Emeka Okafor Selected By Charlotte

The waiting is over. Thursday night, the Orlando Magic decided to go with youth over experience ...

... and took Dwight Howard with the first pick in the 2004 NBA Draft.

UConn's Emeka Okafor, who most analysts thought would be the better pick for Orlando because he's 'a sure thing,' was selected by the Charlotte Bobcats with the number 2 pick of the draft.

"We're really excited to make Emeka Okafor our first-ever draft pick and have him join our franchise," said General Manager and Head Coach Bernie Bickerstaff. "Emeka controls the basketball game with his defense and we want him to be a defensive presence and to be unselfish. We like his power, his ability to block shots, his ability to get possessions through rebounds and his tremendous outlet pass."

Okafor led the University of Connecticut to the NCAA Championship in April and captured Most Outstanding Player honors at the Final Four after scoring 24 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in the national championship game against Georgia Tech. The First Team All-American led the nation in blocked shots and averaged 17.6 points and 11.5 rebounds (fourth in the country). The National Association of Basketball Coaches named him co-National Player of the Year and National Defensive Player of the Year.

"He is ready because of his experience at the collegiate level -- including winning the NCAA Championship," said Bickerstaff. "I think he is ready right now to step in and impact a basketball team. He is a tremendous young man and I know the fans in Charlotte will really enjoy him on and off the court."

The 21-year-old Houston native played on the USA Team in the 2003 Pan American Games. Okafor also excelled in the classroom with a 3.7 GPA in finance. The academic All-American graduated in three years.

The Bobcats moved up to the second pick on Monday, June 21, by trading their fourth and 33rd selections to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for the second overall pick and center Predrag Drobnjak.

The Bobcats are entering their first season in the NBA as an expansion team, the 30th member of the NBA.


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