Located to the northeast of the United States, Vermont is one of the fifty-two states of this country that has one of the richest histories in sports.
However, the region, with a population of about 630,000 inhabitants, according to the 2020 U.S. Census, has often been underestimated when it comes to basketball. In fact, no player born in the state has ever made it to the NBA.
Out of comparison, for example, Iowa has 6 times more population, which explains why there are more NBA players born in Iowa being drafted per year, than Vermont has in its whole history!
Over more than two decades, Vermont Catamounts have been the men’s basketball team of the University of Vermont. Nonetheless, for many years, Vermont was the only state in the country without a representative in the NBA.
This has initiated the conversation of if anyone from Vermont ever made the NBA. And no wonder, after all, over the years, many Vermonters have come close when it comes to playing in an NBA game. Others have made it. Let’s check out if any of the Catamount alums have actually been drafted by the NBA and their trajectory inside the professional league.
A little bit of history
In order to understand if any Vermonter has made it into the NBA, we must first understand the history of the sport in this northeast state. Vermont comes from a French origin, and it means Green Mountain, which makes sense since its nickname is the Green Mountain State.
When it comes to basketball, Vermont has a history that goes back to the foundation of the University of Vermont, the Vermont Catamounts Men’s Basketball one of its teams.
The University of Vermont
Officially founded as the University of Vermont and State Agricultural College, the University of Vermont is a public land-grant research university located in Burlington, Vermont.
This university is one of the oldest universities in the United States since it was founded in 1791. No coincidence, it was the same year Vermont was proclaimed as the 14th U.S. state. Even though it was founded as a private university, with the years, it changed, ranking it 54th place among public universities according to 2021 U.S. News & World Report.
Its motto reads as follows: “For studies and other honest pursuits”, which comes back from a long history of “not tending to give preference to any religious sect or denomination whatsoever”, as proudly stated on its webpage.
In fact, in 1871, the UVM (University of Vermont) admitted two both African-Americans and women as students, defying for the first time in history the normalized traditions of the time. And it didn’t stop there. In 1877, it introduced the first highly educated African American into society.
The Vermont Catamounts
The athletic teams that represent the UVM are known as the Catamounts.
The name comes from 1926 during a student election led by the school’s newspaper called UVM Cynic, giving only male students the option to choose between tomcat, camel, cow, or catamount. Catamount won by a vote of 138-126, making it the official name of the sports teams.
In fact, the catamount has a longer history that goes back to 1881 when a man named James Cadwell hunted a catamount and took a picture with such a huge animal making it one of the favorite souvenirs to buy for only 10 cents back then.
Fortunately, it is illegal to hunt catamounts in Vermont nowadays, if there are any left, since they are considered endangered animals. Although the species is believed to be extinct in the state since those days, 1800s.
Anyhow, the name Catamounts has escorted the many sports the UVM offers. People are more familiar with the men’s basketball team, which is currently part of the NCAA Division I and compete in the America East Conference.
Drafted to the NBA
In its whole history, two plates have been selected by the NBA from the University of Vermont: Marquis Blakely and Anthony Lamb.
Marquis Austin Blakely was born on 22 October 1988. He’s a shooting guard/small forward who went undrafted in 2010 but had the opportunity to showcase his talents in the G-League. His basketball career started back at the University of Vermont.
He gained quite a reputation when he got the prize of the Kevin Roberson America East Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year twice. And then the America East Defensive Player of the Year Award three times.
But it wasn’t till 2010, when he played and won at the State Farm Division I College Basketball Slam Dunk Contest, that the national eyes were upon him. This is when the pro teams set their sights on him, albeit he wasn’t selected.
Despite going undrafted, he signed with Los Angeles Clippers and made three appearances in the preseason, but he failed to score and was eventually waived by the team. Today, Blakely plays for the Kumamoto Voters of the B.League.
Anthony Miles Lamb was born on 20 January 1998, and like Blakeley, his basketball history starts with the Catamounts of Vermont.
Lamb was undrafted in the 2020 NBA draft and signed a contract with the Detroit Pistons. Later on, he was waived by the Pistons and signed a new contract with the Canton Charge of the NBA G League. By 2021, Lamb was named by the Rio Grande Valley Vipers the G League’s Most Improved Player.
Months later, after the Vipers were eliminated from the G League playoffs, Lamb had the chance to sign a two-way contract with the Houston Rockets, making his debut in the NBA on 11 March 2021. He scored a career-high 21 points with the Rockets but was eventually waived after signing another two-way contract. He later signed a 10-day deal with the San Antonio Spurs and is now back in the G-League with the Valley Vipers.
To this day, Lamb is the first player from the UVM to play in the NBA’s regular season.