Most of the so-called experts never expected Larry Nance, Jr. to get drafted, let alone make an impact in the NBA.

The University of Wyoming star was a surprise selection when the Los Angeles Lakers drafted him in the first round last year. Despite being hobbled by a mid-season injury, Nance Jr. continued to defy expectations, ranking fifth among all rookies in field goal percentage, shooting nearly 53 percent.

While his numbers, 5.5 points and over five rebounds per game, aren't overwhelming, his versatility and athleticism established Nance, Jr. as a solid contributor in the Lakers rotation and earned him 22 starts during the season.

Nance, Jr. tied a Lakers rookie record when he recorded six steals against Golden State on January 14th. He also grabbed a season high 14 rebounds on two occasions and his hook shot became an effective weapon, scoring on nearly 80 percent of his hook shots during the season.

His electrifying slam dunks also struck fear into opposing players, helping prevent defenders from double teaming the perimeter. It was a lesson that some teams learned the hard way.

Were it not for a sore right knee, which sidelined Nance, Jr. for several weeks, the high flying forward would have likely been invited to compete at the NBA Slam Dunk Contest.

As Wyoming fans, we are admittedly biased. However, praise for Nance, Jr. has come from all over the country.

The Lakers fan site LakeShowForLife gave him an A- in their year-end grades, saying "Larry Nance, Jr. has emerged as arguably the season’s biggest surprise. His versatility and consistent effort not only earned him a fan favorite status among fans, but they also garnered him a starting spot early on in the regular season. Likewise, Nance’s maturity and effervescent personality should result in him being a Laker for years to come."

If former Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss were still alive, he would surely be proud of his fellow University of Wyoming alum.





More From KOWB 1290