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When Current Blazers Went Head-to-Head in College

A crop of young players on the Trail Blazers' roster all on the same career trajectory means they intersected many times in their university days. Take a look at some of the highlights of when the guys went head-to-head in college.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

When researching the newest Blazers, I came across this picture of CJ McCollum going head-to-head with Mason Plumlee on the way to Lehigh’s first-round upset over Duke in the 2012 NCAA tournament.

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Lehigh v Duke Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

That got me wondering how many times the guys had met in college and how did their younger selves fare against each other?

Between January 11, 2009 (when Ed Davis played against Al-Farouq Aminu) and February 12, 2014 (when Tim Frazier played Noah Vonleh) the players on the current roster met in 28 games.

Among the current players, Tim Frazier played the most games (six) against other Blazers. This is mostly due to the fact that his college career at Penn State spanned five seasons. Three games into what would have been his senior year in college, Frazier ruptured his achilles tendon. He redshirted that season and came back to finish his college career the following year.

In contrast, Damian Lillard only played one game against a current teammate, an underwhelming loss to Allen Crabbe’s Cal Bears.

For two seasons (2008-09, 2009-10), future Trail Blazers battled it out in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis, Gerald Henderson Jr. and Mason Plumlee (as well as former Trail Blazers Nolan Smith and Elliot Williams) fought for the conference championship. After 2010, Blazers were spread more evenly between conferences, playing on both the east and west coasts as well as in the midwest.

I’ve broken it down by season and provided some highlights. With so many games to choose from, it was hard to narrow down the choices. If I didn’t go into detail on your favorite game, add your memories in the comments below.

2008-09 Aminu, Davis, Henderson

In 2008-09 three future Blazers played in a competitive Atlantic Coast Conference. In the Associated Press preseason poll, Freshman Ed Davis’s North Carolina was ranked #1, Junior Gerald Henderson’s Duke came in at #8, and Freshman Al-Farouq Aminu’s Wake Forest was ranked #21.

Duke Blue Devils v Wake Forest Demon Deacons Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

At the end of the regular season, Duke was ranked #3, North Carolina #4 and Wake Forest #6. North Carolina would win the NCAA Championship.

Between the three of them, they met in five games:

  • January 11, 2009, North Carolina (Davis) at Wake Forest (Aminu) 89-92
  • January 28, 2009, Duke (Henderson) at Wake Forest 68-70
  • February 11, 2009, North Carolina at Duke 101-87
  • February 22, 2009, Wake Forest at Duke 91-101
  • March 8, 2009, Duke at North Carolina 71-79

January 11 #4 Wake Forest defeats #3 North Carolina 92-89 Ed Davis’s teammate Danny Green scored team-high 22 points to help Wake Forest squeak past North Carolina. Davis finished with 4 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks in 20 minutes off the bench. Aminu, a starter, played 30 minutes and finished with a full line: 9 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal and 3 blocks.

January 28, Wake Forest defeats Duke, 70-68 Duke’s Gerald Henderson Jr had 20 points in the game including a jumper to tie it with 10 seconds left. Aminu, playing for Wake Forest, missed a jumper on the other end but then Henderson was called for a travel. Henderson’s turnover returned the ball to Wake Forest who scored with .8 seconds to clinch the victory.

February 11, North Carolina defeats Duke 101-87 North Carolina became the first team in 9 seasons to score triple digits over Duke and snapped the Blue Devils' 14-game home winning streak. Henderson finished with 17 points in 34 minutes for Duke but only made one field goal in the second half. Ed Davis put up 6 points in 14 minutes.

February 22, Duke defeats Wake Forest 101-91 Henderson made up for his late-game turnover in their previous match-up with a career-high 35 points. The Blue Devils built up an early lead (they led by 22 in the first half) but the Demon Deacons closed to within two with seven minutes to go. However, Duke soon returned to a more comfortable lead and ended with a 10-point victory. Aminu finished with seven points and six rebounds (and four turnovers) in 34 minutes for Wake Forest.

March 8, North Carolina defeats Duke 79-71 North Carolina clinched the ACC Championship with this win over Duke. Henderson had an active night, notching 14 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals and five turnovers in 34 minutes. Ed Davis put up four points in 10 minutes.

2009-10 Aminu, Davis, Plumlee

The 2009-10 season was another big one for future Blazers in the ACC. Davis returned to North Carolina and Aminu returned to Wake Forest. There was turnover at Duke with Gerald Henderson Jr. departing for the NBA, while Mason Plumlee joined his brother Miles as a Blue Devil. (Miles transferred from Stanford to Duke one year before in anticipation that Mason would join him the in the 2009-10 season). Once again there were five games among the three teams, but due to injuries to Ed Davis, they only matched up twice.

