Top 5 NBA rookie seasons by an Illinois basketball player

Illinois basketball has a history of putting players in the NBA, and here are the top five NBA rookie seasons by former Illini greats
Denver Nuggets v Utah Jazz, Game 6
Denver Nuggets v Utah Jazz, Game 6 / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages
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No. 1 Donnie Freeman (1967-68)

We have finally arrived at the No. 1 player on the list. There were so many great Illinois NBA rookies, but I think Donnie Freeman takes the spot as the best rookie season by an Illini player.

Freeman was a dominating wing for the Illinois basketball program in the mid-1960s. He made the All-Big Ten team and in his final year, Freeman averaged 27.8 points per game for the Orange and Blue.

In the 1966 NBA Draft, Philadelphia came calling. With the ninth pick in the third round, No. 29 overall, the 76ers selected Freeman. Instead of heading to the NBA, Freeman picked the ABA and the Minnesota Muskies.

Freeman’s first season with the Muskies was special. He averaged 16.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. These impressive numbers earned the former Illini great a spot on the All-Star team.

This was the lone season of the Muskies being in Minnesota. After that one season of existence, they moved to Miami to be the Miami Floridians.

Freeman helped the Muskies get to the Eastern Division Finals during his rookie season. He put up big numbers in his first season in the professional ranks, and his team saw great success. With those two things accounted for, I think Freeman has earned the top overall spot on this list.

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