC All-Defensive Team choice, as well—the only player 6’1″ or shorter to make the cut.
If he could shoot, he may have been an All-Star caliber player.
Gaines was unable to get anything going offensively, but he thrived on the defensive end of the floor. He pressured his man from the outlet and was a master at picking up steals.
Just five games into his NBA tenure, he added another accolade: clutch scorer. Gaines hit a game-winning buzzer-beater against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
That resulted in the Queens native experiencing a three-year career with four different teams. That includes the Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets.
So where is he now?
Gaines playsed for Fujian Xunxing of the Chinese Basketball Association this season and averaged 19.1 points and 4.7 assists in that time, but the Sturgeons failed to put together a postseason-caliber squad.
A return to the NBA isn’t out of the question if Gaines can improve his jump shooting.
Marcus Haislip was once one of the most tantalizing prospects in the NBA. At 6’10”, Haislip had jaw-dropping athleticism and an uncanny ability to throw down highlight-reel finishes.
Not much has changed in that regard.
Haislip began his career at the University of Tennessee, where he played from 1999 to 2002. He’d play 89 games in that time, although he struggled to find playing time until his junior season.
Once he found the court, Haislip put on a show with averages of 16.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game while shooting 51.8 percent from the field.
Months later, he was drafted 13th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks.
Haislip failed to construct the NBA career that some had imagined for him, as his playing time was limited. After just two seasons with Milwaukee, he was placed on waivers. The Indiana Pacers would pick him up, but he played just nine games before that experience was cut short.
In the two years following, Haislip carved out a quality career in Turkey. He played for both Ulkerspor and Efes Pilsen. While with the former, he was named a TBL All-Star and won the Slam Dunk Contest. The following season, he won the Pollinica Trophy MVP.
Following his Turkish tenure, Haislip signed on with Unicaja Malaga of Liga ACB. He spent two years with the team before finally receiving another shot at the NBA.
After just 10 games with the San Antonio Spurs, however, he was once again waived. In the years since, he’s carved out an excellent career in China.
Haislip played this season for the Dongguan Leopards. The 6’10” forward became a local favorite due to his extraordinary athleticism and shockingly efficient shooting from beyond the arc. Haislip averaged 27.7 points and 66.2 percent shooting from beyond the shorter FIBA arc.
Eugene “Pooh” Jeter, brother of Olympic sprinter Carmelita Jeter, has been the ultimate source of excitement anywhere he’s gone. The 5’11” burner is a menace in the open court, a dynamic playmaker and a true workhorse while on the court.
From the University of Portland to an NBA campaign. And now to the CBA Finals.
Jeter started 93 games in four seasons with the Portland Pilots. During his senior season, he led Portland in points, assists and steals, and led an upset of Aaron Brooks and the Oregon Ducks with a 25-point performance.
Jeter went undrafted in 2006 and proceeded to sign on with the Colorado 14ers of the NBA D-League. From 2007 to 2010, Jeter proceeded to play in Spain, Ukraine and Israel. That includes an extended stint with Hapoel Jerusalem and time with two teams in the Liga ACB.
In 2010, Jeter finally achieved his NBA dream by signing with the Sacramento Kings. He played 62 games for the team, scoring a career-high 15 points against Tony Parker and the San Antonio Spurs.
Since then, Jeter has returned to Spain and made the move to China. The latter is where he is now, as Jeter is playing for the championship with the Shandong Lions of the CBA. He’s currently averaging 25.3 points and 5.5 assists.