Portland on a roll with developing pros

When Portland visits Rupp Arena on Nov. 26, it will go up against a Kentucky program that under John Calipari has produced nine NBA draft picks (counting Enes Kanter) in the past two years.

But did you know the Pilots also have an impressive track record of putting players in the pros? Coach Eric Reveno has managed to graduate nine players over the past two seasons, and all of them have signed professional contracts to play overseas.

Included in this year's crop of pros are a player with NBA bloodlines in Luke Sikma, top 3-point shooter Jared Stohl and reserve center Jasonn Hannibal. If their success sounds like a recruiting pitch for Reveno to use, know that he already has.

"I put our ability to help someone be the best they can be against anybody," he said.

The players Reveno developed have helped Portland win 60 games over the past three seasons. The next step for the Pilots is to capture their first NCAA tournament bid since 1996, and Reveno wants to see if the current players can get the program over the hump.

Portland returns all-conference guard Nemanja Mitrovic and veteran backcourt mates Eric Waterford and Derrick Rodgers. The rest of the team consists of underclassmen, and Reveno is also bringing in a recruiting class highlighted by guard Kevin Bailey.

"We're in an intriguing stage in our growth," Reveno said. "I know we're going to get there. I'm curious about this year."

It's also an interesting time in the West Coast Conference. BYU is coming into the conference with its history of success. Perennial WCC champion Gonzaga is going after UCLA's consecutive conference crowns streak. Saint Mary's isn't far removed from its Sweet 16 success, and San Francisco and Santa Clara are programs on the rise.

That doesn't leave Portland a lot of room for error, but the Pilots are doing well in their "three-legged mission," as Reveno called it. They're graduating players. They're turning them into pros. The hope is that the championships will eventually come now that so many pros are being developed.

"That's a cornerstone of a championship program, but we can't quite call ourselves a championship program until we win a championship," Reveno said. "This is a foundation. There's something undeniably going well.

"But how are they going to win a championship? That’s what we're excited about, taking it to the next level."