Editor’s note: This summer, Star columnist Greg Hansen is counting down the top 10 of just about everything related to Tucson sports.
Today’s list: The top NBA Draft busts from UA.
Larry Demic was the first of Arizona’s NBA first-round draft picks, selected No. 9 by the New York Knicks in 1979.
He was also the most unlikely of what has grown to be 21 first-round selections.
Demic was a 6-foot 9-inch power forward from Gary, Indiana, who chose Arizona over Lute Olson’s Iowa Hawkeyes in 1974. But Demic’s first two seasons at McKale Center were spent on the end of the bench: He scored just four points as a freshman and 38 as a sophomore.
But in the UA’s first season in the Pac-10, 1978-79, he became the school’s franchise player, a power forward who averaged 19.3 points and 10.7 rebounds and became Arizona’s first All-Pac-10 player.
He was in such demand in June 1979 that the Houston Rockets, choosing 17th, and the Indiana Pacers, at No. 13, phoned UA coach Fred Snowden, informing him they would select Demic in the first round.
But the Knicks, at No. 9, beat them to it.
Demic seemed floored by the attention. On his visit to New York, he jokingly said he considered asking coach Red Holzman for his autograph.
“I hate to leave this place,” Demic said after being drafted. “Heck, even when I wasn’t playing I enjoyed it. I lived in Babcock Hall (a dormitory) for four years, so I don’t need to live in a penthouse in New York.”
Demic signed a three-year deal worth an estimated $300,000 for the Knicks. He was not offered a second contract for the 1982-83 season.
His NBA career was a modest one: 4.7 points per game in 206 games. He played three more years, jumping from the CBA to professional teams in Italy, Puerto Rico and the Philippines.
Demic’s NBA career did not meet expected standards for the No. 9 overall selection, but it isn’t unusual.
Nine other Wildcat draft picks struggled once they left McKale Center.
Here’s my list of the 10 Wildcats who did not fare well after the NBA Draft.