The Toronto Raptors knocked off the Milwaukee Bucks and have earned their right to take on the Golden State Warriors this coming Thursday in game 1 of the NBA Finals (9:00 pm est. TNT). In honor of the Finals and the fact that the Warriors have made it to five straight NBA Finals appearances, I’ve decided to show some love to the Raptors and take a look back at some of their star players college basketball careers.
Kawhi Leonard- A second team All-American at San Diego state, Leonard played two seasons with the Aztecs before entering the draft. He averaged about 15 points and 10 rebounds per game in his sophomore campaign; he led the Aztecs to the Sweet 16. When I think back to Kawhi Leonard’s college career it takes me back to that Sweet 16 game, and not for a good reason. San Diego State stepped in front of a freight train and felt the full wrath of Cardiac Kemba and the UConn Huskies, Kemba would go off for 36 points and eventually lead his Huskies to an improbable national championship. That run has gone down in history as one of the greatest in college basketball and unfortunately, for Kawhi and the Aztecs, they were just another team in UConn’s way.
Kyle Lowry- Coming out of high school, Lowry was a four star recruit and decided to play his college ball at Villanova under Jay Wright. After a successful freshman campaign Lowry earned All-Big East Freshman team honors, however, Villanova would end up missing out on the NCAA tournament. In 2005, Lowry and Villanova would bounce back and Villanova would make the Elite 8 where they would eventually fall to Billy Donovan’s Florida, that Gators team would go on to win the whole thing. Lowry would finish the season making Second-Team All-Big East and declare for the draft afterwards after just two seasons.
Danny Green- A McDonalds All American coming out of high school, Danny Green committed to play under coach Roy Williams and North Carolina. He would play all four years and won the national championship in 2009 knocking off Michigan State. An All-ACC defender in his senior season, Danny Green played with a loaded college team, with guys like Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington, Ty Law, and Tyler Zeller.
Pascal Siakam- An absolute menace at New Mexico State, Pascal SIakam spent three years with the Aggies program but would only get to play in 2 of them after redshirting his freshman year. In his first season he would win WAC freshman of the year, he averaged almost 13 points and 8 rebounds per game. New Mexico State would make it to the NCAA tournament but would fall in the second round to Kansas. Coming back for his sophomore campaign, Siakam was an monster, winning WAC player of the year, Siakam would put up 20 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 2 blocks. His performance made him an AP Honorable Mention All-American, the Aggies would end up missing out on the NCAA tournament that year and Siakam would declare for the draft shortly after.
Fred VanVleet- I would argue one of the most accomplished college players on this Raptors roster, VanVleet was named an AP Honorable Mention All-American 3 TIMES during his career with Wichita State. VanVleet helped lead the Shockers to a perfect 31-0 regular season record in his sophomore campaign. VanVleet was a two time Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. VanVleet would be a part of four tournament teams in his time in Wichita. VanVleet played a huge part in shaping the Shockers program and setting it up for success in the future.
Jeremy Lin- Just had to show Jeremy Lin some love, a Harvard graduate, he was a 2 time All-Ivy League team selection in his time with the Crimson. It should be noted that Lin did not receive a single athletic scholarship and actually walked on at Harvard.
OG Anunoby- Unsure if he will return for the Finals or not but I thought I would include him anyways. Dubbed a preseason All-American at Indiana, Anunoby was only able to play 16 games for the Hoosiers in his sophomore campaign before suffering a season ending injury. After a rather disappointing college career, he would declare for the draft where he was taken by the Toronto Raptors with the 23rd pick.
It’s always fun to look back at and see where guys played their college ball at. This Raptors team includes quite a few international players who skipped out on college, including Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas and Marc Gasol. Tune in and see the Raptors and the Warriors battle it out for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. It should be an entertaining series.