Here are 7 Australian NBA draftees you might not remember

Ater Makok | Credit: 058sport.pl photo agency via Trefl Sopot

Australia is encountering a boom in the NBA at the moment, with a record number of Aussie plying their trade in the best league in the world.

However, they weren’t the first to encounter the NBA. A number of players were drafted before Ben Simmons became our second number one overall selection.

Here are some Aussies that were drafted, that you might not remember.

(For a full rundown of Aussies in the NBA draft, check out one of our earlier pieces by Damian Arsenis.)

1. Carl Rodwell

Carl Rodwell was the first Australian to ever be drafted into the NBA. The Atlanta Hawks drafted Rodwell with the 217th pick of the 1969 NBA draft, which was the same year that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (was then known as Lew Alcindor) and Jo Jo White were drafted.

Rodwell played college basketball for UC Riverside and was also part of the swimming team. He was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 1991.

Despite never playing a game in the NBA, Rodwell was a pioneer for Australian basketballers.

2. Ed Palubinskas

Ed Palubinskas was some player. Although sadly many don’t remember his name, the Aussie is a legend of the hardwood.

He was a star at LSU, and played in two Olympic Games (1972 & 1976), finishing second in the scoring in Munich and first in Montreal. In fact, in 1976 he set the record for most points scored at a single Olympic Games (219), a record that would be broken 12 years later by legendary Brazilian player Oscar Schmidt, who scored 338 points in Seoul at 42.3 per game.

In 1974, Palubinskas became the second Aussie drafted into the NBA. He was taken 61st overall by the Atlanta Hawks, however never played a game in the league.

Despite never stepping foot on NBA floor as a player, Palubinskas is a renowned shooting coach who has helped the likes of Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard and Brandon Bass.

3. C.J. Bruton

In 1994, C.J. Bruton played for the Perth Wildcats. He then made a move to the US, playing junior college because of NCAA eligibility issues. He dominated in his two years there and it resulted in him being drafted in 1997.

The Vancouver Grizzlies selected Bruton with the 52nd pick, however his draft rights were moved onto the Trail Blazers. Sadly for him, although lucky for NBL fans, the Aussie was forced to return home and joining Brisbane.

He did have a few other opportunities in America, how couldn’t quite make it on to the NBA floor. He did however churn out an incredible professional career, six NBL championships and a Commonwealth Games gold medal.

4. Paul Rogers

Many people will know Paul Rogers and his NBL career, but few may remember that he was selected in an NBA draft. 1997 was an incredible year at the draft for Australia. Four Aussies were picked up, including Chris Anstey (18th overall) and the aforementioned C.J. Burton (52nd overall). The third of the bunch was Paul Rogers, who was taken 53rd overall by the Lakers.

The South Australian had started playing for the Adelaide 36ers before moving into the US college system, where he spent most of his time at Gonzaga. Rogers then nominated for the NBA draft and was selected by the Lakers before being traded on to Toronto. Sadly the centre never played in the NBA, but he moved back home and forged a memorable NBL career.

His highlights include winning the MVP in 2000 and claiming two championships (2000 & 2010). He also managed to make the 2000 and 2004 Olympic squads. In 2010 he called time on his illustrious career.

5. Ben Pepper

The fourth Aussie player to be drafted in the 1997 NBA draft was Ben Pepper. The Western Australian was taken two picks after Paul Rogers by a legendary franchise, the Boston Celtics.

Before he was drafted, the 7-footer played two seasons in the NBL with the Newcastle Falcons. In 1997 he won the Most Improved Player and Sixth Man of the Year. From there, Pepper went over to the US to try his hand in the NBA.

Sadly, the Celtics never signed him and he came back to Australia where he would play for multiple teams, eventually finishing his career with the Townsville Crocs in 2008.

6. Brad Newley

Before he was tearing it up across Europe and slashing to the basket for the Sydney Kings, Brad Newley was actually taken in an NBA draft.

After some impressive seasons with the Townsville Crocs, which included winning both the Rookie of the Year and Best Sixth Man in 2005, Newley was drafted.

It was in 2007 and the Houston Rockets selected him at pick 54. It was the same season Greg Oden went with the first overall selection and Kevin Durant went No. 2.

Newley did feature in two Summer League campaigns for the Rockets, however sadly didn’t make it onto the roster. Interestingly, last year, his draft rights were traded to the Lakers in a deal that included Marcelo Huertas and Tyler Ennis.

7. Ater Majok

One of the more recent forgotten Aussie draftees is Ater Majok. The 31-year-old played college basketball at UConn, before his brief stints in Turkey and the NBL. In the 2011 NBA draft, he was selected 58th overall by the Lakers, but then spent the season in Slovakia.

Majok would come back in 2012 to play for Los Angeles’ Summer League team but sadly didn’t make a massive impact.

Interestingly, Majok’s draft rights were acquired by the Bulls in a trade for Jose Calderon and then onto the Pelicans in a deal involving Quincy Pondexter, since then New Orleans has renounced those rights.

Currently, he is playing in and for Lebanon as he also holds Lebanese citizenship.


Are there other Australian NBA draftees that you felt might have slipped under the radar? Leave a comment and let us know.

Matt Hickey

Written by

Ringwood Hawks forward, guitarist/singer/songwriter, and contributor to The Pick and Roll.

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