Kentucky fell one pick shy of setting a new record for most selections from a school in a single NBA Draft.
Kentucky was one of nine schools to have multiple players selected on the night. Duke’s three freshmen gave the current national champions the second-highest number of selections, and they were one of four ACC programs to have multiple players picked. The SEC (Kentucky and LSU) and Pac-12 (Arizona and UCLA) are the other conferences capable of making that claim.
Schools with one draft pick: Arkansas (Bobby Portis), Boston College (Olivier Hanlan), Bowling Green (Richaun Holmes), Eastern Washington (Tyler Harvey) Georgia State (R.J. Hunter), Iowa (Aaron White), Kansas (Kelly Oubre Jr.), Massachusetts (Cady Lalanne), Michigan State (Branden Dawson), Murray State (Cameron Payne), North Carolina (J.P. Tokoto), Ohio State (D’Angelo Russell), Oregon (Joseph Young), St. John’s (Sir’Dominic Pointer), Stanford (Anthony Brown), Tennessee (Josh Richardson), Texas (Myles Turner), UNLV (Rashad Vaughn), Utah (Delon Wright), Villanova (Darrun Hilliard), Virginia (Justin Anderson), William & Mary (Marcus Thornton), Wyoming (Larry Nance Jr.).
As for draft picks by conference, the ACC edged out the SEC for the top spot. Twelve players who played in the ACC last season were picked, with ten SEC products placing that conference second on the list. Following the SEC was the Pac-12 with seven selections and the Big Ten with five. The Big 12, Big East (which did not have a first round pick for the first time in league history) and Mountain West each had two products selected Thursday night.
The Atlantic 10, Big Sky, CAA, Mid-American, Ohio Valley and Sun Belt conferences had one player selected apiece, led by former Murray State guard Cameron Payne (OVC).
Cliff Alexander, Aaron Harrison among early entrants not selected Thursday night
Given the fact that there are only 60 available draft slots and the number of eligible players are even higher, there are bound to be players who don’t get to experience hearing their name called at the NBA Draft. That was the case for some notable college players who made the decision to forego their remaining college eligibility to take their shot at the NBA Draft.
Among the players who weren’t selected were former Kansas forward Cliff Alexander, former Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison and former UNLV forward Christian Wood. Wood, a player some believed to have a shot at being selected in the first round heading into the draft, may have been the most surprising omission amongst those who left school with eligibility remaining.
Some players decide to turn pro in hopes of landing a job anywhere in pro basketball, which will explain some of the players on the list. And while not being selected is certainly a negative, those players will have the opportunity to figure out which summer league situation (in Orlando, Las Vegas or both) represents the best opportunity to earn a spot on a team’s training camp roster.
Thursday night represents a tough reality for these players, especially those whose draft status was hurt by issues away from the court. But even with that being the case, it doesn’t have to be the end of the road for them. Below is the list of college players with eligibility remaining who were not selected in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
Cliff Alexander, Kansas
Brandon Ashley, Arizona
Michael Frazier II, Florida
Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
Jerome Hill, Gardner-Webb
Vince Hunter, UTEP
Charles Jackson, Tennessee Tech
Trevor Lacey, NC State
Ashton Pankey, Manhattan
Terran Petteway, Nebraska
Walter Pitchford, Nebraska
Michael Qualls, Arkansas
Jherrod Stiggers, Houston
Deonta Stocks, West Georgia
Aaron Thomas, Florida State (declared academically ineligible)
Robert Upshaw, Washington (dismissed mid-year)
Chris Walker, Florida
Christian Wood, UNLV
Kentucky becomes first school in ten years to produce four lottery picks
While Kentucky’s 2014-15 season did not produce a national title, it produced a host of players who heard their names called during Thursday’s NBA Draft in Brooklyn. Karl-Anthony Towns kicked things off as he was selected first overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, and in total Kentucky had four players picked during the lottery.
That number is the highest for a college basketball program since North Carolina had four players selected during the lottery portion of the 2005 NBA Draft.
Willie Cauley-Stein (sixth to Sacramento), Trey Lyles (12th to Utah) and Devin Booker (13th to Phoenix) were the other lottery picks for John Calipari’s program, which are the most lottery picks in a single draft since North Carolina had three players taken in the 2012 NBA Draft lottery.
“It just shows that our team was special,” Lyles said after being selected. “It was unlike any other, and we’ve still got three other guys that are going to go tonight.”
Unfortunately for Kentucky only two of those remaining players heard their names called. Andrew Harrison (44th to Phoenix; rights traded to Memphis) and Dakari Johnson (48th to Oklahoma City) were both second round selections, with Aaron Harrison going undrafted.
The six draft picks are tied for the most in a single draft in the history of the event.
Karl-Anthony Towns becomes Kentucky’s third top overall pick in program history
With seven players from last season’s 38-1 team available, Thursday’s NBA Draft is expected to be a good one for the Kentucky basketball program. And the draft got off to a good start for John Calipari’s program, as Karl-Anthony Towns was selected with the first overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Towns, who will join two other top overall draft picks in Minnesota in Andrew Wiggins (2014) and Anthony Bennett (2013), is the third former Wildcat to be taken first in an NBA Draft. He joins John Wall (2010) and Anthony Davis (2012), making Kentucky the first college basketball program with three top overall picks in the draft’s modern era (since 1985).
Also on the board for Kentucky were Willie Cauley-Stein (drafted sixth by Sacramento), Trey Lyles (12th to Utah), Devin Booker (13th to Phoenix), Andrew Harrison (44th to Phoenix, traded to Memphis) and Dakari Johnson (48th to Oklahoma City). Aaron Harrison went undrafted.
Calipari was with the four players (Towns, Cauley-Stein, Lyles and Booker) who made the trip to Brooklyn, and Towns’ “friend” Karlito was there as well.
