College basketball fans scanning NBA rosters are accustomed to seeing familiar faces from the Kentucky Wildcats and Duke Blue Devils.
Both of these blue-blood programs have done a fine job of helping their student-athletes make the transition from the NCAA to the pros. Their coaches (John Calipari at Kentucky and Mike Krzyzewski at Duke) also have a reputation for finding players who can eventually make the leap to the NBA.
These schools have been natural destinations for prospects who want to become professional athletes, especially those who only intend to spent one year playing college basketball.
As the league has expanded to include larger rosters with two-way contracts and the one-and-done prospect has become a more attractive draft target for teams with a lottery pick, these two schools have recently represented more of the NBA than ever.
Before the last NBA lockout in 2011, for example, no college ever had more than 16 players in the league during a given season. Since then, however, Kentucky and Duke have each already accomplished that feat seven times. This is increasing each year, too, considering the rate at which both schools are churning out NBA prospects.
Those two programs combined to compose 10.4 percent of the NBA during the 2018-19 season. That was the highest rate from two schools since 1962 when Indiana and Kentucky combined for 10.6 percent. It’s worth noting that the league had a much smaller sample size in 1962 with just 113 players stepping on the court back then compared to 530 players in 2019.
The trend of two universities creating such a large share of the population was far more popular when the league began in 1946. During the early stages of the league, the schools nearest New York City (St. John’s, Long Island and New York University) sent the most student-athletes to the pros. In 1948, for example, 10.7 percent of the league hailed from either Long Island or NYU.
This regressed considerably over time and dropped to as low as 5.0 percent as recently as 2005. To help show how much the distribution has changed in the last decade and a half, there was nearly the same rate of players from the top five programs (11.2 percent) as there was from just Kentucky and Duke last season.
Now, when student-athletes from these schools enter the league, they have an entire brotherhood of players hailing from their alma mater. This is often one of the more attractive recruiting tools, since these programs can ensure that the player will have a network of support beyond their time in college.