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NBA U: Ranking the college programs that are best at developing NBA players
College Basketball

NBA U: Ranking the college programs that are best at developing NBA players

Updated Jun. 25, 2024 10:13 a.m. ET

Happy NBA Draft week, hoops fans! There's nothing like a draft night in sports, and on Wednesday night in Brooklyn, lives and organizations will change.

But as you watch professional franchises reel in top talent, think about some of the fresh, young talent in the NBA right now and where those players came from. While there is an increasing influx of players from overseas, the college game remains rich in talent, too. The top pick in the 2020 draft, Anthony Edwards, was out of Georgia. The following year, the Pistons took Cade Cunningham out of Oklahoma State.

To further my point, look at the NBA All-Rookie Team for this season. Not counting Victor Wembanyama, the other four players hailed from Alabama, Gonzaga, UCLA and … Santa Clara


All of this led our FOX Sports college basketball crew — along with our wonderful research group — to wonder who has produced the best pro players in the NBA in recent years? But we didn't just want to base it on anyone's opinion. Instead, we wondered if there was a way to use data to answer the question.

So, we built our own ranking system. No, we didn't just base it off draft standing. In fact, our scoring system — whether you agree or disagree with it — went far beyond that.

Here's what went into this process: 

  • Our data consists of colleges with the most NBA players who appeared in at least one game in the 2023-24 season, AND are currently listed on an roster (nine schools).
  • All stats used were based on career averages.
  • Players who played at multiple schools were assigned only to their most recent school.
  • Career averages were rounded to the nearest whole number (5.6 assists per game is 6 APG).
  • For each school, each player was given points based on the scoring system below.
  • The total point value for each category was then added, and then all of those values were added together and then divided by the number of players on each school's list.

Just to give you facts, here is how the scoring was calculated:

Draft Position

  • 1-14: 5 points
  • 15-30: 3 points
  • Second round: 1 point


  • 5-plus All-Star appearances: 5 points
  • 2-4 All-Star appearances: 3 points
  • 1 All-Star appearance: 1 point


  • 5-plus: All-NBA selections: 5 points
  • 2-4 All-NBA selections: 3 points
  • 1 All-NBA selection: 1 point


  • 5-plus All-Defense selections: 5 points
  • 2-4 All-Defense selections: 3 points
  • 1 All-Defense selection: 1 point


  • 1 MVP award: 7 points

Finals MVP

  • 1 Finals MVP award: 7 points

Rookie of the Year

  • 1 ROY award: 7 points

NBA championships

  • 3-plus titles: 5 points
  • 2 titles: 3 points
  • 1 title: 1 point

NBA Finals appearances

  • 3-plus Finals appearances: 5 points
  • 2 Finals appearances: 3 points
  • 1 Finals appearance: 1 point

Conference finals appearances

  • 5-plus conference finals appearances: 5 points
  • 3-4 conference finals appearances: 3 points
  • 1-2 conference finals appearances: 1 point

Minutes per game

  • 31-plus: 5 points
  • 25-30: 4 points
  • 20-24: 3 points
  • 15-19: 2 points
  • 10-14: 1 point

Points per game

  • 25-plus: 5 points
  • 20-24: 4 points
  • 15-19: 3 points
  • 10-14: 2 points
  • 5-9: 1 point

Rebounds per game

  • 12-plus: 5 points
  • 8-11: 4 points
  • 5-7: 3 points
  • 3-4: 2 points
  • 1-2: 1 point

Assists per game

  • 10-plus: 5 points
  • 6-9: 4 points
  • 4-5: 3 points
  • 2-3: 2 points
  • Less than 1: one point

Blocks per game

  • 2-plus: 4 points
  • 1-1.5: 3 points
  • 0.5-0.9: 2 points

Steals per game

  • 2-plus: 4 points
  • 1-1.5: 3 points
  • 0.5-0.9: 2 points

Now that we've given you a peek behind the curtain, let's show you what all of our number-crunching revealed.

No. 1: UCLA
Score: 18.93 (284 total points, divided by 15 players)

Bill Walton is smiling in heaven because his Bruins are No. 1. 

Yes, it's UCLA who tops our research-based NBA-U rankings. Think about this: six of the nine teams ranked here had no more than 12 current NBA players, then you had Duke and Kentucky with at least 24 current players. UCLA is as close to the middle ground as it gets with the 15 players, but it goes beyond that: there's a lot of accomplishment among those players! 

