Wallace taken in NBA's 1st round

When Gerald Wallace's name was called as the 25th pick of the first round of the 2001 NBA draft on Wednesday night, he became the fourteenth University of Alabama men's basketball player to be selected in the first round.

In fact Wallace, selected by the Sacramento Kings, is the seventh Crimson Tide player who was a first round pick in the last 10 years. That string started in 1992 with Robert Horry, now holder of four NBA World Championship rings, going as the 11th pick to the Houston Rockets and Latrell Sprewell, now starring for the New York Knicks, going as the 24th pick to the Golden State Warriors.

The following year, 1993, James Robinson went in the first round to the Portland Trail Blazers as the 21st pick. In 1995, Antonio McDyess, now with the Denver Nuggets and holder of an Olympic Gold Medal as a member of the 2000 USA team, was the second pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in that year's draft. His Alabama teammate, Jason Caffey, joined him in the first round as the 20th pick, selected by the Chicago Bulls. In 1996 the Vancouver Grizzlies had the 22nd pick of the first round and selected Alabama's Roy Rogers.

Wallace's selection makes him the 14th Tide player selected in the NBA's first round.

Leon Douglas was Alabama's inaugural first round draft pick twenty five years ago in 1976. He was selected fourth in the draft by the Detroit Pistons. Alabama's list of first round selections followed with Reggie King going to the Kansas City Kings as the 18th pick in 1979. Eddie Phillips went as the 21st pick to the New Jersey Nets in 1982. Ennis Whatley went as the 13th pick in the 1983 draft to the Kansas City Kings. In 1986 the Houston Rockets made Buck Johnson theirs with the 20th pick. And in 1987, Derrick McKey, who is still playing for the Indiana Pacers, was the ninth pick by the Seattle SuperSonics. And his teammate Jim Farmer went as the 20th pick to the Dallas Mavericks.

Wallace is now the 34th Alabama player who will have taken his game on to the NBA.

"I was kind of nervous, my body was shaking, and I had butterflies in my stomach," Wallace told a Birmingham television crew of the wait on the couch of his mother's house in Childersburg as the first round picks ticked off into the twenties before his name was called. "I'm excited. Sacramento has some great athletes, some great talent. I love the way they run up and down the floor."

Though no doubt he would have enjoyed seeing Wallace play in his Alabama uniform for three more seasons, Mark Gottfried was excited to hear Wallace's name called in the first round.

"I'm really excited for Gerald, happy that he's going to have a good opportunity with Sacramento," said the Alabama head coach of Wallace who averaged 9.8 points and 6.0 rebounds his freshman season at Alabama in 2001. "We're going to miss Gerald with our team, but at the same time the coaching staff and his teammates are very excited for him and have all become instant Kings fans now that he's going there."

Alabama had as many as eight players active in the NBA this past season, though by season's end, the number dwindled to six. Still, those six put on an act that Wallace no doubt would love to follow, not only with on the floor performances like Robert Horry's who won his fourth NBA World Championship title when he and the Lakers won the championship this past season, but in the financial realm as well. According to the June 25 through July 1, 2001 issue of Street & Smith's Sportsbusiness Journal, Alabama's NBA players are among the highest paid in the league. In a ranking of schools with four or more former students in the NBA, the Tide's players ranked fourth with an average per player salary of $6,040,167, for a six-player total of $36,241,000, led by McDyess's $10,800,000 salary with the Nuggets.

Becky Hopf, UA Media Relations


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