By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
The 12th edition of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic tips off this tomorrow at the SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center, giving local hoops fans as well as a national television audience an opportunity to see college basketball action at its finest.
Since the tournament’s inception in 2009, the DHC has showcased an array of elite players. Here is a Top Five list (in ascending order) of DHC “alumni” who went on to experience success in the NBA:
5. MATTHEW DELLAVEDOVA: Dellavedova was a shooting guard on a Saint Mary’s team that took part in the inaugural DHC in 2009. One of the Gaels’ assistant coaches at the time was Eran Ganot, now the University of Hawaii head coach. The defensive-minded freshman from Australia showed his versatility in the tournament, totaling 35 points, nine assists and 14 assists, and leading the Gaels to a third-place finish. In 2012, he would be named the WCC Player of the Year. Dellavedova would later play eight seasons in the NBA and won a championship ring as a member of the 2015-16 Cleveland Cavaliers.
4. ISAIAH STEWART: The 6’8”, 250-lb. Stewart arrived at the University of Washington in 2019 with great expectations. He was, after all, a McDonald’s All-American who was considered one of the nation’s Top Five recruits. He certainly lived up to the hype in that year’s DHC, leading the Huskies to the title game against Houston. For the tournament, Stewart powered his way to 70 points (on .630 shooting) and 31 rebounds. Stewart turned pro after the season and became an NBA All-Rookie Second Team selection with the Detroit Pistons. Perhaps he is most famous for trying to fight LeBron James earlier this season, charging at the Lakers star several times before being ejected.
3. BUDDY HIELD: The high-scoring guard led the Oklahoma Sooners to the 2015 DHC title, earning “Most Outstanding Player” honors in the process. Hield still has the tournament record for total points, with 86. It was just a sign of things to come for him. as Hield won multiple national “Player of the Year” honors at the end of the 2015-16 season. Hield was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and became an All-Rookie First Team selection. He now plays for the Sacramento Kings. Now in his sixth season, he has career averages of 16 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.
2. FRED VANVLEET: A resourceful 6’1” point guard, VanVleet led Wichita State to the championship game of the 2014 DHC, where the Shockers fell to George Washington. The junior earned All-Tournament honors after totaling 35 points, 13 rebounds and 17 assists. Although he went undrafted, VanVleet earned a roster spot with the Toronto Raptors and was a key contributor to their 2019 championship team. He scored 22 points in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, helping Toronto finish off the Golden State Warriors. He was runner-up to Kawhi Leonard in the NBA Finals MVP voting.
1. KLAY THOMPSON: Thompson’s shooting prowess was on full display in the 2010 DHC, as the silky-smooth shooting guard shot .544 from the field (25-46), .520 from beyond the arc (13-25) and .843 from the free throw line in three games. Thompson led Washington State to the DHC championship game, scoring a game-high 31 points in the loss to Butler. Thompson was named to the All-Tournament Team along with future NBA players Chris Singleton and Shelvin Mack. Of course, Thompson has gone on to even greater success in the NBA, teaming with Steph Curry to lead the Golden State Warriors to three league championships. Known as one of the game’s best shooters, Thompson is a five-time All-Star and was twice named to the All-NBA Third Team. He also earned Olympic gold as part of the 2016 U.S. National Team that competed in Rio de Janeiro.
Klay Thompson photo courtesy of the Golden State Warriors.