NEW YORK — The NBA Draft marks a new beginning for so many in and around the National Basketball Association and in around just five hours in Brooklyn last night, 60 men had their dreams realized, including some all too familiar faces.
Four Pac-12 players, Arizona's Stanley Johnson, Utah's Delon Wright, Arizona's Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and UCLA's Kevon Looney were taken in the first round of the draft, followed by three more picks in the second round. The conference's seven picks were the third-most of all NCAA conferences.
Johnson was the first off the board to the Detroit Pistons at No. 8 overall. Johnson took the time to look back on his family's struggles during his childhood
"I remember my mom used to lose meals over letting me eat and not paying certain things to let me play AAU basketball and taking me to the gym," Johnson said. "To be here, to be able to provide for my family and be able to play for a great organization like the Pistons is everything to me."
Aside from basketball, Johnson is excited to work helping the community in Detroit through the NBA Cares initiative and on his own.
"I was raised in the Salvation Army, I was raised in the Boys and Girls Club, I had family who was on skid row before, so that ties deep to me," Johnson said. "I'm going to be active in NBA Cares and I can do Stanley Johnson Cares and go do it myself. I don't need pictures, I can be places by myself and take NBA Cares with me."
Johnson's former teammate was the next former Pac-12 standout in attendance to hear his name called by the Portland Trail Blazers at No. 23 overall. He was traded later that night to the Brooklyn Nets.
Hollis-Jefferson's support group at the draft was a lot bigger than many other draftees since he brought 40 kids who won an essay contest about their life goals and career aspirations from his hometown of Chester, Pennsylvania to the draft.
"I wanted people where I'm from in the Tri-State Area to experience it and see what it's like to be a part of that," Hollis-Jefferson said. "I talked to my family and my people that I'm closest to about bringing up some kids to the draft and let them get that experience and see how it is, and they were all for it."
Former UCLA forward Kevon Looney was the last player invited to the draft to be selected, as he was the final pick in the first round by the Golden State Warriors.
Looney said it was nerve wracking sitting in front of the stage, but in the end he got a great opportunity in Oakland.
"I got a little stiff and sore since I was sitting there a long time," Looney said. "I was sitting there a long time and it was a long wait not knowing what was going to happen. I worked out for a lot of them teams and I did pretty well at the workouts, so you never know what's going to happen, but I got one of the best opportunities to learn from one of the best organizations in the league."
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