  • January 17, 2010, Wake Forest (Aminu) at Duke (Plumlee), 70-90
  • January 20, 2010, Wake Forest at North Carolina (Davis), 82-69
  • February 10, 2010, Duke at North Carolina, 64-54
  • February 27, 2010, North Carolina at Wake Forest, 77-68
  • March 6, 2010, North Carolina at Duke, 50-82
Duke v North Carolina Photo by Chris Keane/Getty Images

2009-10 Highlights

January 17, Duke defeats Wake Forest 90-70 The final score looks like a rout, but it took until the second half for the Blue Devils to pull away. This was a hard fought game with 47 combined fouls. At one point, freshman Mason Plumlee was fouled so hard that he was unable to take his free throws and brother Miles stepped in and hit them both. Mason, who came off the bench, finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, one assist, two blocks and two turnovers in 15 minutes. Al-Farouq Aminu had a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds plus one steal, one block and one turnover in 28 minutes.

February 10, Duke Defeats North Carolina 64-54 Out of five possible matchups between the future Blazers, this was the second and last time they met this season. Mason Plumlee came off the bench to provide seven points and nine rebounds for Duke, including an offensive rebound followed by a reverse dunk which put them ahead for good. Ed Davis put up four points, five rebounds, one assist and five blocks before suffering a broken wrist. He was taped up and reentered the game but scored no more points although he did get one more block, tying his career-high of six. He missed the remainder of the season and that would be his final game with North Carolina.

2010-11 Crabbe, Frazier, Johnson, Leonard, McCollum, Plumlee, Pressey

Ed Davis and Al-Farouq Aminu both left college for the NBA Draft at the end of the 2009-10 season. Mason Plumlee, who had originally intended to be one-and-done at Duke found himself enrolled in his 3rd year there. In the previous two years he had a hard time breaking into the lineup so he decided to remain and better position himself for the NBA draft.

Games between future 2015-16 Blazers were spread between conferences instead of confined to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Tim Frazier at Penn State, CJ McCollum at Lehigh, Phil Pressey at Missouri, Meyers Leonard at Illinois-Champaign, Omari Johnson at Oregon State, and Allen Crabbe at California were on opposing teams six times. Plumlee did not play any games against these future Trail Blazers in 2010-11.

  • November 12, 2010, Lehigh (McCollum) at Penn State (Frazier), 56-70
  • December 22, 2010, Missouri (Pressey) vs Illinois (Leonard), 75-74
  • January 11, 2011, Illinois at Penn State, 55-57
  • January 27, 2011, Oregon State (Johnson) at California (Crabbe), 57-85
  • February 1, 2011, Penn State at Illinois, 51-68
  • February 26, 2011, California at Oregon State, 87-76

2010-11 Highlights

November 12, Penn State defeats Lehigh 70-56 The first game of the season for both teams, neither came out swinging hard. In the first half, Lehigh shot 9-22 and Penn State chucked up an abysmal 6-30. Penn State put together a much better second half and ultimately held CJ McCollum well below his previous year’s Patriot League Player of the year 19 points per game average. McCollum finished with seven points and one rebound. Frazier finished with six points, seven rebounds, and six assists in 30 minutes.

February 26, California defeats Oregon State 87-76 Allen Crabbe had a game-high 26 points for California on a nice shooting night, going 8-12 including 6-8 from the 3-point line and making all four free throws. He added 5 rebounds and one block while committing three turnovers. Oregon State got off to a better start than in their previous match (an 86-57 loss), leading by as many as 12 in the first half. However, they couldn’t hang on and were booed by the home team fans after the loss. Omari Johnson had 10 points and eight rebounds in 28 minutes for Oregon State.

2011-12: Connaughton, Crabbe, Frazier, Harkless, Leonard, Lillard, McCollum, Pressey, Plumlee

The 2011-12 season saw 9 matchups between this year’s Trail Blazers. In addition to McCollum (Lehigh), Crabbe (California), Leonard (Illinois), Frazier (Penn State), Pressey (Missouri) and Plumlee (Duke), Pat Connaughton (Notre Dame), Maurice Harkless (St. John’s) and Damian Lillard (Weber State) got in on the NCAA action. Here are all of the results with a few key matchups highlighted below.

  • November 9, 2011, Lehigh (McCollum) at St. John's (Harkless), 73-78
  • November 21, 2011, Missouri (Pressey) vs. Notre Dame (Connaughton) 87-58
  • November 22, 2011, Missouri vs. #18 California (Crabbe) 92-53
  • December 22, 2011, Missouri vs. #25 Illinois (Leonard) 78-74
  • December 16, 2011, Weber State (Lillard) at California 57-77
  • January 19, 2012, #22 Illinois at Penn State (Frazier) 52-54
  • January 28, 2012, St. John's at #6 Duke (Plumlee) 76-83
  • February 25, 2012, #20 Notre Dame at St John's 58-61
  • March 16, 2012, #2 Duke vs. #15 Lehigh, 70-75

2011-12 Highlights

November 9, St John’s defeats Lehigh University, 78-73 In an emotional game for St. John’s University, the Red Storm overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat Lehigh 78-73. St. John’s coach Steve Lavin had been away from the team for more than a month undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. His return to the court surprised his players and helped them stay strong under a red-hot shooting first half by Lehigh.

St. John’s freshman Moe Harkless, in his second college game, had an active night including hitting a three to tie it up in the second half. Harkless finished with a full stat line: 15 points, six rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block with two turnovers in 30 minutes. CJ McCollum led Lehigh with 19 points and a game-high nine rebounds.

