UTEP has had some good basketball teams in the last 15 years. Brandon Wolfram, John Tofi, and other fan favorites and record breakers played in that time span. The Miners have made 3 NCAA Tournaments over that time. Even so, there's no disputing that UTEP had good, not elite talent for most of that era Was there really a talent drop-off? Observe the following statistic:
The number of UTEP players drafted from 1981-1995: 15
The number of UTEP players drafted from 1996-2010: 1
To be fair, the NBA Draft for many of those years had more than 2 rounds. Of the 15 Miners taken in those years, 5 were taken in the first two rounds. The statistic is damning nonetheless.
Derrick Caracter may not have been a four year standout at UTEP. UTEP was not his first choice coming out of high school, or his second, or third. Despite that, Caracter's impact on the Miner program can't be overstated. On the court, he helped push UTEP in late season victories that sealed the Miners first Conference USA Championship. His dominant inside presence helped UTEP make their first NCAA Tournament in 5 years. Tonight, when he was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers. Caracter snapped a streak that unquestionably could be used by rival schools in recruiting battles. UTEP's 15 year NBA Draft drought is over.
To an outsider, it might not seem like a big deal that DC went 58th in the draft. Anybody who downplays the selection doesn't understand the history of this program. After 15 long years, we know the importance of having NBA talent on the roster.
In my mind, Derrick's selection is another sign that UTEP's basketball program is turning the corner back to a place where NCAA Tournament births are expected, not surprising. The hiring of Coach Tim Floyd gave us all reason to be optimistic about the future of the program.
Change takes time. Last year, UTEP made progress by finally knocking off Memphis, winning the C-USA, and getting back in the tournament. Tonight, the draft drought ended. These are all good signs for the program going into next season. Now, we can wait and look forward to seeing what other streaks will be snapped in the coming years. What streak is next?
Well, it's been 18 years since UTEP has advanced past the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It's been 5 years since UTEP made back to back tournament appearances. It's been 20 year's since UTEP had players drafted in consecutive years. Next season, UTEP could snap all three.
Is that likely? Maybe not. Change does take time. One things for sure, as more of these streaks are snapped, the Miner Nation can walk a little taller. We know the potential of this program. We've seen how good and consistent we can be. Tonight, we got a little bit closer to the good old days.