How sweet it is!
Clippers select Olowokandi with No. 1 pick
Posted: Monday July 13, 1998 11:14 AM
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (CNN/SI) -- It was widely thought the Los Angeles Clippers, with the top pick in the 1998 NBA Draft, would not gamble on a project.
Those in the know thought there was no way Elgin Baylor could pass on Arizona's Mike Bibby -- a savvy point guard with NBA bloodlines -- and take a chance on Michael Olowokandi -- a soccer player who has been playing competitive basketball for only three years.
On Wednesday, June 24, Michael Olowokandi completed a remarkable transformation into a serious hoops commodity as the Clippers decided on the 7-foot-1 Nigerian instead of Bibby.
"Seeing my name in the No. 1 spot is unbelievable, especially when you consider where I came from three years ago -- not having played basketball -- and then to this, not the No. 3 pick but the No. 1 pick," said Olowokandi, who averaged 22.2 points and 11.2 rebounds last season at Pacific University. "That's something that'll take me a week or so, or a little bit longer, to get over."Several trades were made during the draft evening:
The selection of Olowokandi marked the second year a senior had been selected first overall. Underclassmen had been chosen first overall in the five previous drafts.
The Grizzlies, the hosts of the draft, selected Bibby second to roars of approval from a crowd of about 8,000. Bibby, who left Arizona after his sophomore season, has drawn comparisons to Jason Kidd for his playmaking skills. Many expected him to be drafted first overall, and he refused to hold a workout for any team other than the Clippers.
"It wasn't my decision. I went off what David [agent David Falk] told me, so it wasn't up to me," said Bibby, whose father, Henry, played several years in the NBA and now coaches Southern Cal. "Me being No. 1 was just a lot of talk and rumor, so I didn't expect anything."
The Denver Nuggets, coming off a season in which they won only 11 games, picked Kansas forward Raef LaFrentz with the third pick.
It was the first surprise of the night, since Paul Pierce, considered by many to be the best all-around player in the draft, had been expected to be among the top three picks. He ended up dropping all the way to the Boston Celtics at No. 10.
LaFrentz, a 6-foot-11 forward, was a first-team All-American after averaging 19.8 points and 11.1 rebounds for the Jayhawks.
Traylor, who dropped 40 pounds after the season ended, tipped the scales at about 320 pounds while averaging 16.2 points and 10.0 rebounds for the Wolverines. By acquiring him, the Bucks extended their streak of trading their first-round pick to four straight years.
The agent for the 6-foot-11 Nowitzki, who is currently in the German army, told teams that his client may choose to play professionally in Europe for the next season or two. Nelson said he and his son, Donnie, who once coached the 20-year-old, will be leaving soon for Germany to convince Nowitzki to play for the Mavericks.
The Sacramento Kings came up with another surprise by choosing Florida guard Jason Williams with the seventh pick. Williams, once a high school teammate of much-maligned college football player Randy Moss, had troubles of his own in college and was kicked off the team by Florida coach Billy Donovan, reportedly after testing positive for marijuana.
At the time, Williams was leading the Southeastern Conference in steals, assists and free throw percentage. He transferred to the Gators after spending one season at Marshall.
The 76ers took 19-year-old Larry Hughes of Saint Louis with the eighth pick. The youngest player to be picked up to that point, Hughes averaged 20.9 points for the Billikens and was considered by many to be the player in the draft with the greatest potential.
Pierce was finally picked 10th by Boston, which was ecstatic that such a talented player had dropped so far.
"It's a little disappointing," said Pierce, who left Kansas after a junior season in which he averaged 20.4 points. "That's the way things go. I have to move on and use it for motivation. Boston is a great situation for me. They have great fans and players like Antoine Walker, Ron Mercer and Kenny Anderson. I feel like we can be a playoff team."
Bonzi Wells of Ball State went to the Pistons with the 11th pick. Wells averaged 25.4, 22.0 and 22.8 points over his final three seasons and broke Ron Harper's Mid-American conference scoring record.
The Orlando Magic, who had been trying to move one of their three first-round picks, took Michael Doleac of Utah with the 12th pick to fill a gaping hole at center caused by last season's trade of Rony Seikaly to New Jersey.
With the 13th pick, the Magic selected another center, Keon Clark of UNLV.
The Houston Rockets, who also had three first-round picks, took small forward Michael Dickerson of Arizona at No. 14 before Orlando made its third selection, forward Matt Harpring of Georgia Tech.
The Rockets also took shooting guard Bryce Drew of Valparaiso with the 16th pick and Turkish center Mirsad Turkcan with the 18th pick.
Al Harrington of St. Patrick's in Elizabeth, New Jersey, was the only high-schooler picked in the first round, going 25th to Indiana, and the three-time defending champion Chicago Bulls chose Oregon State guard Corey Benjamin.
Two Slovenian players were taken in the first round. Radoslav Nesterovic, a 7-footer who helped lead Kinder Bologna to the EuroLeague championship in April, went to Minnesota at No. 17, and Vladimir Stepania, a 6-11 1/2 center, went to Seattle at No. 27.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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