Big Buck(s)

Joe Alexander's rise continued as the former West Virginia forward was selected by Milwaukee as the eighth pick in the 2008 NBA draft Thursday.

The former West Virginia player became the school's first NBA draft selection since Ron "Fritz" Williams in 1968. Alexander is just the 14th overall draft pick in school history and now has a set two-year guaranteed contract. There are no negotiations for NBA lottery picks, so the forward will earn approximately $2 million in his first year. The contract will run for four years, with the third and fourth years being team-option based.

After Alexander was selected, he hugged his parents, then hugged WVU head coach Bob Huggins, who has called the Mt. Airy, Md. Native one of the hardest working players he has ever coached. Alexander's selection was thought to be a near lock through Wednesday, when Milwaukee dealt forwards Bobby Simmons and Yi Jianlian to New Jersey for same-position player Richard Jefferson, Alexander's ability to speak mandarin Chinese, thus serving as a communicator for Yi, suddenly wasn't needed. But that wasn't enough to sway a team that won just 26 games last year.

"What I did was just go out and work everyday as hard as I could," Alexander told ESPN after being drafted. "It's what I thought about every day – being here. I am going to bring toughness, someone who is committed to the game and wants to win. I can't wait to get there."

Alexander was the fourth forward taken after Kansas State's Michael Beasley (second) UCLA's Kevin Love (fifth) and Armani Jeans Milan's Danilo Gallinari (sixth). The eighth selection in 2007 earned $1.9 million the first year and will make $2 million this year, according to the NBA's rookie salary cap. The Bucks have just three other pure forwards on the roster, and new head coach Scott Skiles made sure to get another with his team's initial pick.

"We are very supportive of Joe's decision," said Huggins. "Joe went through the process in a systematic and professional manner by exploring the situation and leaving open his option to come back. I've said all along that Joe has 100 percent support from the Mountaineer basketball family."

The 6-8, 230-pounder projects as a small forward, but must improve defensively to man that slot. Arguably the best pure athlete in the draft, Alexander put on an impressive display over the last two months as his stock continued to rise from the mid-first round to as high as 13 or 14 weeks ago. Two seperate workouts with Milwaukee helped vault that even further into the single digits. The line on him is that he must improve laterally on defense and could use a better three-point shot, but is able to "create mismatches both inside and outside with his blend of athleticism, length and shooting touch. He reads defenses well and exhibits a good knowledge of the game."

Alexander is Huggins 14th draft pick, though the coach did recruit second pick Michael Beasley to Kansas State before leaving for West Virginia. The first of 13 Huggins' picks were from Cincinnati.


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