Despite being known for its elevation, Colorado’s basketball bonafides don’t rise to the level of hoops hotbeds such as New York, Illinois and California.
When it comes to born-and-raised basketball stars from the Centennial State, putting together a top 10 is no easy task. It’s not that the state’s high schools don’t produce talent. NBA All-Stars Chauncey Billups, Scott Wedman, Tom Chambers, Micheal Ray Richardson and Joe Barry Carroll all spent their prep days on the Front Range. But only one of those men took his first breaths in Colorado’s thin air.
For that reason, we’ve switched things up in our fourth and final installment of top 10 Colorado pro stars and widened our focus to include those who played high school ball here, but were born elsewhere.
10. Glen Gondrezick
PF/SF | Boulder | 1977-83
The elder of Boulder’s two NBA-playing Gondrezick brothers, Glen enrolled at UNLV and started for the Runnin’ Rebels’ first Final Four team in 1977. The New York Knicks selected the 6-foot-6 forward 26th overall in that same year’s NBA draft — the start of a six-year career that ended with four seasons in Denver. While he never earned any accolades, Gondrezick was a contributor on three playoff teams and had career averages of 5.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game.
9. Jason Smith
C | Platte Valley | 2007-19
A two-time All-Mountain West selection in three seasons with the CSU Rams, the 7-footer was chosen 20th overall by the Miami Heat in the 2007 draft and immediately sent to Philadelphia. That was the start of a winding NBA journey that saw him play for six franchises over 11 seasons. An unfortunate string of injuries during his four-year run in New Orleans kept him from reaching his ceiling. Still, Smith managed to put together a solid career with averages of 6.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.
8. Pat Garrity
SF/PF | Lewis-Palmer | 1998-2008
The centerpiece of the Rangers’ 1994 state title team, Garrity chose Notre Dame out of several suitors and was an All-American in his fourth and final season in South Bend. After being selected with the 19th overall pick of the 1998 draft, the 6-9 sharpshooter played 10 seasons in the NBA with two franchises — Phoenix (one) and Orlando (nine). He twice averaged double-digit scoring and is 54th all-time in career 3-point shooting (39.8%).
7. Reggie Jackson
PG | Palmer | 2011-present
The son of an Air Force serviceman, Jackson was born in Italy before his family eventually settled in Colorado. The 2008 Colorado Gatorade player of the year attended Boston College for three years, ending in an All-ACC selection in 2011. He was taken with the 24th overall pick by Oklahoma City the same year and has averaged 12.9 ppg and 4.4 app over a nine-year career spanning three franchises. When the NBA resumes play in Orlando next month, the 6-3 guard will suit up for the title-contending L.A. Clippers.
6. Chuck Williams
PG | Denver East | 1970-78
Born in the Bay Area, Williams moved to Colorado as a grade schooler and quickly became a sports fixture, winning football and basketball state titles at East before playing for the CU Buffs. The powerful 6-2 guard suited up for seven teams over an eight-year pro career, a majority of which was spent in the ABA. A two-time ABA all-star, he twice led the league in total assists and played for both of Denver’s pro hoops franchises — the Rockets and Nuggets — before finishing with career averages of 10.8 ppg, 4.5 apg and 1.0 spg.
5. Micheal Ray Richardson
PG/SG | Manual | 1978-86
A late bloomer at Manual, “Sugar Ray” was recruited to Montana by Hall of Fame coach Jud Heathcote. There he earned three All-Big Sky nods before being drafted fourth overall by the Knicks in 1978. Richardson rewarded New York with three all-star seasons, including a 1979-80 campaign in which he led the NBA in assists (10.1) and steals (3.2) per game. The 6-5 guard had one more all-star season in New Jersey before his eight-year NBA career abruptly ended when Commissioner David Stern banned him for life for violating the league’s drug policy for a third time.
4. Joe Barry Carroll
C | Denver East | 1980-91
Dubbed “Joe Barely Cares” by New York Post columnist Peter Vecsey, the top pick of the 1980 draft spent much of his career besieged by expectations seemingly unmet. It didn’t help that the Purdue product was the centerpiece of a pre-draft trade between Boston and Golden State that sent hall of famers Kevin McHale and Robert Parish to the Celtics. Or that he left the NBA in the prime of his career to play a season in the Italian League (where he won a championship). It would be unfair to label Carroll a bust, however. The 7-footer was an all-star with the Warriors in 1987 and averaged 17.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg and 1.6 bpg over a 10-year NBA career that spanned five franchises.
3. Scott Wedman
SF | Mullen | 1974-87
Thanks to a growth spurt in his late teens, Wedman blossomed into a star at Mullen and earned all-state honors before enrolling at CU. The two-time all-Big Eight pick was taken sixth overall by Kansas City in 1974 and averaged 16.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.3 apg and 1.2 spg in seven seasons with the Kings. Wedman eventually landed in Boston, where he won two NBA titles (1984 and ’86). In 13 seasons, the silky shooting 6-7 forward averaged double-figure scoring nine times, made two all-star teams and had one second-team all-defense nod.
2. Tom Chambers
PF | Fairview | 1981-98
A two-time All-NBA selection, four-time all-star and career 20,049-point scorer over 16 seasons with six franchises, the 6-10 power forward certainly has a hall of fame resume. Yet he and Antawn Jamison remain the only eligible players to have crossed the 20,000-point threshold not to be enshrined. Chambers also has an All-Star Game MVP in the trophy case, as well as nine seasons with minimum averages of 20.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game, 10 NBA Playoffs trips and one hellacious dunk over Mark Jackson.
1. Chauncey Billups
PG | Denver | 1997-2014
The King of Park Hill is also the king of Colorado. A four-time Colorado Mr. Basketball, the Denver native turned down offers from Kansas, Cal and Oklahoma State to attend CU and lead the Buffs to their first NCAA Tournament bid in 28 years. He was selected No. 3 overall by the Celtics in 1997, then went on to play for seven franchises over 19 seasons. Along the way, he earned three All-NBA nods, five all-star selections and a Finals MVP with the NBA champion Detroit Pistons in 2004. He was also the starting point guard for a Nuggets team that gave the L.A. Lakers all they could handle in the 2009 Western Conference finals and is fifth all-time in career free-throw shooting (89.4%).