Longtime Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen recently wrote a compelling piece that looked back at the Arizona State men’s basketball team’s talented starting lineup 40 years ago.
The Sun Devils started five future NBA draft picks on Jan. 26, 1980, against the University of Arizona Wildcats.
Not surprisingly, it was a convincing victory for the visitors. Coach Ned Wulk’s squad pounded the Wildcats 97-72 that night in Tucson, Hansen noted in his column.
Trivia challenge: Arizona State hoop history
By the way, I believe the answer to the following trivia question would be ranked at the top of any chart for hoop history in terms of difficulty:
Who were the five starters for the Sun Devils against the Wildcats in the game mentioned above?
I suspect a few die-hard basketball fans might be able to name two — or possibly three — of the five starters.
I wonder how many Division I college teams’ starting-five lineups (from any game) in the years after ASU’s aforementioned feat have all been drafted and played in the NBA.
The University of Michigan’s Fab Five from the early 1990s (Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson) came close. But Jackson wasn’t drafted by an NBA club and never played in the league.
The gut instinct is this, though: The University of Kentucky and Duke University lineups have probably come close or done so.
Lafayette “Fat” Lever and Byron Scott started in the backcourt, and Alton Lister, Sam Williams and Kurt Nimphius teamed up in the frontcourt for the Sun Devils.
Hansen described that starting lineup this way in his column: “Size, power and national championship talent. If that’s not the most skilled starting five since the league (the Pac-12 Conference, which was the Pac-10 in those days) added Arizona and ASU, it’s no worse than 1-A. They combined to play in 3,899 NBA games.”
The two-time All-Star Lever’s NBA career began in 1982 and continued until 1994. Lister (1981-98), while Scott (1983-97; three NBA championship rings), Williams (1981-85) and Nimphius (1981-90) also had memorable experiences in the NBA after competing in the same starting lineup while at Arizona State.