Rebels basketball:

Welcome to the club: UNLV’s first-round NBA Draft picks through the years

Former Rebel Anthony Bennett is about to join a select group that enjoyed varying success after their big day


Sam Morris

UNLV Runnin’ Rebel Anthony Bennett

NBA UNLV First Draft Picks

From left, former Rebels Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony and Larry Johnson celebrate with coach Jerry Tarkanian in New York City at the 1991 NBA Draft, when all three were selected in the first round. Players from UNLV's glory days, such as these three, have been welcomed back warmly around the program in recent years since coach Lon Kruger took over. Launch slideshow » Sports Talk

NBA Draft dreams

It's NBA Draft week, and this year that means a lot for players with local ties. Sports writers Case Keefer and Taylor Bern make some predictions and offer their GM perspectives. Plus, with sports editor Ray Brewer out on vacation, the guys end with music, including your new favorite rapper Froggy Fresh.

Anthony Bennett has been thinking about today for several years — from the clothes he’ll wear to how big he’ll smile and exactly how firm to shake the hand of NBA Commissioner David Stern. All of it has played out in his head multiple times, and tonight it becomes reality.

Getting selected in the first round of the NBA Draft is something nearly every Division I basketball player dreams about but few realize. Rarer still is the top-10 pick, which appears to be Bennett’s fate. Coverage from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn starts on ESPN at 4 p.m.

Thirteen UNLV players before him have been selected in the first round, seven of them in the top 10. It’s a special fraternity that spans back to 1975 when Ricky Sobers went No. 16 to the Phoenix Suns.

Since then, there’s been a slow drip of Rebels going in the first round, at least until 1991, when the gates momentarily flooded and a trio of former national champions went in the top 12, including No. 1 overall pick Larry Johnson. More picks followed in the next two years, but it’s slowed back down to a crawl in the past 20 years.

Although a Rebel has won an NBA title each of the past three seasons, the first was the Dallas Mavericks’ Shawn Marion, who was drafted in 1999, and Miami Heat bench warmer Joel Anthony was a free agent in 2007. Marcus Banks in 2003 was the last UNLV player to be drafted.

The Rebels believe Bennett will help change that. The best way to win is with the best players, and a one-and-done success story can help attract other similar talents. That’s the hope, anyway.

UNLV probably won’t have to wait long to keep the momentum going. It would be a surprise if junior Khem Birch’s name isn’t on a lot of draft boards by midseason, and fellow junior Roscoe Smith has an NBA body. Elite recruits play the same mental game Bennett has, and seeing that come true for him and possibly other guys already on the team is a great thing for the program.

So if Bennett’s about to be the 14th Rebel taken in the first round, who are the other 13? Click through the slides to see where they all were drafted and how they fared in the NBA:

Note: Career earnings, when available, are pulled from

    • As a member of the Chicago Bulls, former UNLV star Reggie Theus drives to the basket.

      The '70s

      1975 — No. 16 Ricky Sobers, G, Phoenix Suns

      Click to enlarge photo

      Ricky Sobers sits back and smiles. Sobers played basketball with the Rebels from 1973-75.

      Drafted after John Lambert (USC) and before Tom Boswell (South Carolina)

      11 seasons: Also played for the Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, Washington Bulls and Seattle SuperSonics

      Career numbers: 821 games (138 starts); 10,902 points; 45.9 fg%; 29.1 3fg%; 2,132 rebounds; 3,525 assists; 1,085 steals; 161 blocks

      1978 — No. 9 Reggie Theus, G, Chicago Bulls

      Drafted after Freeman Williams (Portland State) and before Butch Lee (Marquette)

      13 seasons: Also played for the Kansas City/Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic and New Jersey Nets

      Career numbers: 1,026 games (743 starts); 19,015 points; 47.1 fg%; 25.2 3fg%; 3,349 rebounds; 6,453 assists; 1,206 steals; 236 blocks

      Honors: Two-time All-Star (1981, 83), All-Rookie team (1979)

      Popular culture: From 1995-98, he starred as coach Bill Fuller, a fictional high school basketball coach on NBC’s “Hang Time.” When Theus left, he was replaced by a new coach played by former Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus.

    • Armen Gilliam (right) accepts a commemorative ball from New Jersey Nets coach Butch Beard after Gilliam scored his 10,000th career NBA point on Feb. 21, 1996, in Milwaukee.

