The two best players for the Los Angeles Clippers are Mountain West alumni
The Kawhi Leonard and Paul George duo has only played 32 games together due to injuries this season. They are the two best players for the Los Angeles Clippers but they also have another thing in common. Before becoming stars in the NBA, they were shining in schools that are currently in the Mountain West Conference.
Leonard played with San Diego State from 2009-11 before becoming the No. 15 pick in the 2011 NBA draft. His selection number also happens to be the number on his jersey during his two seasons as an Aztec. The school retired the No. 15 jersey in February, which made him the first player in program history to have his jersey retired at Viejas Arena.
“We all know what he’s done in the NBA, but he came in here and led us to a 34-3 record with maybe the greatest team in Aztecs history,” SDSU head coach Brian Dutcher told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Through his 70 games for San Diego State, Leonard averaged a double-double of 14.1 points and 10.2 rebounds. The 40 total double-doubles he recorded in college are second best in school history, behind Michael Cage’s 61 in the 1980s. Forty was the conference’s double-double record held by Leonard and Andrew Bogut (Utah used to be a Mountain West school) until Jordan Caroline from Nevada got 41 in 2019.
During Leonard’s first year he was the league’s leading rebounder and earned the Freshman of the Year honor. He was also the 2010 MW Tournament MVP. The following season he continued leading in rebounds and was named to the All-MW first team, All-MW defensive team and the All-MWC tournament team.
The Aztecs made appearances in the NCAA Tournament both years. The 2010-11 roster still has the most wins in school history with a 34-3 overall record.
Kawhi Leonard was recruited to SDSU by Justin Huston who was then an assistant coach for the Aztecs but is now the head coach at Fresno State. Speaking of Fresno State, George played there from 2008-10 before becoming the No. 10 overall selection in the 2010 NBA Draft.
The Bulldogs had not yet joined the Mountain West, but Leonard and George did play against each other on Nov. 23, 2009 in the West Coast Classic. George recorded 12 points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals. Leonard got five points, seven rebounds, three steals and a block. The Aztecs won that game 62-58.
Fresno State was not a strong team then and did not have a winning season during either year with George on their roster, but this doesn’t mean he wasn’t good.
George averaged 15.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists through his 63 games as a Bulldog. He made it into Sports Illustrated’s Top 16 Most Entertaining Players in College Basketball as the Most Entertaining Player in the West in the fall of 2009. Fresno State retired his No. 24 jersey in October 2019.
This is George and Leonard’s first season as teammates with the Clippers. Their team currently sits five wins behind the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference. Leonard, who was dealing with an old knee injury, leads the team with an average of 26.9 points per game and 7.3 rebounds.
George is the second-leading scorer with an average of 21.0 points. He is also contributing with 5.7 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. Earlier this season he was recovering from offseason surgery on both shoulders.
The Clippers are a dangerous team and have shown their depth during a season that has seen a handful of players coming in and out. However, the pause and resumption of the NBA has turned the marathon into a sprint. Leonard and George won’t have much time to get back into playing mode as their team won’t count on the other two double-digit scorers right away.
Lou Williams is serving a 10-day quarantine after visiting Magic City, an Atlanta strip club, while on an excused absence from the NBA bubble. Williams has played 60 games this season, averaging 18.7 points, 5.7 assists and 3.1 rebounds. Montrezl Harrell left Orlando for a family matter but has yet to return. Once he does, he will need to isolate for a couple days, per NBA rules. He was averaging 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.1 blocks in 63 games.
The Clippers are set to meet the Lakers at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on July 30 at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. The game will be televised on TNT.