Numerous New Orleans area products have had NBA opportunities, success

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DJ Augustin
DJ Augustin has had a long NBA career after shining at Brother Martin High School.

We witnessed a pair of players with greater New Orleans ties – Melvin Frazier and Mitchell Robinson – hear their names called during the NBA draft last week.

The 6-foot-6 Frazier was grabbed by Orlando in the 2nd round while the 7-foot project Robinson is headed to the Knicks. Frazier, a Tulane and L.W. Higgins product, was born in this area while Robinson moved to Chalmette from Pensacola, Florida.

Our metro area has produced quite a bit of NBA-caliber talent through the years, perhaps more than you had imagined.

Randy Livingston, the former Newman point guard who became a prep All-American, was twice selected as the National Co-Player of the year. In ’92, he shared the honor with Jason Kidd and the following season with Rasheed Wallace. He suffered a devastating leg injury which short-circuited his career at LSU. Although nowhere near the force he could have been if healthy, Livingston spent time in the NBA with the Rockets, Sonics, Bulls, Hornets, Jazz, Clippers and Suns.

Donald Royal was a St. Augustine star who played at Notre Dame as a forward who scored 15.8 points and seven rebounds per game as a senior. He spent 11 seasons in the NBA, averaging 6.2 points per outing throughout his career.

James Ray, a 6-8 forward out of Landry High, played at Jacksonville State in college. He spent three seasons in the NBA with the Nuggets (103 games), before heading across the pond to leagues in Italy, Spain and Turkey.

Jaren Jackson, Sr. went from Cohen to Georgetown to play for legendary coach John Thompson. During his 13 year NBA career, Jackson averaged 5.5 points throughout 431 contests, mostly as a swingman. His wife Terri is a former Hoya women’s player, and his son Jaren, Jr. is now off the NBA as a lottery pick this summer. The elder Jackson won an NBA title with the Spurs in 1999 as a teammate of our next local NBA success story.

Avery Johnson, another former St. Aug Purple Knight, was twice the NCAA assists leader at Southern University, averaging 12 assists per game for his career with the Jags. While at St. Aug, he was a huge part of the team’s 35-0 record and Class 4A state title in 1983. His jersey No. 6 was retired by the Spurs. The Little General played 11 NBA seasons averaging 8.4 points and 5.5 assists.

Gerard King, a John McDonogh product, signed with Nicholls State where he left campus as the Colonels’ fourth all-time leading scorer and sixth best rebounder. After leading Nicholls to the NCAA Tournament, he went undrafted but played 3 seasons in the NBA with the San Antonio and Washington averaging 4.5 points and 3.1 rebounds.

Steve Martin, yet another former St. Augustine star, signed with Georgetown where he served as Hoyas’ team captain as senior for the 1978-’79 campaign. He averaged 12.7 points and six boards that year and left as the school’s ninth all-time leading scorer. Martin was chosen by Washington in 10th round of ’79 draft, but chose to bypass NBA.

Donald Newman left Brother Martin and played one season at LSU before transferring to Lake City JUCO and then Idaho. He was selected by the Pacers in fourth round of ’79 draft but ended up with the Celtics. A terrific athlete, Newman gained a tryout with the Seattle Seahawks before playing six seasons as a wide receiver in the Canadian Football League.

Johnny Arthurs was an All-State talent at De La Salle before he signed with Tulane. His career with the Wave was superb, and he became the school’s all-time scorer. In his final year on Willow Street, Arthurs averaged 25.6 points per outing. He was chosen by Milwaukee in the sixth round in the same year Kareem Abdul Jabbar was picked No. 1 overall by the Bucks).

Rick Robey shined as a Brother Martin center but he was born in Coral Gables, Fla. before spending his formative years in the Crescent City. The 6-11 strongman signed with Kentucky following a prep All-American career with the Crusaders in 1974.

The Louisiana Mr. Basketball helped the Wildcats win an NCAA title in 1978 and had his jersey No. 53 retired at Kentucky. Robey was the third overall pick by the Pacers in the ’78 draft and played eight NBA seasons, notching 2,300 points and grabbing 3,723 rebounds. Rick was a member of the Celtics 1981 NBA title team.

