It seems like every year there is a player who takes the NCAA Tournament by storm.
Sometimes, that player is a bona fide star, poised to make millions and play on NBA All-Star teams every year; but just as often the players with the biggest impacts just sort of drift out of the spotlight. This is one of the components that puts the “madness” in March Madness: the emergence of these spectacular performances.
If you’ve ever wondered “what ever happened to that guy?” or if you just wanted to take a trip down memory lane, then read on, as I have compiled a list of NCAA Tournament studs who failed to remain in the highlight reels at the next level.
If you have any forgotten players or interesting stories of guys who left indelible marks on the sports world through their play in the “Big Dance,” we would love to hear about them in the comments below!
(Note: By no means is this list complete, as I chose to focus on players I’m familiar with from watching the NCAA Tournament. This means players from 1990-present.)
In 2005, the West Virginia Mountaineers found an unlikely star in 6-11 forward Kevin Pittsnogle.
With an impressive outside shot and a tenacious attitude, Pittsnogle led the Mountaineers to the Elite 8 in 2005 and the Sweet Sixteen in 2006. He went undrafted by the NBA, but signed with the Boston Celtics in the preseason, only to be released. After that, he bounced around, playing for 9 different teams in semi-pro leagues in the U.S. and France.
Most recently, Pittsnogle attempted a comeback with the Albuquerque Thunderbirds of the D-League in 2009. Depsite playing well, Pittsnogle was released due to “personal reasons.”
Pittsnogle worked as a middle school teacher to students with special needs in between his stints in the D-League, and according to a 2009 New York Times piece was a natural with the kids. Hopefully, Pittsnogle has found fulfillment in teaching again, as his journey is one that many kids could learn from. He still lives in West Virginia with his wife and children.
Jeff Sheppard – Kentucky
Jeff Sheppard won the Most Outstanding Player award at the 1998 NCAA Tournament as his Kentucky Wildcats beat Utah for the national championship. Sheppard epitomized that Kentucky team – Tubby Smith’s first in Lexington – as he and his supporting cast weren’t prototypical NBA stars like teams of years’ past.
Sheppard sure played like a star in March, though, as he led the Wildcats to come-from-behind victories over Duke, Stanford and Utah to claim the title. In the tournament, Sheppard averaged 16.5 points per game and was the clear leader on the floor for the Wildcats.
After finishing school at Kentucky, Sheppard played in 18 games for the Atlanta Hawks, and then played internationally for three years before hanging up his sneakers. Since then, Sheppard has kept busy by starting an apparel company, 15inc (#15 being his jersey number at Kentucky), and is vice president of business development for Wazoo Sports, a television network that showcases athletics in the state of Kentucky.
Donald Williams – North Carolina
Donald Williams certainly wasn’t the most well-known Tar Heel on the 1993 team, but he turned out to be the most important when it counted. Williams scored 22 points against Arkansas in the Sweet Sixteen, 20 against Cincinnati in the Elite 8, 25 against Kansas in the Final Four, and another 25 against Michigan in the championship game on his way to that year’s Most Outstanding Player award.
The 6-3 combo guard (although that term wasn’t really used back in 1993) got hot behind the arc during UNC’s championship run, but he was unable to parlay that performance into an NBA career. He played professionally in at least nine different countries before returning to Raleigh, North Carolina to settle.
In 2009, Williams had his jersey honored by UNC, joining Eric Montross and George Lynch from the 1993 team. Today, Donald Williams has moved into coaching as an assistant coach at Saint Mary’s School in Raleigh.
Rumeal Robinson – Michigan
The hero of the 1989 NCAA Championship Game was Rumeal Robinson, who sank two clutch free throws to give the Wolverines the victory over Seton Hall. Michigan hasn’t won a title in basketball since, and until recent years under coach John Beilein the program has been through a series of peaks and valleys ever since that 1989 season. Robinson’s life, too, has been a series of ups and downs.
Robinson was drafted 10th overall in the 1990 draft by the Atlanta Hawks. From 1990-2002, he bounced around between the NBA (Atlanta, New Jersey, Charlotte, Portland, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix) and CBA, with a couple stops in Europe coming at the end of his playing career. He never made a significant impact in the NBA, averaging 7.6 points per game over his 336 games in the league.
Sadly, Robinson’s post-playing career has been marred by a bank fraud scandal in which he secured loans under the guise of starting a real estate development in his native Jamaica. He also sold his mother’s home without her knowledge to secure additional money. Instead, Robinson spent the loan money on personal things, such as a condominium, cars, and furniture.
In January 2011, Robinson was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison for his part in the scheme. Today, he serves prison time in Iowa, where the bank he swindled is located.
God Shammgod – Providence
A former high school teammate of Ron Artest and the one who taught Kobe Bryant how to do a crossover, God Shammgod took his unique name and undeniable talent into the 1997 NCAA Tournament to improbably lead the Providence Friars to the Elite 8. They lost to eventual champion Arizona in that round, but not before Shammgod, a sophomore, lit up future NBA star Mike Bibby for 23 points in the loss.
Shammgod declared for the NBA draft after his sophomore season, in an effort to capitalize on his tournament run. He was drafted in the 2nd round by the Washington Wizards, but only played 20 games before he was out of the league. Since then, he has played professionally in several countries, including Poland, China, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Croatia.
Shammgod returned to China to play in 2011, despite his discontent with his previous trips there. He cites the Beijing Olympics as a turning point in the improvement of quality of life for American players in China. When he’s not playing basketball, he spends time with his family in his native New York. His son – also named God Shammgod – plays basketball at St. Raymond High School in the Bronx, according to LostLettermen.com. Perhaps one day we will get to see God Shammgod dominate in the NCAA Tournament again.
Next up: one of the most clutch players in Big East history; a guy whose unique last name became an exclamation, a verb, and a nightmare for higher seeds; and the player who once starred for the NCAA…and is now trying to take it down.
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