      The '80s

      1983— No. 5 Sidney Green, F, Chicago Bulls>

      Click to enlarge photo

      Sidney Green, the first UNLV player to have his jersey retired by the Rebels, during his time in the NBA with the Orlando Magic.

      Drafted after Byron Scott (Arizona State) and before Russell Cross (Purdue)

      10 seasons: Also played for the Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, San Antonio Spurs and Charlotte Hornets

      Career numbers: 679 games (242 starts); 5,080 points; 45.4 fg%; 4,128 rebounds; 635 assists; 369 assists; 223 blocks

      1986 — No. 21 Anthony Jones, G, Washington Bullets

      Drafted after Buck Johnson (Alabama) and before Scott Skiles (Michigan State)

      Three seasons: Also played for the San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks

      Career numbers: 164 games (four starts); 594 points; 39.3 fg%; 30.6 3fg%; 214 rebounds; 119 assists; 38 blocks

      1987 — No. 2 Armen* Gilliam, F, Phoenix Suns

      Drafted after David Robinson (Navy) and before Dennis Hopson (Ohio State)

      13 seasons: Also played for the Charlotte Hornets, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz

      Career numbers: 929 games (527 starts); 12,700 points; 48.9 fg%; 6,401 rebounds; 1,088 assists; 676 steals; 607 blocks

      Honors: All-Rookie team (1988)

      *Gilliam, who died in 2011 while playing a pickup basketball game, changed the spelling of his first name from Armon to Armen near the end of his NBA career because he grew tired of it being mispronounced.

    • From left, former Rebels Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony and Larry Johnson celebrate with coach Jerry Tarkanian in New York City at the 1991 NBA Draft, when all three were selected in the first round. Augmon will be inducted into the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame on Friday, an honor previously bestowed upon both of his teammates and his coach.


      This is the group that redefined UNLV basketball. When they went into the league together, all three of them wore No. 2 to honor coach Jerry Tarkanian. Johnson and Stacey Augmon stuck with that throughout their careers while Greg Anthony also wore No. 50. For three seasons, from 1998-01, Anthony and Augmon were reunited on the Portland Trailblazers and in the first season made it to the Western Conference Finals. That team also included 1993 first-round UNLV draft pick JR Rider.

      No. 1 Larry Johnson, F, Charlotte Hornets

      Drafted before Kenny Anderson (Georgia Tech)

      10 seasons: Also played for the New York Knicks

      Career numbers: 707 games (699 starts); 11,450 points; 48.4 fg%; 33.2 3fg%; 5,300 rebounds; 2,298 assists; 515 steals; 258 blocks

      Honors: Rookie of the Year (1992), All-NBA second team (1993), two-time All-Star (1993 and 95)

      Career earnings: $83.1 million

      Popular culture: In 1993, he appeared as Grandmama on the TV show “Family Matters,” and in 1996, he appeared as himself alongside teammate Muggsy Bogues in the basketball movies “Eddie” and "Space Jam.”

      No. 9 Stacey Augmon, F, Atlanta Hawks

      Click to enlarge photo

      Stacey Augmon during his time with the Atlanta Hawks. Augmon went on to get drafted in the first round of the NBA drafted after helping take the Rebels to two straight Final Four appearances.

      Drafted after Mark Macon (Temple) and before Bison Dele (Arizona)

      15 seasons: Also played for the Detroit Pistons, Portland Trailblazers, Charlotte/New Orleans Hornets and Orlando Magic

      Career numbers: 1,001 games (472 starts); 7,990 points; 46.9 fg%; 3,216 rebounds; 1,561 assists; 974 steals; 317 blocks

      Honors: All-Rookie team (1992)

      Career earnings: $30 million

      No. 12 Greg Anthony, G, New York Knicks

      Drafted after Terrell Brandon (Oregon) and before Dale Davis (Clemson)

      11 seasons: Also played for the Vancouver Grizzlies, Seattle SuperSonics, Portland Trailblazers, Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks

      Career numbers: 757 games (227 starts); 5,497 points; 40.3 fg%; 34.9 3fg%; 1,417 rebounds; 2,997 assists; 887 steals

      Career earnings: $18.6 million

      No. 29 George Ackles, F, Miami Heat

      Drafted after Kevin Lynch (Minnesota) and before Rodney Monroe (NC State)

      • Taken with the second pick in the second round, Ackles went to the Heat’s training camp but didn’t make the team and never played in the NBA. He spent some time playing overseas and also appeared in games for the Las Vegas Bandits of the International Basketball League. Here’s a 1991 story from the Sun-Sentinel following the draft.