December 16, Weber State at Cal, 57-77 Damian Lillard’s only game against any future 2015 Blazers was against Allen Crabbe’s Cal Bears. Despite playing in front of a quasi-hometown crowd (he had family and friends from Oakland in attendance), Lillard had a poor shooting night. At the time, he lead the nation with a scoring average of 26.9 points per game but was held to just 14 points. He also had three rebounds and three assists. Crabbe finished with 16 points, six rebounds and one assist.

December 22, #9 Missouri defeats #20 Illinois, 78-74 Each December since 1980, Missouri and Illinois meet in St. Louis to settle the score at the annual "Braggin’ Rights" game. In 2011, Illinois lead the series 20-11, although Missouri had won the previous two games between the rivals.

The 32nd meeting between the teams would be an exciting and close match, with each team getting significant contributions from future Trail Blazers.

After playing only three minutes in the 2010 Braggin’ Rights game, Meyers Leonard clocked 38 minutes, scored 14 points and added a game-high 13 rebounds, plus five assists, two steals and two blocks with three turnovers.

But according to the Sporting News it was the "Phil Pressey Show" and Missouri prevailed behind the sophomore’s 18 points. He also had two rebounds, five assists and two steals, including one against Meyers Leonard as he posted up. (The Sporting news and ESPN have slightly different statistical results but since I have relied on box scores from ESPN for all of these games I will stick with their numbers.)

January 19, 2012, #22 Illinois at Penn State, 52-54 Tim Frazier came up big time for the Nittany Lions hitting the winning basket with 13 seconds to go. He had a nice game finishing with 12 points, four rebounds, nine assists and a steal in 38 minutes. Meyers Leonard, who played only three minutes in the previous game between the two teams, scored 15 points and racked up four rebounds one assist in 34 minutes.

January 28, 2012, St John’s at #6 Duke, 76-83 Junior Mason Plumlee’s 15 point and 17 rebound effort was solid, but the rest of his teammates had a hard time containing Moe Harkless who finished with 30 points and 13 rebounds.

March 16, 2012, Lehigh University vs Duke, 75-70 CJ McCollum’s Lehigh Mountain Hawks defeated Mason Plumlee’s Duke Blue Devils in the NCAA Tournament’s opening round in Greensboro, North Carolina. Lehigh was the second No. 15 seed to defeat a No. 2 seed in that tournament--Norfolk State also defeated Phil Pressey’s Missouri.

Although Lehigh players were further from home, they were bolstered by North Carolina fans in the audience who cheered on the Mountain Hawks. CJ McCollum poured in 30 points as Duke seemingly could not find any way to stop the nation’s 5th leading scorer. Mason Plumlee and Austin Rivers led Duke with 19 points apiece but the team could not find enough offense to match what Buckets McCollum was bringing. Plumlee added 12 rebounds and three blocks in the loss.

2013-14 Connaughton, Frazier, Vonleh

At the end of 2012, Moe Harkless, Meyers Leonard, and Damian Lillard all entered the NBA Draft. No games took place in 2012-13 between future Trail Blazers. In 2013-14 Tim Frazier (Penn State), Pat Connaughton (Notre Dame), and Noah Vonleh (Indiana) met in three games:

  • December 14, 2013, Notre Dame (Connaughton) vs. Indiana (Vonleh), 79-72
  • January 11, 2014, Indiana at Penn State (Frazier), 79-76
  • February 12, 2014, Penn State at Indiana, 66-65
Penn State v Indiana Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

December 14, Notre Dame at Indiana 79-72 Pat Connaughton and Noah Vonleh faced off in the 3rd annual "Crossroads Classic," a tournament held each year between four Indiana teams: Butler, Purdue, Indiana and Notre Dame. Connaughton’s Fighting Irish dominated the very young Indiana team. Connaughton had 14 points, nine rebounds and two assists in 33 minutes. Vonleh went 4-5 for eight points and grabbed 6 rebounds in 21 minutes.

January 11, Indiana at Penn State 79-76 and February 12, Penn State at Indiana 66-65 The last two matchups between Tim Frazier and Noah Vonleh were split, each team losing a tight game at home. In State College, Vonleh had a nice shooting night going 5-9 including 2-2 from three and 7-8 from the free throw line. Indiana trailed by as many as 15 in the first half but fought hard to get back in the game. Tim Frazier had a tough night scoring only 10 points, well below his average of 14.9 points for the year.

Just over a month later the teams met in Bloomington, and this time the visiting Nittany Lions eeked out a 66-65 win over the Hoosiers. Tim Frazier led Penn State with 14 points (going a perfect 8-8 from the free-throw line). He also had four rebounds, six assists, and four steals in 34 minutes. Indiana lead by 11 points with three minutes to go but Penn State rallied and was able to put the game away thanks to a Tim Frazier steal with 14 seconds left to go. Frazier then helped seal the deal, hitting a jumper with six seconds to go after a timeout. Vonleh put in a good effort with eight points, a game leading 12 rebounds, and four blocked shots.

Do you have any favorite memories of college match-ups between current (or past) Trail Blazers? Add you favorites to the comments below.