The NBA will hold its 76th draft at 7:00 pm CST Thursday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. NBA teams selected 39 players from Alabama high schools and colleges in the first round, including nine in the 1970s.
Carl Schaeffer became the first Alabama high school or college player to be selected in the NBA draft when the Crimson Tide swinger was selected by the Providence Steamrollers in 1949.
But it wasn’t until 1963 that the Alabama-born basketball player was selected in the first round of the NBA draft. That same year, Bill Clark of Carver High School in Gadsden was selected by the Boston Celtics with the ninth pick, the last pick in the first round of that season.
By the end of the decade, players from Alabama high schools and colleges had become regular first-rounders, and from 1978 to 1988, at least one made an annual first-round appearance. This 11-year first-round streak is the longest for a state in the NBA draft. The second longest is the five-year streak from 1992 to 1996 (although the five-year streak is due to equal on Thursday night).
First round NBA draft picks with Alabama basketball roots in the 1970s included:
1963: Bill Green (Carver-Gadsden), #9 with the Boston Celtics
In five seasons out of eight consecutive NBA championships, the Celtics selected Green in the first round after averaging 22.1 points per game during three seasons at Colorado State. But the 6-foot forward never played in the NBA due to a fear of flying that he developed while playing for the Rams.
1972: Bud Stalworth (Morgan County Training School), #7 by the Seattle Supersonics.
The Hartsell small forward starred in Kansas, where he was named Big Eight Player of the Year in 1971-72. After averaging 6.3 points per game in both of his two seasons with Seattle, Stallworth was selected by the New Orleans Jazz in the expansion draft. He played three seasons with New Orleans before a back injury from a car accident ended his career prematurely. In 313 NBA regular season games, Stalworth averaged 7.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.7 assists.
1972: Travis Grant (Barbour County Training School), No. 13 by the Los Angeles Lakers.
A NAIA superstar in Kentucky State after playing at Barbour County Training School in Clayton, Machine Gun did little for the Lakers. But the 6-foot-7 forward averaged 25.2 points for the ABA San Diego Conquistadors in 1974-75. In 36 NBA regular season games, Grant averaged 3.6 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.2 assists. In 165 ABA regular season games, Grant averaged 16.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists.
1975: Joe Meriwether (Central Phoenix City), #11 with the Houston Rockets
After the 6’10 Southern Illinois center was selected as an All-Rookie, Houston sent him to the Atlanta Hawks in a deal that saw the Rockets take the top pick in the 1976 NBA draft, who used him against the Maryland John Lucas. Meriwether spent 10 seasons in the NBA as a famous blocker during the 1977-78 season. averaging 2.2 goals per game for the New Orleans Jazz. In 670 NBA regular season games, Meriwether averaged 8.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 1.2 blocks.
1975: Tom Boswell (Carver-Montgomery), #17 with the Boston Celtics
The 6-foot-9 power forward was a member of the NBA Championship Team as a rookie and played in six NBA seasons after playing for the South Carolina team. In 366 NBA regular season games, Boswell averaged 7.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists. He averaged 17.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game for the Denver Nuggets in the 1979 playoffs.
1976: Leon Douglas (Colbert County) Alabama), No. 4 Detroit Pistons
Douglas became the first Crimson Tide player to be selected in the first round. He was a 6-foot-10 center for the Pistons and Kansas City Kings for seven NBA seasons and then spent another nine seasons playing overseas. In 456 NBA regular season games, Douglas averaged 7.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.1 assists.
1978: Mike MitchellAuburn), No. 15 Cleveland Cavaliers
The first Auburn player to be selected in the first round, the small forward was a 1981 NBA All-Star and averaged 22.3 points per game during his seven peak seasons with the Cavs and San Antonio Spurs. The 6-foot-7 forward averaged 24.5 points per game for Cleveland during his stellar season. In 759 NBA regular season games, Mitchell averaged 19.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists. After his NBA career, Mitchell spent 11 more seasons overseas.
1979: Reggie King (Jackson-Olin, Alabama) #18 Kansas City Kings
After averaging 18.4 points per game over four seasons with Alabama, the Mule played four seasons with the Kings and two with the Seattle SuperSonics, averaging 14.9 points and 9.7 rebounds per game in 1980–81 season with Kansas City. In 438 NBA regular season games, the 6-foot-6 forward averaged 8.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists.
1979: Wylie Peck (Lee-Montgomery), #19 with the San Antonio Spurs
The Lee-Montgomery small forward averaged 14.5 points and 11.3 rebounds for Mississippi State as a senior to advance to the first round. In 52 NBA regular season games, Peck averaged 3.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 0.6 assists. After a rookie season with the Spurs, Peck moved to the Dallas Mavericks in an expansion draft, then was traded to the Phoenix Suns and never played in the NBA again.
Mark Inabinette is a sports reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.