The Niagra University Purple Eagles men’s basketball team has had 23 players drafted into the NBA and 11 who have played in the league. The top NBA players from Niagara University include Hall of Famer Calvin Murphy and perennial All-Star point guard Larry Costello.
Calvin Murphy was a Hall of Fame guard for the Rockets and the all-time greatest NBA player from Niagara University. Murphy brilliant for the Purple Eagles as he took All-America honors three times with 2,548 points in three years for an average of 33.1 per game. In 1970, he led Niagara to the first NCAA Tournament in school history, culminating in the team’s first and only Sweet Sixteen appearance. Standing at just 5-9, Murphy wasn’t chosen until the second round of the 1970 NBA Draft, but the Rockets selected a great player. He spent his whole 13-year career with the team while scoring 17,949 points and dishing out 4,402 assists. His best individual performance came in 1975-76 when he averaged 21.0 points, 7.3 assists, and 1.8 steals.
Six-time All-Star guard Larry Costello was a great NBA player from Niagara University. Costello began his NBA career in 1954 with the Warriors and he blossomed in 1957-58 with the Syracuse Nationals (76ers franchise). In ten seasons with the Nationals/Sixers, Costello averaged 12.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per contest. He ranked in the top ten in field goal percentage three times and assists six times while he led the NBA in free throw shooting twice. After his playing career, Costello coached the Bucks for nine seasons and became one of the first people to win NBA Championships as a player and a coach.
One of the top basketball player from Niagara University, Manny Leaks played six professional seasons in the ABA and NBA. Leaks had a great three-year run with the Purple Eagles as he averaged 17.3 points and 15.0 boards in his NCAA career. He opted to begin his career in the ABA where he spent four seasons and twice averaged a double-double. Leaks joined the NBA’s 76ers in 1972-73 and posted 11.0 points and 8.3 rebounds. In 446 combined games between the two leagues, he totaled 5,302 points and pulled down 3,998 rebounds.
Ed Fleming played five seasons in the 1950s as one of the top NBA players from Niagara University. Fleming excelled in his senior year with 22.8 points and 15.5 rebounds to propel himself into the NBA as the 16th pick of the 1955 draft. He began his career with the Rochester Royals and had his best year as a rookie with 12.5 points and 6.9 boards per game. He played two years with the Royals followed by three with the Lakers and participated in the NBA Finals in 1959.
Guard Al Butler played four seasons in the 1960s and remains one of the best NBA players from Niagara University. With averages of 22.8 points and 5.9 rebounds as a Purple Eagle, Butler was chosen by the Celtics with pick number 17 of the 1961 NBA Draft. He spent only five games with the team before being sent to New York where he had a great rookie season that included averages of 14.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. He followed it with a second season with a double-digit scoring average in 1962-63 and retired as a member of the Bullets in 1965.
NBA & ABA Players Who Attended Niagara University. Basketball-Reference.com