x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

NBA: Collegiate champions Kentucky the pick of the draft bunch

The University of Kentucky ended the US college basketball season as No 1, and with the NBA draft they are the first school to have two players taken Nos 1 and 2.

Anthony Davis, left, said he wanted his former Kentucky teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, right, close to him when the draft started. Shortly after Davis was selected No 1 overall by the New Orleans Hornets, Kidd-Gilchrist went No 2 to the Charlotte Bobcats.
Anthony Davis, left, said he wanted his former Kentucky teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, right, close to him when the draft started. Shortly after Davis was selected No 1 overall by the New Orleans Hornets, Kidd-Gilchrist went No 2 to the Charlotte Bobcats.

 

NEWARK, NEW JERSEY // The University of Kentucky had the best collegiate basketball team in the United States last season. And on Thursday, they had the No 1 and No 2 players selected in the NBA draft.

The Wildcats became the first school to have the top two picks and tied a record with six players taken overall.

After the New Orleans Hornets made the long-expected selection of forward Anthony Davis with the first pick, theCharlotte Bobcats followed by taking fellow freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

"It's crazy," Davis said. "My arm was shaking and my hands were sweaty. Got up and hugged Michael, my best friend, wanted to hug him for a minute. When my name got called, I wanted to make sure he stayed close."

Kentucky, which won the national championship in April, had four players taken in the first round. Terrence Jones was selected at No 18 by Houston, and Marquis Teague, another freshman, went at No 29 to Chicago as a possible replacement for the injured Derrick Rose.

North Carolina also had four taken in the first round: Harrison Barnes (No 7, Golden State Warriors), Kendall Marshall (No 13, Phoenix Suns), John Henson (No 14, Milwaukee Bucks) and Tyler Zeller (No 17, Dallas Mavericks).

Later, Kentucky's Doron Lamb went 42nd to Milwaukee and Darius Miller was 46th to New Orleans.

Only UNLV in 1977 had six players drafted - but none in the first round. It has been a long time since a school made such an effect at the top of the draft.

UCLA had the Nos 1 and 3 picks in 1969, when Milwaukee took Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - then Lew Alcindor - and Lucius Allen went third to the Seattle SuperSonics.

A season after the Hornets traded longtime star Chris Paul, Davis is ready to be their star, since playing for the Wildcats means he's already accustomed to plenty of attention.

"Like I said, at Kentucky we had it all the time, especially the six who played, we had the spotlight all the time," Davis said. "I think it really prepared me."

Charlotte, coming off a 7-59 season and the worst winning percentage in NBA history, had been open to moving the No 2 pick if it found the right deal. Instead, Michael Jordan's team went with Kidd-Gilchrist, whose selection by the Bobcats was loudly cheered.

The new Charlotte swingman played in high school at nearby St Patrick's in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and fans chanted "MKG! MKG!" as he walked off the stage. Though he and Davis talked before the draft, they did not discuss the history the Wildcats were about to make.

"No. I was shocked at first," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "I was shocked. But no, we didn't. We didn't at all."

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE