2022 Roman College Basketball Invitational

College Basketball Invitational: CBI Alums That Went Pro

College Basketball Invitational: CBI Alums That Went Pro

Here are some of the best players to ever feature at the College Basketball Invitational, all five of which went to the NBA.

Mar 14, 2022 by Briar Napier
College Basketball Invitational: CBI Alums That Went Pro

Less than 15 years into its existence, the CBI played host to college award-winners and future NBA stars, many of whom are still getting it done at the professional level today. This year’s edition is likely to produce someone that’ll be the center of a scout’s attention in draft boards down the line—the exciting part is seeing who it could be. 

Here’s a look at five former CBI stars that carved nice pro careers for themselves ahead of FloHoops’ broadcast of the tourney.

Larry Sanders, VCU (2010)

The Rams, one year before their magical run to the 2011 Final Four, romped to the CBI title led by this future NBA first-rounder and defensive anchor for the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers throughout the early-to-mid 2010s. Sanders finished his college career in style with VCU winning all five games in the 2010 CBI as the 6-foot-11 center averaged 13.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, and a fantastic 2.8 blocks per game in the tournament—though he lost out on the MVP award to teammate Joey Rodriguez. Sanders declared for the NBA Draft after the postseason and was selected 15th overall by Milwaukee, making for back-to-back first-round picks for VCU after guard Eric Maynor was drafted the previous year. Sanders’ best season in the pros came when he finished second in the NBA in blocks per game (2.8) in 2012-13 with the Bucks.

Doug McDermott, Creighton (2011)

The legend of “Dougie McBuckets” was still being written at this point—McDermott was a freshman during Creighton’s 2011 CBI appearance—but the CBI arguably marked the point on the national stage where the future Naismith winner announced he’d arrived. McDermott took the Bluejays to the CBI finals where they narrowly lost to Oregon in three games, dropping 26 points on San Jose State in his postseason debut then eclipsing it in the quarterfinals with a season-high 31 against Davidson. Finishing his freshman year with 14.9 points per game, things got even better in Omaha for the sharpshooter as he won just about every individual award imaginable during his historic four-year career, leading to McDermott being drafted 11th to the Denver Nuggets in 2014 before being traded to the Chicago Bulls on draft night. He’s still going strong at 30 with the San Antonio Spurs, carving a role as a full-time starter averaging 11.5 points on 42.2 percent shooting from 3 this season.

Larry Nance, Jr., Wyoming (2012-13)

Wyoming has competed in the CBI five times since its inception, and Nance played in two of the Cowboys’ three straight appearances from 2012-14 during his loaded career in Laramie. The son of the three-time NBA All-Star of the same name, Nance was quiet in the Pokes’ two-game stint in the 2012 CBI as a freshman but took on a larger role in Year two, finishing with 20 and 19 points in a win against Lehigh and loss to Western Michigan, respectively, in the 2013 edition. Wyoming made the CBI again in 2014 but did it without Nance, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in February of that season, though with his return in his senior year the Cowboys made it to the NCAA Tournament. A first-round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2015 NBA Draft, Nance is still in the league, now on his fourth team after being traded from the Portland Trail Blazers to the New Orleans Pelicans earlier this season as part of a deal for star C.J. McCollum. 

Tim Frazier, Penn State (2014)

A hard-nosed defensive specialist that was stuck on some bad Penn State teams during his time in State College, Frazier had a two-game stint in the CBI to close out his college career in 2014, beating Hampton but losing to Siena in the quarterfinals. A 2011-12 All-Big Ten First Team and All-Defensive Team selection, he was often overlooked due to some heavy-hitters at the time of his career in the Big Ten (Michigan State’s Draymond Green, Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker). Frazier has carved out a bit of a journeyman career in the NBA, going undrafted in 2014 but having suited up for nine different teams. G-League fans know him well as the league’s 2015 MVP for the Maine Red Claws, which eventually resulted in a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Pelicans and 36 starts in two years for the team. He last signed a 10-day contract with the Cavaliers in February.

Alex Caruso, Texas A&M (2014)

Caruso has arguably had a more well-known pro career than his college one, having been a bench piece and cult hero for the Lakers during their championship run in 2020 before signing a four-year deal with the Bulls leading up to the 2021-22 regular season. But while the College Station native was spending his sophomore season with his hometown school in 2013-14, the Aggies spent their postseason playing in the CBI, exiting after a loss in the quarterfinals to Illinois State. There were better days ahead for Caruso and A&M as they made the NIT a year later, then the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 in Caruso’s senior season, but it was that original appearance in the CBI that got Caruso his first taste of the limelight. Now he's the playful subject of many memes and jokes from fans—seriously, just look at all the nicknames on his Basketball Reference page.