The Kentucky Wildcats became the first US college to have their players selected with the first two picks in the NBA draft and tied a record with six players taken overall on Thursday.
After the New Orleans Hornets made the long-expected selection of forward Anthony Davis with the first pick, Charlotte followed by taking Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
“It’s crazy,” Davis said. “Michael is a great player. We have two down and four more to go. Hopefully, all of them will go in the first round.”
They didn’t, the only disappointment for the Wildcats. They settled for four in the first round and a tie with North Carolina, who won the race to four picks — all in the top 17 selections.
Harrison Barnes (No. 7, Golden State), Kendall Marshall (No. 13, Phoenix), John Henson (No. 14, Milwaukee) and Tyler Zeller (No. 17, Dallas) all went between Kidd-Gilchrist and the next Kentucky player, Terrence Jones at No. 18 to Houston.
Zeller’s rights were later traded to Cleveland for a package that included No. 24 pick Jared Cunningham of Oregon State.
Otherwise, it was the Wildcats’ night, starting with a hug between Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist after the first selection.
“My arm was shaking and my hands were sweaty. Got up and hugged Michael, my best friend, wanted to hug him for a minute,” Davis said. “When my name got called, wanted to make sure he stayed close.”
He did — following Davis as the next player to climb onto the stage and shake NBA commissioner David Stern’s hand.
Kentucky’s fourth first-round pick was at No. 29 with Marquis Teague, another freshman, who is headed to Chicago as a possible replacement for the injured Derrick Rose. Doron Lamb went 42nd to Milwaukee and Darius Miller was 46th to New Orleans.
Only the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 1977 had six players drafted — but none in the first round.
Kentucky coach John Calipari has been criticized for recruiting “one-and-done” players, they stay the required one year and leave, but he looked thrilled hugging his two stars at the start of the night.
It’s been a long time since a school made such an impact at the top of the draft.
University of California, Los Angeles 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.
The 2.08m Davis averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 blocks, becoming a dominant defender after growing about 18cm from the start of his junior year of high school.
A season after the Hornets traded longtime star Chris Paul, Davis is ready to be their centerpiece, since playing for the Wildcats means he’s already accustomed to plenty of attention.
“At Kentucky we had it all the time, especially the six who played, we had the spotlight all the time,” Davis said. “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.
Though he and Davis talked before the draft, they didn’t 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.”
Florida’s Bradley Beal went third to Washington, making it three NCAA Southeastern Conference freshmen in the first three picks. Cleveland followed with the surprisingly early pick of Syracuse sixth man Dion Waiters at No. 4.