Our Big East Lottery Look Back series continues today with a triple threat of hoopers from three different schools in three different years. New millennium be damned, the Big East continued to run in the lottery after a brief, one-year hiatus back in 1998. Following Rip Hamilton’s selection in 1999, these three players were next on deck to maintain the conference’s status as the premier conference in America.
2000 - Etan Thomas, Syracuse
Harlem, New York’s Etan Thomas brought the heat when he arrived on campus in upstate New York back in 1996. Thomas grew as a player under Jim Boeheim in nearly every single year that he played, seeing a majority of his numbers increase across the four years spent at Syracuse.
He shined brightest in his senior year when he posted career highs in points per game (13.6), rebounds per game (9.3), and TS% (.626). He was especially terrific on the defensive side of the ball that year, owning the conference’s lead in blocks (107) which also accounted for fourth-most in the nation that season as well behind Ohio State’s Ken Johnson, UL Monroe’s Wojciech Myrda and Navy’s Sitapha Savane. Thomas’ 107 blocks were a number shared by fellow Big East big man Samuel Dalembert of Seton Hall, and the soon-to-be first pick in the 2000 NBA Draft, Cincinnati’s Kenyon Martin.
"The Eraser! Marvin Webster, I apologize. Etan can clean it with either hand!" - Bill Raftery
Thomas would go on to have a lengthy and successful career in the NBA that spanned from 2001-2011. He would play for three times, primarily on the Washington Wizards - where he’d spend time alongside that dude who cried once and became a meme on the internet - from ‘01-’09 and then play for the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Atlanta Hawks in his last two seasons in the league, respectively. Technically, he was a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves roster after being involved in a draft day trade that sent him, Oleksiy Pecherov, Darius Songaila and the Wizards’ first rounder for Randy Foye and Mike Miller, but he’d be traded to OKC a month and four days later.
2001 - Eddie Griffin, Seton Hall
Eddie Griffin came into Seton Hall with high expectations after performing well in high school while living in Philadelphia. He was a McDonald’s All-American and won the Philly Catholic League Championship in his final two years in school.
Griffin went on to average a double-double at the Hall in the 2000-01 season, posting marks of 17.8 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Griffin would then become a lottery pick as the New Jersey Nets would take him with the seventh overall selection despite controversy that followed Griffin from both high school and college into the pros after getting into dicey situations.
Unfortunately, trouble would continue to haunt Griffin as his pro career continued. Despite playing well in his rookie year with the Houston Rockets, who acquired Griffin from the Nets on a draft day trade, Griffin wouldn’t quite get his feet set as he battled alcoholism in the mid-2000s. He’d be plagued by this throughout his career, ultimately leading to being released twice in 2003 and later in 2007 by the Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Tragically, Griffin would pass away in 2007 after a car crash in Houston.
2002 - Caron Butler, UConn
"Tuff Juice," stand up.
Caron Butler is perhaps one of the most accomplished players ever at UConn and certainly one of Jim Calhoun’s finest as well. Calhoun plucked Butler out of Racine, Wisconsin and almost immediately made a major impact for the Huskies. He averaged 15.3 points and 7.6 rebounds per game in his freshman season in Storrs, which put him in the company of Omar Cook, Damone Brown and Ricardo Greer that year.
The following season, Butler upped his average to 20.3 points per game which put him all the way up to third in the Big East behind Boston College’s Troy Bell and Preston Shumpert of Syracuse. That year, UConn was aided by the play of Butler, the Big East’s Player of the Year, as the Huskies would reach the Elite Eight before ultimately falling to the eventual National Champions: the Maryland Terrapins.
Butler’s career in the NBA has been a splendid one. Thus far, he’s earned two trips to the All-Star Game in 2007 and 2008, was a member of the All-Rookie first team back in 2003 as a member of the Miami Heat, and won an NBA Championship as part of the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. The Mavs and Heat are two of the nine different teams that Butler has played for over the course of his lengthy career.