Young and Pruitt bring their NB-A game

Thursday's NBA draft had an east-coast feel to it for Trojan players Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt. But while Young Wizzed off the board in the middle of the first round, Pruitt was left feeling a little green in the second.

Young became the first Trojan selected in the first round of the NBA draft in ten years, pushing the Trojans' total to seven first-round picks in the history of the program.

Young was selected with the 16th pick by the Washington Wizards.

From the time he declared for the draft in mid-April, Young was projected as a top-15 pick and sat at number 13 in ESPN's Jay Bilas' Best Available list, but the drop to 16 overall can't really be considered a slide.

He left USC as the sixth-leading scorer in the school's history and was viewed as one of the top offensive players available in this draft. Young averaged 17.5 points per game as a junior during the 2006-2007 season. But his draft stock rose precipitously during the NCAA Tournament, where he led the Trojans to wins over Arkansas and Texas, scoring 20 and 22 point respectively in those games. He also hit double figures in scoring in each of the Trojans' final 25 games last season.

For the Wizards, Young will probably work at the two spot, or slide down to the three if they need to go small. DeShawn Stevenson is currently entrenched at that two spot, but Young could provide a spark off the bench initially, and should team with Stevenson, Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler to form a fantastic offensive core.

Basketball analysts raved about many things regarding Young, but the one thing that sticks out the most is his ability to create his own shot. He's good with the ball, a fantastic athlete and hit 44% of his shots from behind the arc last season. All of those assets should help Young see some significant playing time as a rookie next season, which would be an impressive feat considering he's entering a playoff team. At this point, the only thing that could keep Young on the bench is his defense. If he does stay as a two guard, he'll be matching up against some of the most talented scorers in the NBA next season. And at this point, he probably isn't ready to handle that responsibility on a full-time basis.

If the Wizards' roster remains as it is now entering the 2008 season, Young will most likely spend the season coming off the bench. But if Stevenson is moved for interior help, which is a possibility, Young could see his playing time increase.

As for Gabe Pruitt, the other Trojan taken in Thursday's draft, he surprised Trojan fans when he declared for the NBA draft at the end of April. He initially refrained from hiring an agent, but, after getting his feet wet and speaking to NBA teams, decided that his best option would be to keep his name in the draft.

Pruitt was hoping to land somewhere in the bottom of the first round, but slid past the 30th pick into the early second round, stopping at 32 and the Boston Celtics. The slide into the second round is yet another reminder of how unpredictable professional drafts can be. Hopefully his second-round status will motivate him during his career in the league.

Pruitt missed the first 11 games of the '06-'07 season, but finished with 12.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game while playing point guard.

For the Celtics, with newly acquired Ray Allen, Pruitt could remain at the point, but could also spell Allen at shooting guard, where his potent three-point shot should be a huge asset.

Pruitt will be surrounded by guys like Allen, Paul Pierce and Al Jefferson, and should mature quickly into a serious talent. With Delonte West gone from the point guard position, Boston will probably take a serious look at Rajon Rondo and Pruitt there during the upcoming season. His versatility in the back court should help him immensely, as will his superior defensive ability, both on the ball and in reading passing lanes. If he can become a number two option at either the one or two guard spots, it will be a huge accomplishment.

Both Young and Pruitt will pack their bags and head cross-country to the Eastern Conference, where they will meet several times next season.

Neither player went as high as they could or should have gone in this draft, but both are ready and eager to begin a new chapter in their basketball careers.

Trojan fans will remember both players as critical components in the round-ball revival USC is currently experiencing. Hopefully with them on the east coast, the rest of the country can start understanding why.


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