"We are happy to have Emeka signed to a contract and ready to play basketball," Bickerstaff said. "He is a fine young man and we are proud to have him represent our franchise and our country, both on and off the court."
The Bobcats moved up in the draft on June 21 by trading their fourth and 33rd selections to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for the second overall pick and agreeing to select center Predrag Drobnjak in the Expansion Selection.
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 with 4.1 per game 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.
In three seasons at UConn, he helped lead the Huskies to an overall record of 83-23 for a .783 winning percentage, and led his teams to the 2004 NCAA Championship, the 2003 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 and 2002 NCAA Elite Eight, two Big East Conference regular season titles or cochampionships (2002 and 2003), and two Big East Tournament championships (2002 and 2003).
The 21-year-old Houston native also excelled in the classroom at Connecticut. The academic All-American graduated in three years with a 3.7 GPA and a degree in finance.
Okafor is currently training with USA Basketball's Senior National Team that will compete in the Olympics in Athens, Greece. He joins NBA All-Stars Allen Iverson, Tim Duncan and Stephon Marbury on the team that will compete for the gold medal.
The 2004 USA Basketball Men's Senior National Team began pre-Olympic training today at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida, and will spend the 18 days leading up to the 2004 Athens Olympics training in Jacksonville (July 26-31); Cologne, Germany (Aug. 1-4); Belgrade, Serbia & Montenegro (Aug. 5-6); Istanbul, Turkey (Aug. 7-12), and will play a total of six exhibition games.
It is the second consecutive summer for Okafor to wear the red, white and blue uniform after leading the United States in the 2003 Pan American Games. Okafor paced the U.S. in scoring, averaging 12.0 points, while adding 2.7 rebounds, a team-high 1.4 blocks and shooting 68.3 percent (28-41 FG) from the floor.