More than five years after putting on his West Virginia uniform for the last time, guard Jaysean Paige made his NBA debut on New Year’s Day for the Detroit Pistons.
Paige’s 10-day contract with the club was announced just 24 hours prior, as his services had been selected from the Maine Celtics of the NBA G League. He was averaging 16.9 points per game in the G League this season.
Paige’s move to the Pistons’ active roster meant that three former Mountaineers had checked into an NBA game this season. He’s joined by Brooklyn’s Jevon Carter and New York’s Miles McBride on that short list.
But by Paige making his NBA debut on New Year’s Day, he made 2022 a historic year in WVU lore.
The 2021-2022 season now marks just the sixth time in NBA history that three former Mountaineers have played in an NBA game in the same season. All of the other instances involved some of the all-time greats in WVU men’s basketball program history.
Over a two-season span from the fall of 1960 through the spring of 1962, Rod “Hot Rod” Hundley, Jerry West, and Bobby Smith were in the NBA together. In fact, for the 1961-62 campaign, all three were on the same Los Angeles Lakers team.
Those Lakers, which were coached by former Mountaineer Fred Schaus, were the top team in the NBA’s Western Division, and pushed the NBA Finals to seven games before falling to Red Auerbach and Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics.
Hundley and West are, of course, honored with statues outside of the WVU Coliseum. Smith is a WVU Sports Hall of Famer in his own right.
The Logo was also part of the next threesome of former Mountaineers to overlap in the NBA.
From the start of the 1968 season through the end of the 1971 campaign, the WVU trio of West, Rod Thorn and Ron Williams could be seen in NBA jerseys across the country.
By that time, West was a perennial all-star and clearly one of the best players in the league. Thorn had been in the Association for a few seasons, but his playing career was coming to a close. Meanwhile, Williams’ NBA career was just getting started.
Thorn averaged 10.76 points per game before going on to have a wonderful career as a team executive, and is most famously known for overseeing the Chicago Bulls’ selection of Michael Jordan.
Following the end of the 1971 season, there were six different seasons in which two former West Virginia men’s basketball players were in the NBA at the same time. Never three at the same time, though.
Aside from the aforementioned players, Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones shared one season in the league together. That was the 2012-2013 season – Jones’ only year in the NBA and Ebanks’ last.
It appeared that Carter and McBride would be the only Mountaineers to lace up their shoes in the Association this year. But as fate would have it, Paige became the third former WVU player to do so.