Later, after the draft and in the wee hours of Thursday night-Friday morning, both O.J. Mayo and Bill Walker were on the move from the Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards to the Memphis Grizzlies and the world champion Boston Celtics respectively. Mayo and Walker were eighth-grader teammates when they led Rose Hill Christian (Ashland, Ky.) to the Kentucky State High School Sweet 16 state tournament, then led North College Hill (Cincinnati, Ohio) H.S. to a pair of Ohio Division III State Championships. Mayo returned to his hometown of Huntington and teamed with Kentucky's Patrick Patterson to help the Highlanders win an unprecedented third-straight W. Va. AAA State title, while Walker headed to Kansas State to play for Bobby Huggins, who is now at West Virginia.
O.J. Mayo, shown his senior year at Huntington High School, was drafted No. 3 in the NBA Draft Thursday out of USC.
The Walker trade to the recent champs was for cash considerations, and certainly made for a dizzy night for the player who was originally expected to be a late first-round selection. Walker fell to the 47th of 60 picks due to concerns over a recent leg injury that came in the wake of missing his first year at Kansas State with a knee injury. On the bright side, Walker, who also was a KSU teammate of the No. 2 pick in the draft in Michael Beasley (who went to the Miami Heat), moves from a team that was 43-39 and a No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference to the team that finished the regular season at 66-16 and won Boston's 17th NBA Championship all-time.
Mayo was part of a blockbuster trade that sent guard Marko Jaric, forward Antoine Walker and guard Greg Buckner to Memphis. The Wolves received forward Kevin Love (the No. 5 selection out of UCLA), guard/forward Mike Miller, forward Brian Cardinal and center Jason Collins. Jaric is a six-year vet who averaged 7.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists in his career. Walker, a 12-year vet, has averaged 17.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists over his career while Buckner, a nine-year veteran, has averaged 5.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.3 assists.
Minnesota and Memphis posted similar records of 22-60 (.268) last season, which saw the Timberwolves lose Kevin Garnett to the Celtics and helped lead them to the title. Memphis has finished 22-60 for two years in a row for the franchise that began play in 2001-02 and made the playoffs from 2002-03 through 2005-06. The current general manager of the Grizzlies, W.Va. native Chris Wallace, told Chuck Landon of Huntington's The Herald-Dispatch (Landon is also a former columnist for the Herd Insider) he saw Mayo as a scoring point guard.
"To me, he is a scoring point who can also play some two," said Wallace. "The reason that O.J. has received the type of recognition he has over the years is what he does with the ball in his hands. He played off the ball probably more than ever this year at USC. And had some good results. But you are drafting O.J. for what he does with the ball in his hands." Wallace also believes Mayo can create shots, as he told Landon. "He's not a Rip Hamilton or a Bill Bradley moving without the ball," said Wallace. "He can score by coming off picks and doing things without the ball in his hands. He did that at USC." Wolves GM Kevin McHale was a big fan of Love, a freshman out of UCLA, but picked Mayo with the third selection to use him to obtain more assets for the Minnesota franchise.Mayo averaged 20.7 points per game, second in the Pac-10, 3.3 assists, 1.6 steals, all of which led the Trojans, and was third on USC with 4.5 rebounds per game. He was first team All-Pac-10 and made the All-Freshman team in the league. Mayo was also a Naismith and Wooden Award finalist, symbolic of the best player in college basketball each season. He stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 200-pounds. He will be one of four guards for Memphis, including Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry and Javaris Crittenton, plus swing man Rudy Gay.
In a separate deal, Memphis sent their 28th pick, Syracuse's Donte Green, and a second-round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers for Darrell Arthur. Arthur, who was picked 27th by the New Orleans Hornets who sent his rights to Portland, is a 6-foot-9 power forward from Kansas. Speaking of the Sunflower State, Kansas State's Walker will bring good numbers to the Celtics despite playing alongside of Beasley (26.2 points per game, third in the nation, and led Division I with 12.4 rebounds per game). Walker averaged 16 points and six rebounds for the Wildcats. KSU advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
A number of players who faced the Herd over the last four seasons were also drafted, starting with the Memphis Tigers' Derrick Rose. Rose was the first selection of the draft, heading back to his hometown Chicago Bulls after leading UM to the National Championship game against Kansas as a freshman point guard. Other Tigers who coach John Calipari sent to the next level included forward Joey Dorsey (Portland with 33rd pick, but then was traded to the Houston Rockets) and guard Chris Douglas-Roberts (New Jersey Nets with the 40th selection). Also leaving Conference USA for the NBA was forward Walter Sharpe of UAB, who was chosen by the Seattle (Oklahoma City?) Supersonics with the 32nd pick.
Other MU opponents include WVU forward Joe Alexander, who will now wear Green as the eighth overall pick in the first round of the draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. The California Bears, who the Herd battled in the Great Alaskan Shootout in December of 2006, sent two players to the NBA. First up was forward Ryan Anderson was the 21st pick by the N.J. Nets, while DeVon Hardin was taken with the 50th pick by the Supersonics. Other players Marshall battled who were drafted were guard Courtney Lee of Western Kentucky (Orlando Magic, 22nd selection) and forward Deron Washington of Virginia Tech (Detroit Pistons, 59th selection). Meanwhile the new New York Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni, a former Marshall point guard, took Danilo Gallinari sixth with the Knicks' only selection. D'Antoni, who as drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the second round in 1973 as well as by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the 1973 ABA Draft, played alongside Gallinari's father in the Italian Professional Basketball League (where D'Antoni was both a player and championship-winning head coach). D'Antoni is a native of Mullens, W.Va., while Chris Wallace of the Grizzlies is from Buckhannon, W.Va.