Brendan McCann Jersey Signed

The NBA Draft is tonight, and, no, there won’t be any St. Bonaventure players taken, but it seems as good a time as any to reflect on the 33 former Bonnies who did hear their names called on draft night.

The Philadelphia 76ers have the No. 1 pick in tonight’s lottery, having traded with Boston for that spot earlier in the week, the first of 30 first round selections being made inside Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

The Bonnies have had four first-round draft picks in their history: Brendan McCann (No. 5 overall, New York Knicks), Tom Stith (No. 2, New York Knicks), Bob Lanier (No. 1, Detroit Pistons) and Andrew Nicholson (No. 19, Orlando Magic). They’ve had two players taken by the team with tonight’s top pick: Bob Barnek in 1965 and Glenn Hagan, who was taken by the 76ers in the second round (No. 43 overall) in 1978.

Once again, Kentucky is expected to have at least three of its young players taken in the first round. There has been one instance in which Bona had at least that many taken in a single draft: In 1953, when four of its starting five was taken.

One of those four players, Bob Sassone, remembers it well.

“In 1953, even though we had a 12-12 record, four of those five guys were drafted to the NBA,” the 86-year-old Sassone recalled vividly.

Sassone was taken in the third round by the Philadelphia Warriors, with Bill Kenville going in the same round to the Syracuse Nationals, Mike Bodnar (5th round) to the Fort Wayne Pistons and Bill Edwards (12th) to the Rochester Royals.

What was that like for Brooklyn native?

“It was a thrill,” he said, but …

“In the NBA (in those days), you only lasted two years most of the time. When I came out, I went to Philly and I talked to them. They said, since you’ve gone, we already got other guys to last two years. Even Sam Stith, I think he lasted only two years with the Knicks.”

Ah, the Knicks.

When Eddie Donovan left Bona to coach the Knicks in 1961, he wound up bringing a handful of Bonnies with him. Tom Stith (first round) and Whitey Martin (second round) were taken by New York in ‘61 while Fred Crawford went in the eighth round in ‘63. Sam Stith was selected by the Cincinnati Royals in 1960, but his draft rights eventually went to … the Knicks.

Sassone lamented the bout with tuberculosis that kept the younger Stith from truly pursuing an NBA career, but remembered a story about Tom from his days as an assistant coach.

“When he was a sophomore, he became very friendly with me; more friendly with me than with Eddie,” Sassone said. “And the reason was, we used to throw the ball into Stith, and Stith started throwing it out to Kenny Fairfield, who was a senior from Hinsdale.

“I said, ‘Tom, the whole offense is four guys around you. When the ball comes into you, do you know what you have to do with it? Shoot it.’ You know what he said to me? ‘Coach, I gotta keep the seniors happy, so I throw the ball out to Kenny.’”

The Knicks weren’t done at Crawford, however. Eventually, they’d also take Greg Sanders (8th round, 1978) and Mark Jones (4th round, 1983).

More from this section
Bears will face Lions undrafted rookie QB David Blough on Thanksgiving
Bears will face Lions undrafted rookie QB David Blough on Thanksgiving
Badgers, Gophers strong in power rankings, matchup Saturday for West Division title
Badgers, Gophers strong in power rankings, matchup Saturday for West Division title
Missouri needing better cornerback play in season finale
Missouri needing better cornerback play in season finale
Aside from the 76ers, the Lakers, Celtics, Suns and Kings all have top five picks tonight. That’s actually the same top four, in order, as last year. The Bonnies have had players drafted by all of those teams except Los Angeles.

The Celtics took Bill Butler in the eighth round of the 1968 draft while Matt Gantt went to the Suns in the fourth round in 1972. Fred Diute (3rd round, 1951) and Edwards went to the Rochester Royals, who’d ultimately become the Kings.

Bona has had players drafted by teams that moved or are no longer in existence: Paul Hoffman (1972), Carl Jackson (‘73), Glenn Price (‘74), Bob Rozyczko (‘76) all went to the Buffalo Braves while Kenville, Mal Duffy (‘55) and Bob McCully (‘62) went to Syracuse. Essie Hollis, a co-captain on the 1977 NIT championship team, went in the second round (No. 44 overall) to the New Orleans Jazz that same year.

Bonnies have gone to the current NBA champion (Greg “Bubba” Gary was taken by Golden State in 1971) and past champions (Earl Belcher was drafted by the Spurs in 1981) and everywhere in between: Leo Corkery and George Carter went to the Pistons in 1952 and 1967, respectively; Jim Satalin was taken by the Bucks in the ninth round in ‘69, Tim Waterman to the Hawks in ‘79 and Barry Mungar to the Wizards in ‘86.

St. Bonaventure’s first ever NBA draft pick? Ken Murray, to the old Chicago Stags in 1950.

As for Sassone? After the conversations he had with Warriors, he was ready to move on with his life; more specifically, into coaching.

“What they wanted me to do was go up to Scranton/Wilkes Barre and play in the weekend leagues,” he said. “There were guys from New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and they played up there.

“I had a job with United Postal, I was married. I was working and making a lot of money. Then, I wanted to drop out of UPS. I put in for law school, figuring that’s where I’d go, and Eddie Donovan called me, and that changed my life.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *