How good would a professional basketball team composed of players from Marist College be?
Trick question. Only one former Marist player has played in the NBA — though a number have been drafted, Rik Smits is the only long term success story — so there wouldn’t even be a team. Meanwhile, schools like Kentucky, Kansas, and Duke have enough players to put together multiple teams. Must be nice.
To work around this, let’s get creative. Though Marist has only been represented in the NBA by one player, the Red Foxes have been adequately represented in the league… at least if you split the name between “red” and “fox”. Multiple NBA players have donned either name. What would a team comprised of these players look like?
I’m so glad you asked, as I’ve assembled a full NBA roster and a small coaching staff out of professional ballers with “red” or “fox” somewhere in their name.
Let’s start with the starting five.
Guard: De’Aaron Fox
Perhaps the first player you thought of when you saw this article, De’Aaron Fox is this squad’s floor general.
The third-year point guard is one of the NBA’s rising stars, averaging 20.4 points and 6.8 assists per game at age 22. There are only 18 seasons in league history where a player 22 years old or younger has put up 20 points and 6.5 assists; Fox makes the cut with his current season, and he has the fifth-highest field goal percentage of the group.
Just like the actual animal, Fox is known for his agility and quickness. His unreal speed allows him to get to the bucket in the blink of an eye. The former Kentucky Wildcat is also a good playmaker and solid defender.
With Fox’s ability to drive to the hoop, it’s important to surround him with shooters in order to give him as much space in the lane as possible. So…
Guard: JJ Redick
Accompanying Fox in the backcourt is one of the game’s best sharpshooters. Redick, now 35 years old, has never shot below 36% on 3-pointers over a whole season in his 14-year career. He’s shot over 40% from beyond the arc in seven seasons, including a league-leading 47.5% in 2016.
Redick doesn’t do much besides shoot, but he’s such a good shooter (perhaps great) that it doesn’t matter. He can shoot off the catch, moving off a screen, from deep behind the line, you name it.
Redick’s main problem is that he’s a weak defender. The 6-2 shooting guard also isn’t a very strong ball-handler, but that’s actually a plus. It’ll allow Fox and the next player mentioned to handle the ball more.
Forward: Michael Redd
Older basketball fans are going “oh yeah, I remember this guy!” right about now. Redd was one of the more prolific scorers of the 2000s, averaging over 20 points per game for six straight seasons.
Redd made an All-Star team and an All-NBA Third Team in 2004. He set his career-high in points per game in the 2006-07 season with 26.7 points per game, which ranked fifth in the league and outdid several legendary scorers like Allen Iverson, Dirk Nowitzki, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett and Vince Carter.
The 6-foot-6-inch wing will be one of the main focal points of this offense. His shot creation and deep range should make him a solid go-to scorer in close games. His defense and playmaking are subpar — just like Redick — but who cares? This team has the potential to score 120 points on any given night. The best defense is better offense.
Forward: Rick Fox
Rick Fox is our glue guy. The 6-foot-7-inch forward began his career with the Boston Celtics, where he was named to the All-Rookie Second Team. After six years there, Fox spent seven years with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he won three straight championships alongside Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
Over his 13 year career, Fox averaged 9.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists. He shot 45% from the field and 35% from 3. Fox is the prototypical role player: he knows his role on offense is to shoot open shots and pass to the more prolific shot creators. Defensively, he’ll work his tail off and help his teammates. He has a bit of an edge to him, too, which could rattle opponents or result in him racking up technical fouls (or both).
Center: Red Robbins (yummm)
Yes, this is a real player. Austin “Red” Robbins played eight years in the American Basketball Association (the entire duration of the league). He was selected 59th overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 1966 draft but opted to play in the ABA instead.
Robbins spent time with the New Orleans Buccaneers, Utah Stars, San Diego Conquistadors, Kentucky Colonels, and Virginia Squires. He was a three-time ABA All-Star, two-time All-ABA Second Team member, and an ABA Champion with Utah.
Robbins was one of the ABA’s best rebounders. He averaged a double-double with points and rebounds for the first four years of his career and ended his career 4th all-time in rebounds in the ABA. Robbins is responsible for one of the 64 seasons between the NBA and ABA in which a player averaged at least 16 points and 16 rebounds per game (here’s the whole list. Robbins is number 42).
At 6-foot-8-inch Robbins is on the smaller side when it comes to centers. However, small-ball has never been more popular than it is today. As you’ll see, there are much better options to play over him, but due to his name and the fact that he was actually a decent player, he’ll be the starting center.
I’ve put together a 13-man bench unit along with two players on two-way contracts. (For non-NBA fans, a two-way contract allows teams to sign players to their minor league affiliate — which is called the G-league — while spending up to 45 days with the NBA club).
Please be aware that I needed to bend my own rules to make up a bench unit. Not every player meets the name requirement. Had I stuck with only players with “red” or “fox” names, this team would’ve been a) bad and b) boring, and I wasn’t interested in building the Detroit Pistons. They’re my rules, so I’ll break them how I feel. Without further adieu, here is the bench.
Rik Smits, center
It would be remiss to not include the only player from Marist to play in the NBA (shoutout to Jared Jordan, who was drafted 45th overall in the 2007 draft but never played in the league).
Smits, also known as the Dunking Dutchman, played all 12 seasons of his NBA career with the Indiana Pacers, making the All-Rookie First Team and being named an All-Star once. He averaged 14.8 points and 6.1 rebounds over his career.
The 7-4 big man was a key player on some good Pacers teams and will be the sixth man for this team. I decided not to start him so I could be as true to my original rules as possible, but he can certainly close games out at the center spot.
(Everyone reading this knows who Smits is, but if you want to learn more about his time at Marist, I recommend this historical account of his time as a Red Fox by Center Field contributor Tyler Webb.)
Rudy Gobert, center
Yes, I know Gobert is a touchy subject right now because of how touchy he got with reporters’ microphones in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. However, Gobert is an All-Star and one of the best players that has a connection to Marist.
Gobert’s father, Rudy Bourgarel, played three seasons at Marist alongside Smits. In his final season as a Red Fox, the 7-foot Bourgarel was second on the team in scoring (10.7 per game), rebounding (6.8) and shot-blocking (1.5).
Gobert has already made a bigger name for himself than his father. The 7-foot-1-inch Frenchman is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and a three-time All-Defense First Team member. He’s been a key player with the Utah Jazz, and they’ve made the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.
As for his role in the coronavirus pandemic… yes, he acted like a clown and it helped lead to the NBA suspending its season. He’s been teased relentlessly for messing around with the reporters’ equipment (deservedly so) but he’s also taken responsibility for his actions and donated $500,000 to arena employees and health services.
Cam Reddish, wing
Reddish, a rookie forward out of Duke, has come along slowly in his first season in the NBA. The Atlanta Hawks selected Reddish 10th overall and he has started 34 of the 58 games he played in the 2019-20 season.
Over his first 30 professional games, Reddish averaged 8.3 points on 32.6% shooting and 26.1% from three. Since then, the 6-foot-8-inch wing has averaged 12.9 points on 43% field goal shooting and 39.7% 3-point shooting, and has gone for at least 20 points in seven games.
Reddish is one of the best perimeter defenders on this team and a decent scoring option off the bench.
Kevin Huerter, wing
Fellow Atlanta Hawk Kevin Huerter finds his way onto this team because of his “Red Velvet” nickname.
The second-year wing out of Maryland has the potential to be a dangerous scorer, as he has shown good ball-handling and shooting abilities. After making the All-Rookie Second Team, Huerter averaged 12.2 points and 3.8 assists while shooting 38% from behind the arc.
Bill Walton, center
Bill Walton, formerly an NBA MVP and currently college basketball’s wildest color-commentator, has several nicknames based on his red hair: Big Red, Grateful Red, Red Baron, and Redwood.
The 6-foot-11-inch big won an MVP and a championship in his first four years in the league with the Portland Trail Blazers. After those successful four seasons, Walton suffered from a nagging foot injury that made him a shell of the player he once was. He became a champion again with the Boston Celtics in 1986, where he was also named the Sixth Man of the Year.
Jim Fox, center
Another center? Man, this is a big bench.
Jim Fox played for seven teams over his 10-year career, averaging 9.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, including a double-double twice.
And that, my friends, is all I have on Jim Fox.
Matt Bonner, forward
Matt “The Red Mamba/The Red Rocket” Bonner will provide some nice shooting abilities from the power forward position. The red-head only averaged 5.8 points per game over his career, but he shot 41.4% on 3-pointers.
Bonner spent two seasons with the Toronto Raptors before spending 10 with the San Antonio Spurs, winning two championships. He is now a pre-game analyst for Spurs broadcasts.
Frank Reddout, forward
Frank’s last name describes the frequent scene in the stands at McCann Arena, as many fans wear red to support their Red Foxes. Reddout, a 6-foot-5-inch forward, enjoyed a short but effective NBA career.
Over seven total games with the Rochester Royals (now the Sacramento Kings) in the 1954 season, Reddout averaged 1.9 points and 1.3 rebounds. Still, there is evidence that he could have done real damage if given more of a chance. His player efficiency rating (PER) of 42.5 would be the best in history by a wide margin if he played enough to qualify for the leaderboard. With a PER of 27.9, Michael Jordan currently ranks first all-time in that stat.
Reddout also shot a phenomenal 83.3% from the field. DeAndre Jordan ranks first all-time in field goal percentage with at 66.9%. Just some food for thought. Again, seven games. But let me dream.
Red Kerr, center
John “Red” Kerr, the final big man on the team, played 12 years in the NBA from 1955 to 1966. Kerr, a 6-foot-9-inch center, averaged 13.8 points and 11.2 rebounds over his career, most coming with the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers. He made three All-Star teams and won a championship in his rookie year. Does this mean he was the missing piece to make a runner-up a champion? It’s time to start a dialogue.
Harold Fox, guard
As of this moment, Harold Fox is the only player named Fox in NBA history to play in the league for just one season. He didn’t do much in his lone season, averaging 3.1 points and 1.0 assists per game with the Buffalo Braves, but he was undoubtedly a member of the team.
Rich Rinaldi, guard
Rinaldi is the only professional player to be born in Poughkeepsie; he played college basketball at Saint Peter’s and averaged 4.8 points in three seasons with the Baltimore Bullets (now Washington Wizards) of the NBA and the New York Nets (now the Brooklyn Nets) of the ABA.
Red Owens, guard
James “Red” Owens played for three teams in his two years in the NBA. He started with the Tri-Cities Blackhawks (now the Atlanta Hawks) and ended his career there when the team was renamed the Milwaukee Hawks. Owens also played with the Anderson Packers (a team in Indiana that only operated for one year) and the Baltimore Bullets. He averaged 5.2 points and 3.5 rebounds.
Red Morrison, center
The bench ends with another “Red” in Red Morrison (his real first name is Dwight). I wish I could balance the amount of red and fox on the team, but there were many more players named red than named fox. Morrison played three years in the NBA with the Boston Celtics and St. Louis Hawks. He averaged 3.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
Two-way contracts: Michael “Red” Wallace and Zigmund “Red” Mihalik
The purpose of a normal two-way contract is to sign guys who likely aren’t 100% ready to play in the NBA yet. My purpose for them is to mention two more players.
Wallace and Mihalik were the first two players that went by “Red” to play in the NBA. Both players only played during the 1946-47 season. Wallace averaged 9.1 points on 27.8% shooting and Mihalik averaged 0.9 points on 33.3% shooting.
Who will be the man in charge of this mighty squad? None other than one of the most successful coaches in professional sports, Red Auerbach.
Auerbach coached the Boston Celtics for 16 seasons, helping them win nine championships with players like Bill Russell and Bob Cousy leading the way. Those nine titles rank second all-time; his 99 career playoff wins rank fifth all-time, his 938 regular-season wins rank 11th and his 66.2% winning percentage ranks 13th.
Auerbach’s lead assistant is a champion, too. Red Holzman coached the New York Knicks to (their only) two championships in the early 1970s. He won 611 games as the Knicks’ head coach, a number that hangs in the rafters at Madison Square Garden.
Two former players, Red Rocha and Dave “Big Red” Cowens, are the final two coaches on the staff. Cowens was a Hall of Famer, an eight-time All-Star, a two-time champion, and MVP. Rocha was a two-time All-Star and NBA champion in 1955 (alongside Red Kerr).
This team is going to put up some points. Due to the glaring deficiency in quality perimeter defenders, it doesn’t really have a choice.
Fox will run the offense, Redd will be the premier scoring option, Redick and Fox will spot up and whoever the center is will set screens like there’s no tomorrow. Redick will also receive plenty of off-ball screens to get him open
Off the bench, Smits, Huerter, and Walton can all do damage. I plan to have Huerter and one of those big men on the floor together as much as I can. Smits will be the first substitute off the bench for Robbins, and Huerter will take out whichever of the other four starters are stinking it up the most.
Smits and Walton could both shoot mid-range shots, so theoretically, putting either at power forward with Gobert at center isn’t the worst thing to ever happen on a basketball court. My two choices are this or play some dude from the 1950s I’ve never heard of. I choose the twin towers
Defensively, the Fox’s are going to need to step up. I have no idea how good Robbins is, but I know Redick and Redd aren’t very good. This means Gobert and Walton will see plenty of playing time in close games; I could also deploy Reddish to improve the defense.
When the team gets a stop and reels in the rebound, I want this team running. Get the rebound, pass the ball to De’Aaron, let whatever shooters are out there run to the 3-point line and have the last guy be the trailer behind De’Aaron. Repeat. Cash in
So, there you have it: a full NBA roster with Marist “affiliated” players.
Edited by Will Bjarnar