3. Steve Downing (1973 Round 1 Pick 17)
After starring at the high school level way back in the late 60s, Downing arrived on campus in 1969 before even Bob Knight arrived, as the legendary coach was hired two years later. A 6’9 center, Downing did not play as a freshman (as were the rules back then), but developed into a dynamic frontcourt weapon by the end of his college career.
Downing nearly averaged a double-double as a sophomore before achieving that feat as an upperclassman, averaging 17.5 points and 15.1 rebounds as a junior and 20.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game as a senior, helping lead the Hoosiers to the Final Four.
After earning First Team All-Big Ten honors that final season, Downing was drafted with the 17th pick in the NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics. He joined an extremely talented roster, with future Hall of Famer Dave Cowens as their starting center. Downing actually won an NBA championship ring in that first season on the Celtics’ bench, playing only four minutes in the postseason.
However, Downing’s career would span just 27 games spread across those two seasons, as Downing had just 64 points and 41 rebounds in his entire career.
What’s even more unfortunate is that his high school and collegiate teammate George McGinnis, a future Hall of Famer, was actually drafted five picks later by the 76ers. Downing has spent much of his later life working in collegiate athletics, including a long stint in the athletics department at Indiana and later with Knight at Texas Tech.
The former top player in the Big Ten just didn’t make any kind of impact in the NBA and turned out to be a rough choice, even for the eventual national champion Celtics.