Wizards select John Wall with No. 1 NBA draft pick
NEW YORK (AP) — John Wall went to the Washington Wizards with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft on Thursday and four more University of Kentucky players were among the top 30 selections, making it the first school to put five players in the first round.
After falling short of the U.S. college semifinals even with all that talent around him, Wall is ready to help Washington bounce back from a season that was embarrassing on the court and in the locker room.
“I feel like I had pressure since I became No. 1 in high school and was one of the top players,” Wall said. “I always got there hungry wanting to fight hard and compete in every game, so when I step on the court I’m going to take on any challenge there.”
Wall, the first Kentucky player ever chosen first overall, goes to a team still reeling from Gilbert Arenas’ season-ending suspension for bringing guns into the team locker room.
WATCH NBC SPORTS COVERAGE OF JOHN WALL HERE:
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Wall could replace Arenas as the Wizards’ point guard, or perhaps play alongside him in a potential high-scoring backcourt. He’ll try to become the third straight point guard to win league rookie of the year honors after Chicago’s Derrick Rose and Sacramento’s Tyreke Evans — who like Wall also played for Kentucky coach John Calipari.
The pick came shortly after a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press that the Chicago Bulls had agreed to trade veteran guard Kirk Hinrich and the 17th pick in the draft, France-based forward Kevin Seraphin, to the Wizards. Hinrich is a solid veteran defensive guard who could help with Wall’s transition to the NBA.
The Wizards’ season reached its low point on New Year’s Day when news broke of the altercation involving guns between Arenas and fellow guard Javaris Crittenton, who also was suspended for the year. Washington eventually traded fellow stars Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler in a dismal 26-56 finish.
Arenas is eligible to return, but Wall is ready to take charge of the team.
“I was always a leader by example being the first in the gym and the last in the gym,” Wall said. “But I’m a leader that doesn’t mind speaking up to the older guys.”
Kentucky landed a second top-five pick when DeMarcus Cousins was taken by Sacramento at No. 5, then put two more players in the top 18 when the Houston Rockets chose Patrick Patterson at No. 14 and Oklahoma City took guard Eric Bledsoe four spots later. Daniel Orton then went to Orlando with the 29th pick, breaking the previous record of four first-round picks from one school.
The Philadelphia 76ers took national player of the year Evan Turner from Ohio State at No. 2. Derrick Favors became the second freshman taken in the first three picks when the New Jersey Nets chose the Georgia Tech forward.
The Minnesota Timberwolves then grabbed Syracuse forward Wesley Johnson. Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh was chosen by Golden State at No. 6. Detroit kept up the run of big men by selecting Georgetown center Greg Monroe with the seventh pick, then the Los Angeles Clippers went for Wake Forest’s Al-Farouq Aminu, of Nigerian descent.
Butler’s Gordon Hayward went ninth to Utah, and the Indiana Pacers completed the top 10 by choosing Fresno State forward Paul George.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.