With the 2012 NCAA Men's Championship just hours away, it got me thinking: How did our current Nuggets players fare when they competed in the NCAA tournament?
While the 2011-12 Denver Nuggets roster boasts plenty of international talent (minus the Brazilian import Nene Hilario who was dealt before the trade deadline), it also boasts some former NCAA tournament stars, including one NCAA Most Outstanding Player recipient (you'll never guess who). So with Kentucky and Kansas about to do battle for the 2012 NCAA Men's Championship around 7pm Mountain Time, let's do a quick recap of the NCAA careers of your current Nuggets (in no particular order of importance).
In his three seasons at UCLA, Afflalo helped resurrect their once-legendary basketball program and led UCLA to two straight Final Fours in 2006 and 2007 (UCLA would appear in a third straight in 2008 after Afflalo departed for the NBA). During his college years, Afflalo played with NBA players Jordan Farmar, Ryan Hollins, Darren Collison, Luc Mbah a Moute and Russell Westbrook. Notably, in 2006 against Alabama Afflalo nailed a game-winner which enabled UCLA to march all the way to the NCAA Championship game, where they lost to ...
... the Florida Gators, led by Corey Brewer. Seeing Brewer play as spastically as he does today, it's hard to believe that a) he was the seventh overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft (ahead of teammate Joakim Noah) and b) that he was drafted at all. But back in 2007, Brewer was a hot commodity coming off back-to-back NCAA Championships for the Gators and being named the tournament Most Outstanding Player in 2007. In fact, Brewer holds the distinction of being the first University of Florida player to post a triple-double.
Like Afflalo and Brewer, Lawson competed in two Final Fours. And like Brewer (but unlike Afflalo), Lawson won an NCAA Championship when his University of North Carolina Tarheels defeated Michigan State in 2009. In that game, Lawson set an NCAA record with 8 steals, the most ever by a player in an NCAA Championship game. Interestingly, Lawson originally intended to move on to the NBA in 2008, but due a drunk driving incident that summer and the fact that teammates Wayne Ellingon, Danny Green and Tyler Hansbrough were all returning, Lawson stayed for the 2008-09 season that resulted in the championship.
If not for the NCAA tournament - played in Denver, no less - Faried may not be a Nugget today. While at Morehead State, Faried led the Eagles to two NCAA tournaments. And in his second appearance, Faried led the Eagles to a monumental 13-seed versus a four-seed upset over Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals, right here in Denver at Pepsi Center.
Long before George Karl overplayed Miller nightly (sorry, had to), Miller was a dynamic college player at the University of Utah and alongside former Nugget (and future Denver Stiffs Hall of Famer) Michael Doleac, brought the Utes to the brink of an NCAA Championship in 1998. To get there, Miller defeated an Arizona team featuring Mike Bibby and Jason Terry, and Miller posted a triple-double with 18 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists.