NEWARK, N.J. -- The NCAA’s brightest basketball stars packed the Prudential Center for the 2012 NBA draft. Here's a breakdown of the headline-makers of the night.
Highlight of the night
When Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson was selected with the No. 5 overall pick by the Sacramento Kings during Thursday night’s NBA draft, the 21-year-old was overcome with emotion.
Robinson -- who lost his grandmother, grandfather and mother within a three-week span last January -- persevered through his share of personal tragedies. A teary-eyed Robinson enjoyed a long embrace with his nine-year-old sister Kayla before stepping to the podium and greeting NBA commissioner David Stern.
Robinson led the Kansas Jayhawks to the 2012 NCAA national championship game, where he tallied 18 points and 17 rebounds in a 67-59 loss to Kentucky. He was named the Big 12 Player of the Year and a unanimous First Team All-American after averaging 17.9 points, 11.8 rebounds while leading the country with 27 doubles during a stellar junior season. Robinson’s inspirational story captivated the crowd and this touching moment truly transcended the sport.
University of Connecticut sophomore Jeremy Lamb saw his draft stock plummet in the days leading up to the NBA Draft. Hobbled by an ankle injury he suffered while working out for the Toronto Raptors two weeks ago, Lamb was shut down for the remainder of his NBA team workouts.
Initially projected as a top-five selection, the Houston Rockets were delighted when Lamb fell to them at No. 12, a pick they acquired in a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this week.
The 6-foot-5 Lamb averaged 17.7 points and 4.9 rebounds and led Connecticut in scoring in only his second season. The Huskies followed up their 2011 national championship season with a disappointing 2012 campaign, registering a losing record in the Big East and bowing out in the first-round of the NCAA tournament to Iowa State.
Lamb’s athleticism and long-range shooting will help strengthen Houston’s back-court. The Rockets stockpiled first-round picks this week with the Nos. 12, 16, and 18 selections in their hip pocket.
Seven-footers don’t grow on trees, but the Portland Trail Blazers may have jumped the gun by drafting Illinois center Meyers Leonard with the No. 11 overall pick. The 7-foot-1 Leonard averaged 13.6 points and 8.2 rebounds as a sophomore last season.
The former Fighting Illini has tremendous potential and athleticism for his size, yet his physicality and defensive awareness have been brought into question by many NBA scouts. With reigning ACC Player of the Year Tyler Zeller still on the draft board, the Blazers elected to select Leonard instead to play alongside their perennial All-Star power forward Lamarcus Aldridge.
Leonard is considered a project player with the potential to work his way into the team’s rotation. With a handful of NBA-ready big men still available at No. 11, Portland opted for the long-term potential of Leonard over a more polished impact player on Thursday night.
Best sleeper pick
Injury concerns caused Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger to fall from a likely lottery pick to the Boston Celtics at the No. 21 overall selection. NBA doctors examined Sullinger last week at the pre-draft combine and informed front offices across the league that back issues could curtail the 20-year-old's pro career.
Sullinger was less-than-stellar during his pre-draft agility tests, raising a red flag that the former Buckeye might not be a first-round selection as once thought. The Celtics were willing to take a risk on the 6-foot-9, 268-pound big-man who averaged 17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and shot 40 percent from three-point range last year as a sophomore. Sullinger led Ohio State to a Final Four appearance, where they fell to the Kansas Jayhawks despite the Buckeye forward tallying 13 points and snatching 11 rebounds.
With the Celtics lacking depth along their front line, Sullinger could become an impact this upcoming season, assuming he’s healthy.