Russell Westbrook. Kevin Love. Zach LaVine. Lonzo Ball. Jrue Holiday, who added his second NBA title to his résumé last week. You also have one of the best rookies in the last draft class, Jaime Jaquez. 

Those are big names, but there's none larger than Westbrook. The fourth overall pick by the Seattle SuperSonics (hey, there's a throwback!) in 2008, Westbrook has posted ridiculous numbers over the course of his career, with nine NBA All-Star Game appearances, two All-Star MVPs, the 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player award, two scoring titles, three single-season assists crowns and a spot on the league's 75th anniversary team. His career numbers speak for themselves: 22 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds and 2 steals per game.

Then there's Love, a five-time All-Star and one of the good guys in league history, who etched his place into championship lore as a key member of the Cavaliers' run in 2016. Love was the NBA's Most Improved Player and the league's rebounding leader in 2011. He's averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds in his career. 

Holiday, whose brother Aaron is on the Rockets and is also a UCLA product, has had a terrific career and become one of the best defensive players in the league. In total, he's made six NBA All-Defensive Teams. What's impressive about Holiday is his longevity, with appearances in the All-Star Game separated by 10 years (!) — in 2013 and 2023. The 34-year-old, who was the 17th overall pick in the 2009 draft, has had a career that's aged like a fine California wine, being on two of the last four title-winning teams (Milwaukee in 2021, Boston in 2024). 

As for the 6-foot-6 Jaquez, he's as good of a case as any for what Mick Cronin can do in Westwood, helping to lead UCLA to the program's first Final Four since 2008 in 2021 and being a part of three consecutive Sweet 16 runs. The Miami Heat couldn't have made a smarter selection with the 18th overall pick in the draft. Jaquez is built differently and it was clear he would help a team win right away. He averaged 12 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game en route to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. 

One big thing: Westbrook, Love and Holiday are all 34 or over, which means the Bruins benefit from the accomplished veterans in this scoring system. Cronin needs more Jaquez-like cases in the future, but as a former Rick Pitino assistant and long-tenured head coach, the Bruins are in great hands in the player development category. UCLA will consistently have top-25 recruiting classes with him at the helm, and it will be interesting to see how the move to the Big Ten impacts recruiting.

Russell Westbrook, the 2017 NBA MVP, is a nine-time All-Star and two-time scoring champion. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

No. 2: Duke
Score: 18.33 (440 total points, divided by 24 players)

What Mike Krzyzewski built and what Jon Scheyer forges on in Durham is one of the great programs in sports, with the Blue Devils producing countless NBA players and absurd recent success as well. Over the last four drafts, Duke has had 11 alumni hear their name called in Brooklyn.

The face of silencing doubters and finding redemption in this year's NBA Finals, five-time All-Star and three-time first-team All-NBA selection Jayson Tatum comes to mind right away. Averaging 23 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists per game in his career, including a 27/8/5 stat line this year, Tatum's evolution into a champion is special. 

But the list goes far beyond Tatum.

Zion. Paolo. Kyrie. 

All three of those players were No. 1 overall selections in the draft, with Irving winning a world championship with LeBron James in Cleveland in 2016 and reaching the All-Star Game a total of eight times. The 21-year-old Banchero and 23-year-old Williamson still have plenty of chapters to write in the NBA, with Banchero taking the Magic to the playoffs for the first time since 2020, making the All-Star Game and coming off an NBA Rookie of the Year debut season. 

Some of the other notable double-figure scorers who were formerly at Duke: Grayson Allen (Suns), 2019 NBA All-Rookie selection Marvin Bagley (Wizards), 2020 All-Star and Most Improved Player Brandon Ingram (Pelicans), Jalen Johnson (Hawks), Tre Jones (Spurs), Tyus Jones (Wizards), Luke Kennard (Grizzlies), Mark Williams (Hornets) and Gary Trent Jr. (Raptors). 

Jayson Tatum is a five-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA First Team selection, and now, a champion with the Boston Celtics. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

No. 3: Kansas
Score: 18.25 (219 total points, divided by 12 players)

It's not hard to identify the leading superstar on the Jayhawks' list. 

The 2023 NBA Most Valuable Player, a seven-time All-Star, two-time scoring champion and five-time All-NBA selection, Joel Embiid has put up historic figures, averaging 28 PPG in his career and a whopping 35/11/6 this past season, which included breaking Wilt Chamberlain's 76ers record with a 70-point performance in January.