D.J. Augustin, the now 30 year old point guard, was a McDonald’s All American who led the Brother Martin Crusaders to consecutive state titles in ’04 and ’05. Following Katrina, he moved to Missouri, Texas. A teammate of Kevin Durant with the Texas Longhorns, Augustin was a NBA first round pick in 2008 and is still playing in the league today.

Eldridge Recasner prepped at Lawless High and went onto play collegiately at the University of Washington. The talented long-range shooter played nine seasons in the NBA and also excelled defensively.

Robert Pack was a teammate of Eldridge Recasner at Lawless and played at Tyler JUCO before signing with USC. Although Pack went undrafted in 1991, he beat the odds to make the roster with the Trailblazers and played nine seasons in NBA. A dynamic leaper for an undersized guard, he is remembered by many as a runner-up in the NBA Slam Dunk competition.

LeRoy Chollet prepped at Holy Cross before he played his college basketball at Loyola and Canisus. He spent a pair of seasons in the NBA with the Syracuse Nationals (1949-’51) as a teammate of Hall of Fame big man Dolph Schayes.

Aaron James prepped at Cohen before playing at Grambling. Fans in the Big Easy loved hearing “A.J. from the parking lot” from Jazz announcer Hot Rod Hundley during New Orleans Jazz games. James spent five seasons with the Jazz and averaged 10.8 points with 4.1 rebounds.

Danny Granger, was a McDonald’s All American at Grace King (24.3 points, 12 rebounds and 5.5 blocks) who played college basketball at Bradley and New Mexico. Granger was twice named Mountain West Player of the Year with the Lobos. A first round pick of the Pacers, his NBA high point came in 2008-’09 when he averaged 25.8 points and 5.1 rebounds as an All-Star. He played 11 NBA seasons.

Bruce Seals out of Booker T. Washington High played college ball at Xavier-New Orleans. He was hamed Louisiana’s Player of the Year in 1971. A second round pick of Seattle in 1975, the 6-8 Seals spent three years in the league and averaged 10.3 points. He also played for the Utah Jazz.

Micah Blunt graduated from East Jefferson and attended Tulane from 1978-’82. He averaged 9.3 points and 6.3 rebounds for his career with the Green Wave, teaming with Paul Thompson as a dynamic duo in the Metro Conference. Blunt was chosen by the Lakers in the eighth round of ’82 draft.

Dedric Willoughby, Archbishop Shaw alum, started off his college days with the University of New Orleans before heading to Iowa State. He spent time with the Chicago Bulls and averaged 7.6 points and 2.6 assists in his lone NBA season.

Greg Monroe, a talent post player still in the NBA, prepped at Helen Cox. Rathed the eighth best player in the country in his class, he signed with Georgetown. With the Hoyas from 2008-’10, Monroe was Big East Freshman of the Year and then named All-Big East first team as a sophomore. He averaged 14.5 points and 8.2 rebounds in college before becoming a first round pick of the Pistons in the 2010 draft. Entering his ninth season in the NBA, Monroe has averaged 13.7 points and 8.6 rebounds.

Chris Duhon, born in Mamou, played at Salmen where he was Louisiana Player of the Year as senior for Spartans. He inked with Duke and shined as a point guard. The all-time leader in steals (300) and minutes played (4,813) for the Blue Devils also ranked second all-time in assists (819).

During his four seasons in Durham, the team posted a 123-21 record to ranke Duhon tops in ACC history in victories as a player. He was a 2004 finalist for the Wooden Award, Naismith Award and Rupp Trophy. His nine seasons in the NBA produced a 6.5 scoring average and 4.4 assists in 606 NBA contests. While with the Knicks in 2008-’09, Duhon averaged a career high 11.1 points and 7.2 rebounds.

When I first posted this piece, I did not include Shan Foster (shout out goes to a reader who pointed this out). The Bonnabel alum went on to star at Vanderbilt. With the Commodores, the 6-6 swingman was a consistent force from 2004-08 on his way to becoming the school’s all-time leader in both points and three-pointers. His senior season was capped by earning the SEC Player of the Year award. Drafted in the second round by the Mavericks, Foster ended up playing for four European clubs.

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