Former Ohio State point guard D’Angelo Russell was taken with the second overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers, with Duke’s Jahlil Okafor being picked third by Philadelphia. Kristaps Porzingis (New York) and Mario Hezonja (Orlando) rounded out the top five.
Dan Patrick Show: Karl-Anthony Towns discusses his development as a player, recruitment (VIDEO)
Tuesday morning former Kentucky forward/center Karl-Anthony Towns appeared on “The Dan Patrick Show,” discussing matters such as the pre-draft process, what it was like playing for his father growing up and the recruiting process that ultimately led to his becoming a Wildcat.
Towns, who isn’t expected to be on the board too long in Thursday’s NBA Draft, credited his father with improving his skills to the point where he could comfortably use both hands on the court. He also spoke about the strengths of the University of Kentucky as a whole, and not just its basketball program, as a major factor in his decision to become a Wildcat.
Sam Thompson navigates NBA Draft prep while finishing degree at Ohio State
Going through the NBA Draft process is an exhausting experience for college basketball players looking to take the next step in their career. Between two-a-day workouts, weight lifting, getting up extra shots and traveling between team draft workouts, the focus is on basketball and making it at the professional level once players enter their name in the NBA Draft.
For some seniors in the NBA Draft process like Ohio State’s Sam Thompson, draft workouts continue on a daily basis along with completing the academic requirements that are necessary to earn a college degree. Thompson is one of many former student-athletes in the NBA Draft process who finished out the spring semester of classes.
After Ohio State’s season ended with a loss to Arizona in the Round of 32, Thompson started working out at Impact Basketball Academy in Las Vegas to prepare for the rigors of professional basketball. To earn his degree in finance after the spring semester, Thompson also needed to complete four more weeks in five finance classes.
Between the two-a-day workouts, weights and completing assignments, Thompson had a grueling four-week stretch where most of his free time away from basketball was spent studying. After his first two weeks in Las Vegas, Thompson returned home for a week for final exams on campus before returning to NBA Draft process.
Thompson walked at graduation May 10 with his degree in finance. Now he hopes to hear his name selected during the 2015 NBA Draft.
“I made arrangements with all of my teachers to work remotely. Turn in some assignments online and stuff like that,” Thompson said. “When I went away to workouts, it was a month before all my classes finished out. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. But I knew that coming back and taking five classes was less likely than for me to finish up here and now. So that was just my biggest motivation.”
Besides his high-flying, four-year basketball career at Ohio State — in which he became nationally known as “Slam” Thompson to some because of his aerial displays at the rim –Sam focused on his finance degree to plan for his life after basketball. Coming from a family that values academics, Sam often heard from his parents and siblings about sticking with basketball and his degree track during his final weeks of school. One of Sam’s former teammates at Ohio State also had a similar experience with finishing up school while working out for NBA teams and it helped Sam to have the support of those people.
“The plan and the goal was for me to always get my college degree. [My parents] sort of set the standard in the house. They’ve been on me pretty hard about it,” Thompson said. “I remember Aaron Craft last year, he was pretty adamant about getting his degree. He was another guy that balanced the NBA Draft process with getting his degree, so we had a few conversations.”
Working out with other seniors like Penn State’s D.J. Newbill, West Virginia’s Juwan Staten and Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas at Impact Basketball Academy, Thompson noticed that other guys working out for the draft were also trying to complete a couple of classes. When his degree was finally completed, Thompson didn’t have to worry about checking emails from professors or handing in assignments. It was back to his basketball dreams.
“A few guys left to take exams and stuff. I’m not the only guy doing it. It’s just something that, as seniors, we have to do.” Thompson said. “I liked finance and I really enjoyed my time at Ohio State. Just to say that I finished school and to walk out of there with a degree is all I need. I know how hard of a grind it is balancing being a student and being an athlete. I know how hard it is to get a degree in finance from Ohio State University without being an athlete. To be able to do both is definitely something I wanted to do for myself and it’s something that’s going to stick with me for the rest of my life.”
Working on areas like his jumper and his handle the last few months, Thompson is hoping that he’ll get a shot in the NBA because of his ability to defend multiple wing spots right away. If professional basketball doesn’t end up working out, Thompson always has the backup plan of going into investment banking. Going back to school to get an MBA wouldn’t be out of the question for Thompson if it meant furthering his career in finance. Even if he has a long career in basketball, Thompson knows that investment banking will be there for him after he retires from basketball.
“Obviously, being a financial analyst for a major investment firm is an 80- or 90-hour week. So it’s not really feasible while I’m still playing,” Thompson said. “That is definitely the Plan B if I’m not able to play professional basketball. I haven’t exactly figured out how I want to use my degree while I’m playing, but I definitely want to stay sort of in the financial realm throughout my career so I can enter into it after my career. It’s something I really enjoy and I’ve spent a lot of time over these past four years studying it. It’s something that I’m definitely interested in going into.”
During the NBA Draft process, Thompson has worked out for Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, the Los Angeles Clippers, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Antonio and Utah. Although a minor muscle pull forced Thompson to cancel four other workouts during the process, he remained focused on getting his degree while pursuing his basketball dreams. Thompson is fully healthy now and hoping for an opportunity. It wasn’t easy to go through five finance classes while working out for the NBA Draft, but Thompson got it done and he’s satisfied knowing that he’s done everything he can to put himself in position for success.
“Sometimes, I just needed some time to step away. But what choice do you have? You just have to suck it up and get it done,” Thompson said. “Everyone just basically said the same thing. Obviously, the NBA Draft is the biggest thing in your life and you want to devote all of your energy and your time to it, but at the same time, you have a couple of more weeks of academic responsibility. It’s just something you have to get done.”