First Day Of School: How Jazz Players Fared In College Debuts
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Districts across the state of Utah are welcoming kids back to school signaling the end of summer. In the era of one-and-done college players, it wasn’t long ago that many Utah Jazz players were undergoing their first day of school, beginning their careers both in the classroom and on the basketball court.
With schools back in session, let’s look at how each player from the Jazz fared in their college debuts.
Royce O’Neale: November 11, 2011 – Denver
Royce O’Neale began his career at the University of Denver before transferring to play for Baylor during his junior and senior seasons.
— Baylor Basketball (@BaylorMBB) November 9, 2013
The defensive-minded forward had a promising start to his career at just 18 years old, scoring six points, grabbing four rebounds, and handing out four assists in 24 minutes off the bench as the Pioneers beat Portland State 69-61.
Jordan Clarkson: November 12, 2010 – Tulsa
Jordan Clarkson started his career at Tulsa before transferring to Missouri during his final year of college.
A two-star recruit with only one Division One offer, Clarkson started his first game for the Golden Hurricane but struggled in 28 minutes on the floor. The guard scored eight points, and had two assists and one rebound, but shot just 3-8 from the floor and had six turnovers in Tulsa’s 89-86 loss to Appalachian State.
Miye Oni: November 13, 2016 – Yale
Like Clarkson, Miye Oni had just one offer coming out of high school. Committing to Yale, Oni’s first day of college at such a prestigious school probably didn’t look like other Jazz players’, nor did the NBA seem like a realistic option just three years down the line.
🗓️ON THIS DAY in 2016 | Yale spoils Markelle Fultz’s much-anticipated debut, defeating the University of Washington 98-90 in Seattle. In his first career game, Miye Oni scores 24 points to lead the Bulldogs.#ThisIsYale | #OTD pic.twitter.com/UWLKj5DpMp
— Yale Men's Basketball (@YaleMBasketball) November 13, 2020
However, Oni wasted little time proving he was a legitimate NBA prospect starting his first game while scoring 24 points, grabbing six rebounds, and handing out three assists as freshman.
Yale beat a talented though underachieving Washington team 98-90 that featured future number one overall pick Markelle Fultz and Philadelphia 76ers wing Matisse Thybulle.
Donovan Mitchell: November 13, 2015 – Louisville
Donovan Mitchell had a neary flawless start to his career after committing to join Rick Pitino at Louisville.
The guard scored a team-high 14 points in 17 minutes off the bench shooting a perfect 4-4 from the floor and 5-6 from the free-throw line. Mitchell also added three rebounds, three steals, and an assist as the Cardinals downed Samford 86-45.
Mike Conley: November 10, 2006 – Ohio State
Though most fans were disappointed that projected superstar Greg Oden would miss what should have been his college debut at Ohio State, Mike Conley introduced himself to a national audience as a future lottery pick.
Three of the all-time best-Conley,Cook&Oden-after tonight's game. Grateful to have had the chance to learn from them! pic.twitter.com/ZBfC6yw2
— John Groce (@JohnGroce) January 20, 2013
The guard scored eight points, handed out 10 assists, and grabbed five steals in 26 minutes as a starter as the Buckeyes crushed the Virginia Military Institute 107-69.
Trent Forrest: November 12, 2016 – Florida State
Trent Forrest’s career at Florida State would mirror the type of production he’s had throughout his basketball career.
In 19 minutes off the bench, Forrest scored an efficient seven points on 3-4 shooting while grabbing six rebounds and handing out one assist in an 88-67 victory for the Seminoles over Charleston Southern.
Jarrell Brantley: November 13, 2015 – Charleston
Jarrell Brantley started his first game in college in what was a mixed bag performance. The forward scored seven points on just 2-7 shooting but also grabbed eight rebounds while recording an assist and a steal.
Brantley did win his first game as Charleston crushed South Carolina State 74-54.
Elijah Hughes: November 11, 2016 – East Carolina
Elijah Hughes had one of the more unremarkable college debuts of any Jazz player, surprising considering that after his freshman season, he’d become a highly sought-after transfer.
Really enjoyed today's ESPN Film Session with ACC leading scorer Elijah Hughes (19 PPG) out of Syracuse. We touched on his development from playing alongside Tremont Waters & Myles Powell @ South Kent School to East Carolina & then on to Syracuse. Can score at all 3 levels @ 6-6. pic.twitter.com/z1XqcaN4bT
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) May 29, 2020
Hughes played seven minutes, the fewest on the team, went 0-2 from the floor, and was the only Pirates player to go scoreless in the team’s 72-57 win over Grambling.
Udoka Azubuike: November 11, 2016 – Kansas
Udoka Azubuike’s career began almost identically to Elijah Hughes, as both players made their college debuts on the same day.
Coincidentally, Azubuikie also went scoreless in his debut and missed both of his shots from the floor. Unlike Hughes’s Pirate however, Azubuike’s Jayhawks fell to Indiana 103-99 in a game that featured future Jazz teammate Juwan Morgan.
Rudy Gay: November 20, 2004 – UConn
Rudy Gay was the top college recruit in the country, but despite his reputation, it wasn’t enough for the future Jazzman to earn a start in his freshman debut.
Gay committed to a then powerhouse program at UConn that featured four other NBA players, and as a result, played just 21 minutes to start his career.
— Timeless Sports (@timelesssports_) October 27, 2017
The longtime NBA vet filled the stat sheet scoring eight points, grabbing three rebounds, handing out two assists, while recording two steals and a block in UConn’s 90-68 victory over Buffalo.
Hassan Whiteside: November 15, 2009 – Marshall
Hassan Whiteside let the basketball world know what his career was going to be all about in his college debut for Marshall.
The center blocked five shots in what would go on to be his specialty through his NBA career while also scoring 16 points and grabbing five rebounds in a 79-63 win over North Carolina A&T in his first game as a freshman.
Eric Paschall: November 14, 2014 – Fordham
Eric Paschall made it clear he was underrecruited out of high school after his offensive explosion during his lone season at Fordham before transferring to Villanova.
— Greg Thompson (@gregthompson27) July 10, 2014
The bulky forward actually scored his college career-high during his freshman debut recording 31 points and 10 rebounds on 12-22 shooting during a 94-77 win over New York Tech.
Jared Butler: November 6, 2018 – Baylor
No Jazz player had a more decorated college career than Jared Butler who won a national title with the Bears and was named the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player among several other awards.
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) July 30, 2021
However, his career didn’t begin with much fanfare. The future second-round pick started in his first-ever college game, but scored just two points, handed out one assist, and grabbed two steals while shooting 1-6 from the floor.
Worse yet, the Bears lost to Texas Southern 72-69 in their season opener.
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