What was interesting to me in our findings, is that in the midst of winning a national championship in 2022 and being right near the top of the country, Bill Self has not had a top-12 pick in the NBA Draft since 2017. Kansas has had NBA champions in the last three seasons, with Svi Mykhailiuk on the Celtics, Christian Braun on the Nuggets and Andrew Wiggins with the Warriors. That all helps in our points department with these rankings. As we said at the start, the NBA is a select class of individuals, so any alum is factored into this, and it's actually somewhat surprising to only see a dozen Jayhawks in the league right now. Another name of note is Embiid's teammate, Kelly Oubre Jr., who's carved out a nine-year NBA career and has been a steady double-figure scorer. Because of Embiid's superstar figures, he really charges Kansas in these rankings, along with the fact that Wiggins was the No. 1 pick in the draft 10 years ago. 

Joel Embiid, the 2023 NBA MVP, is a seven-time All-Star. (Rich Sugg/Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

No. 4: Kentucky
Score: 18.22 (492 total points, divided by 27 players)

I had to chuckle at "divided by 27 players!" Kentucky was the leader in total points and total NBA players in our exercise, but by our formula, the Wildcats come in at fourth on average. Think about the names on the list that was built by John Calipari in Lexington: world champion, nine-time All Star, four-time All-NBA First Team selection and future Hall of Famer Anthony Davis, world champion Jamal Murray, four-time All-Star and former NBA Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns, three-time All-Star and five-time All-Defensive Team selection Bam Adebayo, four-time All-Star Devin Booker, an All-Star and the league's steals champion De'Aaron Fox, two-time All-Star and MVP finalist Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Most Improved Player winner and All-Star Tyrese Maxey

It goes without saying: Big Blue Nation consistently has the best of the best players and now has one of their own and a former seven-year NBA player in Mark Pope leading the way. 

Anthony Davis is one of 27 Kentucky players currently in the NBA. (Photo by Porter Binks /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

No. 5: Gonzaga
Score: 18.20 (182 total points, divided by 10 players)

Mark Few has built a factory of winning and NBA talent in Spokane, Washington. In his 24 years at the helm, he's led the Zags to a 716-143 record with nine straight appearances in the Sweet 16. So, it's not a surprise that Gonzaga has two top-five NBA Draft pick selections in the last three drafts, with All-NBA Rookie First Team selection Chet Holmgren to the Oklahoma City Thunder as the No. 2 pick in 2022 and Jalen Suggs to the Orlando Magic at the No. 5 pick in the 2021 draft. 

How did Gonzaga get a top-five slot in our rankings? Of the 10 Zags alums that are in the NBA, seven of the players were selected in the top-15 on draft night: 

While Holmgren and Suggs, who was an NBA All-Defensive Second Team selection this past season, will only keep building on their early accolades in future years, the headliner of this group is Sabonis. The 6-foot-10 Sacramento Kings standout is a three-time NBA All Star (2020, ‘21, ‘23), the reigning back-to-back NBA rebounding leader and a back-to-back selection to the All-NBA Third Team. Averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds per game for his career, including 19 and 14 this past season, he has established himself as one of the best interior presences in the league. Between the high draft picks and a variety of all-rookie selections, the Zags' level of consistency over the last decade both on the court and on the draft stage is why they land in the top five. Few has done an incredible job.

Damontas Sabonis is a three-time All-Star with the Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings. (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)

No. 6: Villanova
Score: 15.60 (156 total points, divided by 10 players)

If you watched the "Villanova Knicks" at any point in the past two years, it's no surprise that the former stars and NBA products under Jay Wright's dynasty make up the school that checks in at No. 6 in our rankings. 

What Wright built at a small Catholic school just outside of Philadelphia is ridiculous, with national championships in 2016 and 2018 and a combined record of 264-53 from 2013-22. Those who said they didn't have great pros? They've been silenced. Jalen Brunson has become one of the best players in the league, averaging 29 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds per game this past season and receiving an All-Star nod for the first time. We'll only see his value continue to go up in future years, which would lead you to believe the Wildcats' score will improve.

Then there's Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo, with both guys on their fourth team, but finding a home in New York and meshing so incredibly well together under Tom Thibodeau. But the dynamic Knicks trio is not the only star power in New York City. In Brooklyn, the Nets have the highest draft pick of all the Villanova guys — No. 10 overall selection Mikal Bridges. He boosted his value with an NBA All-Defensive First Team nod in 2022 while with the Suns. He averaged 20 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists per game this past season.

The marquee veteran name in the group that also serves as a points booster is a Wright original, Kyle Lowry. The 6-foot guard is an NBA champion from 2019 with the Toronto Raptors and a six-time NBA All-Star. It's pretty remarkable that Lowry, a 2016 All-NBA Third Team selection, has played 18 years in The Association.