    • The Atlanta Hawks' JR Rider celebrates after a late-game basket against the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 23, 2000, in Sacramento, Calif. Rider scored a game-high 33 points to lead the Hawks to a 100-94 win.

      Early '90s

      1992— No. 25 Elmore Spencer, C, Los Angeles Clippers

      Drafted after Latrell Sprewell (Alabama) and before Dave Johnson (Syracuse)

      Five seasons: Also played for the Denver Nuggets, Portland Trailblazers and Seattle SuperSonics

      Career numbers: 157 games (75 starts); 923 points; 51.6 fg%; 555 rebounds; 109 assists; 53 steals; 170 blocks

      Career earnings: $3.8 million

      1993— No. 5 JR Rider, G, Minnesota Timberwolves

      Drafted after Jamal Mashburn (Kentucky) and before Calbert Cheaney (Indiana)

      Nine seasons: Also played for the Portland Trailblazers, Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets

      Career numbers: 563 games (424 starts); 9,405 points; 44.3 fg%; 2,166 rebounds; 1,535 assists; 367 steals; 136 blocks

      Honors: All-Rookie team (1994)

      Career earnings: $26.4 million

    • Former Rebel Shawn Marion, far right, celebrates an NBA title with his Dallas Mavericks teammates on Sunday evening in Miami. Marion, who played at UNLV in the 1989-99 season, scored 12 points in the series-clinching 105-95 victory over the Miami Heat. In the process, he became the first UNLV player to win an NBA title since 1972.

      Late '90s-2003

      1998 — No. 13 Keon Clark, F, Orlando Magic*

      Click to enlarge photo

      Toronto Raptors' Keon Clark (7) goes up for the shot in front of Washington Wizards' Popeye Jones during a game in Washington on Feb. 5, 2002.

      Drafted after Michael Doleac (Utah) and before Michael Dickerson (Arizona)

      Six seasons: Played for the Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptors, Sacramento Kings and Utah Jazz

      Career numbers: 353 games (65 starts); 2,882 points; 50 fg%; 2,096 rebounds; 322 assists; 184 steals; 571 blocks

      Career earnings: $15.2 million

      *Though he was drafted by the Magic, Clark was traded in January of the 1998-99 season and didn’t make his NBA debut until Feb. 5, 1999, with the Nuggets.

      1999 — No. 9 Shawn Marion, F, Phoenix Suns

      Drafted after Andre Miller (Utah) and before Jason Terry (Arizona)

      14 seasons: Also played for the Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors and Dallas Mavericks

      Career numbers: 1,030 games (962 starts); 16,633 points; 48.5 fg%; 9,402 rebounds; 2,023 assists; 1,642 steals; 1,169 blocks

      Honors: Two-time All-NBA third team (2005, 06), four-time All-Star (2003, 05-07), All-Rookie second team (2000)

      Career earnings: $124.2 million

      2003— No. 13 Marcus Banks, G, Memphis Grizzlies*

      Drafted after Nick Collison (Kansas) and before Luke Ridnour (Oregon)

      Eight seasons: Played for the Boston Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors

      Career numbers: 348 games (37 starts); 2,061 points; 43.2 fg%; 32.7 3fg%; 519 rebounds; 728 assists; 266 steals; 57 blocks

      Career earnings: $26.1 million

      *Banks was part of a draft-night trade that sent he and Kendrick Perkins to the Celtics for Troy Bell and Dahntay Jones.

    Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at

    Join the Discussion:

    Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

    Full comments policy

    Previous Discussion: 5 comments so far…

    Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy.

    1. really good article, Taylor, thanks!

    2. No 1 pick baby!!!! Way to go A.B. and Staff

    3. No 1 will be the worst UNLV pick ever. Cleveland will regret it.

    4. A prestigious and exclusive list to be sure, but it seems AB will be the only UNLV first rounder to be drafted based on potential alone as opposed to his accomplishments on the court. More of a statement about modern NBA and college hoops than Mr. Bennett himself. Congratulations to him.

    5. We still miss you Armen, RIP.