SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Districts across the country are welcoming students back to school today. While some may be homeschooling during this unique era, others have flooded elementary, junior, and high schools, as college campuses have opened sporadically around the nation. With the Utah Jazz enjoying a commanding 3-1 series lead over the Denver Nuggets in the opening round of the NBA playoffs, it’s a good day to look back at the best performances from each player’s college career.
All-Star Rudy Gobert didn’t attend an American college, neither did Australian Joe Ingles, or Croatian sharpshooter Bojan Bogdanovic, so they won’t appear on the list. Similarly, guard Emmanuel Mudiay skipped college to play in China before declaring for the NBA draft.
Otherwise, the list goes back to school, and is made up of some of the biggest moments in these Jazz players lives, and games that helped propel them to NBA stardom.
Back to School with the Utah Jazz
Donovan Mitchell: December 31, 2016 – Louisville 77 – Indiana 62
It’s hard to imagine Donovan Mitchell getting benched in his sophomore year of college, just months before setting the NBA world ablaze as a rookie. But that’s exactly what Lousiville coach Rick Pitino did to Mitchell against the Indiana Hoosiers on New Years’ Eve 2016. After a dreadful 3-11, seven point performance against Virginia, Pitino brought Mitchell off the bench for arguably the best game of his college career.
The future Jazz star finished with 25 points on 8-15 shooting, three rebounds, and three assists in the Cardinals double-digit win. The performance launched an 18 game streak in which the guard averaged 19.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.1 assists while shooting 49 percent from the floor and 41 percent from the three-point line. As a result, Mitchell skyrocketed up draft boards before landing with the Jazz in the 2017 NBA draft.
Fun fact, the Hoosiers roster featured fellow Jazzman Juwan Morgan, and NBAers Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby.
Mike Conley: March 11, 2007 – Ohio State 66 – Wisconsin 49
This wasn’t Mike Conley’s highest-scoring output, but it was a sign of the guard’s future postseason play, as the Ohio State Buckeyes beat the Wisconsin Badgers to win the Big Ten Championship.
Conley led the Buckeyes in scoring with 18 points, handing out eight assists and grabbing six rebounds in the championship game. Alongside Greg Oden, Conley would propel Ohio State through the NCAA Tournament to an eventual loss to Florida in the National Championship.
The guard was a top 25 prospect before attending Ohio State but didn’t flash his future potential until a string of stellar postseason college games.
Royce O’Neale: January 31, 2015 – Baylor 83 – Texas 60
All college sports teams in the Lonestar State live under the enormous shadow of the Texas Longhorns. That makes Royce O’Neale’s 20 point, eight rebound, five assist performance in a blowout victory over the 19th ranked Longhorns even sweeter.
O’Neale didn’t exactly burst onto the NBA radar after the win but found his way to a lucrative career with the Jazz after playing overseas. Though O’Neale isn’t the scorer in the NBA that he was in college, his defense, rebounding, and underrated playing making skills have translated nicely in Quin Snyder’s system.
Georges Niang: March 10, 2016 – Oklahoma 79 – Iowa State 76
While most eyes across the country were on the college brilliance of Buddy Hield, Georges Niang solidified his status as a future NBA player with a stellar performance in the Big-12 quarterfinals loss.
Hield scored a game-high 39, but Niang kept the Cyclones close with a 31 point, seven rebound, five assist outing of his own. While Niang had long been on NBA radars, his high scoring performances in March helped him earn several opportunities around the league before sticking in Utah.
Tony Bradley: December 11, 2016 – UNC 73 – Tennessee 71
Tony Bradley’s college career was short and sweet. The future Jazz reserve played just one championship-winning season at North Carolina before being drafted at the end of the first round in the 2017 NBA draft.
Bradley was a reserve throughout his college career but was effective on the court. The Tarheel recorded a 10 point, 10 rebound double-double against future NBA forward Grant Williams as UNC escaped with the victory.
Jordan Clarkson: February 1, 2014 – Kentucky 84 – Missouri 79
Though it came in a loss, Jordan Clarkson proved he belonged on the floor among a Kentucky roster loaded with NBA talent. The Wildcats featured seven future NBA players, but Clarkson and teammate Jabari Brown stole the show.
While Brown had a game-high 33, Clarkson added 28 for the Tigers in the near victory. Clarkson played just one season at Missouri after making the jump from Tusla to the higher profile program.
Ed Davis: December 1, 2009 – UNC 89 – Michigan State 82
Ed Davis could have jumped to the NBA after a championship-winning run as a freshman at North Carolina. Instead, he returned to UNC to better his draft stock and climb up the draft boards.
While the Tarheels failed to qualify for the postseason in Davis’ sophomore season, the bouncy forward proved he belonged in the NBA during his final season. Davis scored a career-high 22 points and grabbed six rebounds against the Spartans Draymond Green in the Tarheel’s rematch of the previous year’s National Championship game.
Juwan Morgan: January 6, 2019 – Michigan 74 – Indiana 63
Like Niang, Juwan Morgan had been on NBA radars during his junior and senior seasons after productive years with the Hoosiers. However, future pros have to play their best in front of NBA scouts in person against fellow NBA talent.
That’s what Morgan did against the Wolverines when he scored 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds in Indiana’s loss to the number two ranked team in the country. Morgan impressed the Jazz during the team’s summer league play before landing a full-time spot on the roster in December.
Rayjon Tucker: December 19, 2018 – Memphis 99 – Little Rock – 89
Rayjon Tucker played two years and Florida Gulf-Coast before transferring to Arkansas Little Rock for his final college season. Without playing at a major program, the future G-League star had to show off his NBA potential against the few high-level programs he would face in his college career.
He did exactly that in a loss against Memphis. Tucker scored a game-high 29 points, dished out four assists, and grabbed four rebounds for the Trojans. Tucker committed to transfer to Memphis after his junior season but opted for the NBA instead.
Miye Oni: December 1, 2018 – Yale 77 – Miami 73
Not many players from the Ivy Leagues ever make it to the NBA, even future skip their final year of college to make the leap, but that’s exactly what Jazz rookie Miye Oni did.
Though he dominated the lesser league, Oni proved his value in an impressive 29 point, six rebound performance against Miami early in his junior year.
Nigel Williams-Goss: March 7, 2017 – Gonzaga 74 – St Mary’s 56
Gonzaga has traditionally dominated the West Coast Conference, and Nigel Williams-Goss made sure to continue the trend in his one season with the Zags. After a successful two-year stint in Washington, the guard transferred to Gonzaga to pursue a National Championship.
While he never realized that dream, he helped Gonzaga take down St. Mary’s in the WCC championship game with a dominating 22 point, six rebound, six assist, six steal performance against the Gaels.
Jarrell Brantley: November 22, 2018 – LSU 67 – Charleston 55
Like any star at a small school, Jarrell Brantley had limited opportunities to show off his game against more prominent programs. But he didn’t waste his opportunity against the Tigers of LSU.
Brantley scored a season-high 27 points and grabbed nine rebounds against prominent freshman Naz Reid in the Cougars loss.
Justin Wright-Foreman: February 9, 2019 – Hofstra 93 – W&M 87
Justin Wright-Foreman undoubtedly turned heads throughout his college career for his ability to score the ball.
Never was that on a fuller display than his eye-popping 48 point performance against William and Mary during the final year of his college career.