Caution: what you are about to read is the result of curiosity while watching the 2nd round of the NBA Draft. When Chicago drafted Cameron Baristow from New Mexico I first watched some video on him and then began Googling previous Bulls 2nd round picks just because, other than Toni Kukoc, I could not remember much about any of them. Since 1989 Chicago has selected thirty 2nd round players and while 1st round picks get most of the attention, I decided to take a brief look at some players Bulls fans may never have heard of.
It was not a requirement that any pick play a game for the Bulls, which would have eliminated nine players from this article. Four Bulls 2nd rounders, Corey Williams (1992 Pick 33), Matt Steingenga (1992 Pick 52), Toni Kukoc (1990 Pick 29), and Matt Bonner (2003 Pick 45) have championship rings. By far the most successful 2nd round pick was Toni Kukoc, but for most of them their time in Chicago was short, either followed by bouncing around between NBA teams, journeying everywhere from Europe to China, or falling into relative obscurity.
In the absence of NBA success, almost all of the Bulls 2nd rounders since 1989 have played overseas, some more than others. Players like Khalid El-Amin (Pick 34 in 2000) and Mario Austin (Pick 36 in 2003) stand out as perhaps as the most well-travelled ex-Bulls. Mario Austin, who never made the roster (though he did provide some headache in a legal battle written about by KC Johnson), stayed overseas for his entire career, only to return in 2007 to play in the summer league for the Bulls. El-Amin, who won a National Championship at UCONN, had a one year NBA career with Chicago, followed by some success on foreign soil. In 2009 he was All-Eurocup 2nd Team and Ukrainian Cup MVP. In 2011 El-Amin was a LKL, Lithuania’s top professional league, All-star before a torn quadricep effectively ended his career, a career reflected upon in a 2011 story entitled “Khalid-El Amin Won’t Quit” by Andy Mannix. Both Austin and El-Amin racked up a lot of miles, collectively playing for multiple teams in Italy, Turkey, China, Spain, Puerto Rico, Ukraine, Iran, France, Kuwait, Israel, and Croatia.
Sometimes a 2nd round pick is a foreign prospect. Toni Kukoc, drafted in 1990, joined the Bulls in 1993. Dragan Tarlac, whose name was more awesome than his play, was the Bulls 31st pick in 1995 but did not join the roster until 2000 when he underwhelmed fans with his two points and three rebounds per game during the 2000-2001 season. Another foreign prospect was the Bulls’ 31st pick in 1995, Roberto Duenas. This 7-3 301lb Spanish giant was discovered by a coach at a bus stop in Fuenlabrada, Madrid and holds the position as the tallest man in Spanish basketball history, a height that, if my Google Chrome translator is correct, is the result of the disease called Acromegaly. He played for FC Barcelona Basquet from 1995-2006, where he won six Spanish League titles, one Euroleague championship in ’02-’03, and played for Spain in both the 2000 and 2004 Olympics. He retired in 2007 due to back problems having never played for Chicago and remains popular in Spain. FC Barcelona retired his jersey in 2007.
In 1994 Chicago drafted Kris Bruton 49th out of Benedict College in Columbia S.C. He only played two seasons until injuries cut his NBA career short, but he went on to play with multiple teams in Europe and joined the Harlem Globetrotters in 2001. Known for his explosiveness and jumping ability, he allegedly completed a dunk on a 12’1 goal at a contest in the Bahamas when he and his teammates attempted to break the world record. He was inducted into the Benedict College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012, and below is one of ‘Hi-Lite’ Bruton’s dunks in his victory at the 1994 NCAA dunk contest as well as a story about his slam dunk title at halftime of the NABC College All-Star Game in 2003 as a Globetrotter.
If they did not find success in the NBA, some of the Bulls’ 2nd round selections went on to coach. In 1992 the Bulls drafted Corey Williams (#33) and Litterial Green (#39); the former won a ring with the 1992-93 Bulls while the latter never made the roster and bounced around the NBA and Europe. However, each landed in coaching positions. Williams has been an assistant basketball coach at both Oral Roberts and Florida State, and in June 2013 he was named head coach at Stetson University. Litterial Green coached the only season for the now defunct Southern Crescent Lightning of the World Basketball Association and later served as head coach of the Chattanooga Steamers, a former team in the ABA, founded in 1999. Shammond Williams (1998 pick 34) also never played for Chicago but is now an assistant coach at Tulane, while A.J. Guyton (2000 pick 32), who played two less than stellar seasons in Chicago, currently coaches the Bloomington Flex in the Premier Basketball League. Last but not least, Chris Duhon, who played four seasons with the Bulls and is now an assistant coach at Marshall.
Other notables from the 2nd round…
Maceo Baston: The Bulls’ 58th pick in 1998 grew up in Corsicana, TX, roughly two hours west of my hometown. He played four seasons, alternating between Toronto and Indiana, and some in Europe but he is probably more known for his cupcake bakery called Taste of Love Cupcakes in Royal Oak, Michigan that he opened with his wife and business partner than his basketball career.
Lari Ketner: Lari Ketner was picked 49th by the Bulls in 1999 and was out of the NBA by 2001 after playing only twenty-two games. Among thirty other picks he was almost an afterthought until I found this story about his fight against cancer since 2013 and the donation page to help him and his family.
Matt Steingenga: The Bulls 52nd pick in 1992 got a ring in 1997 for playing 2 games with the Bulls. He is 49th on a list of the 50 greatest Michigan State basketball players, does radio commentary for MSU games, and is partner in a company that specializes in restoring historic buildings.
Lonny Baxter: Though I hate to sum up a man’s life in a paragraph, this is the information I found. The Bulls drafted Baxter with the 43rd pick in 2002. He played two seasons in Chicago, bounced around the NBA and Europe, before getting arrested in 2006 for firing a Glock handgun in the air a few blocks from the White House and later pleading guilty to illegally shipping guns.
So there you have it. The most comprehensive look at the Bulls second round picks since 1989 that space will allow. I did not talk about them all and left out a lot of details like Shammond Williams being considered the first college athlete to have a website dedicated to him, Tommy Smith’s attempts to put his life back together, or JamesOn Curry’s strange name. All are a part of Bulls history and even if they did not enjoy success in the NBA they, if nothing else, have taught me more about foreign basketball leagues than I ever wanted to know.
Follow Lee Winningham on Twitter @jlw771