One other name of note: Saddiq Bey, who was the 19th overall selection in the 2020 draft and landed on the All-NBA Rookie First Team in 2021. The 6-7 wing for the Hawks has averaged 14 points and 5 rebounds per game in his career.

Jalen Brunson has developed into one of the best players in the NBA, averaging 29 PPG last season. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

No. 7: USC
Score: 15.40 (154 total points, divided by 10 players)

DeMar DeRozan. Evan Mobley. Nikola Vucevic. Those are three of the headliner names for the Trojans. Southern California will likely have another top 15-25 pick with one-and-done freshman Isaiah Collier, who was tabbed as the No. 1 freshman in the country according to recruiting services. And don't forget that Bronny James is expected to be taken in the second round by the Lakers

It's the 34-year-old DeRozan who carries so many accolades in his career, as he's played 15 years in the NBA with six All-Star appearances, two All-NBA Second Team selections (2018, 2022) and an All-NBA Third Team selection in 2017. To average 21/4/4 in a career shouldn't be overlooked either.

Mobley, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, has the makings of a future NBA Defensive Player of the Year and has already racked up All-Rookie Team honors in 2022, and All-Defensive First Team Honors in 2023. The 23-year-old has been a steady 16-point, 9-rebound, 3-assist, 2-block per game player, and all of those numbers boosted USC. Let's not forget about Vucevic either, as the 33-year-old is a two-time All-Star.

With Eric Musselman now in Los Angeles and USC on the way to the Big Ten, look out for more NBA-ready talent and for the Trojans to stay, if not rise, in these rankings. 

DeMar DeRozan has earned six All-Star nods in 15 NBA seasons since leaving USC. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

No. 8: Michigan
Score: 12.60 (126 total points, divided by 10 players)

The name that instantly pops off the page is Jordan Poole, a 2019 first-round draft pick who was an NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors in 2022 and hit a legendary buzzer-beater in March Madness for the Wolverines back in 2018.

Poole's marks of more than 17 points and four assists per game certainly help the Wolverines' cause, while Orlando Magic standouts Franz and Moe Wagner are also of note, with Franz averaging 20 PPG this past season and being named an All-NBA Rookie in 2022. In terms of draft value, while they didn't do much as rookies, Jett Howard and Kobe Bufkin were top-15 picks. Franz Wagner also went No. 8 in the 2021 draft, good for another five-point boost. And we can't forget about former two-time All-Big Ten selection and 2014 NBA All-Rookie First Team nod Tim Hardaway Jr., who was just part of the Mavericks run to the Finals and has averaged 14 PPG during a steady NBA career. The sleeper player here: Cavaliers guard Caris Levert, who averaged 14 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds per game this past season and has been right around those figures all throughout his career. Credit belongs to College Basketball Hall of Fame 2022 inductee John Beilein, along with former head coach Juwan Howard, who helped six players get drafted over his five years at the helm. 

Jordan Poole averaged more than 17 points and four assists per game for Michigan in 2018-19. (Photo by Peyton Williams/UNC/Getty Images)

No. 9: Arkansas
Score: 10.00 (120 total points, divided by 12 players)

There are two takeaways here. First, 2007 SEC Freshman of the Year, Patrick Beverley, has found a way to carve out a really nice decade-plus long career featuring three All-NBA Defensive Team selections, while Bobby Portis being an NBA champion also helped the Hogs' cause. The 29-year-old Portis has found a nice role in the league, serving as a key cog during the Bucks' title run in 2021, and averaging a career-high 16.5 PPG in the playoffs this past season. Secondly, Arkansas wouldn't be on this list if not for Musselman, who produced six NBA Draft picks in five years at the helm. That's honestly what makes the John Calipari hire so interesting. The Muss Bus took the program to three straight Sweet 16s ('21, ‘22, ‘23) after the program had not gone since 1996, making the Elite Eight in the first two of those three seasons. Calipari should only bolster Arkansas in our NBA-U rankings. In terms of recent developments, Jordan Walsh was a part of the Celtics organization for their world championship run this season, while Anthony Black was picked sixth last summer by the Magic and Nick Smith Jr. clocked in at No. 27 with the Hornets. Speaking of the NBA Finals, Mavericks center Daniel Gafford is an Arkansas alum, and has averaged nine points and over five rebounds per game in his career.

Patrick Beverley played tenacious defense at Arkansas, too. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.


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