6-26-08 -- Derrick Rose is going home, and a record crowd of freshmen are following him to the NBA.
The Chicago Bulls selected Rose, who grew up on the city’s South Side, with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft Thursday night, choosing the Memphis guard over Kansas State forward Michael Beasley.
With Beasley going second to Miami and Minnesota picking O.J. Mayo at No. 3, college freshmen made up the first three picks for the first time in draft history.
“We actually talked about this earlier,” Beasley said. “We all grew up together and we all grew up playing against each other and we all made a pact together that we would all be here. Just to see it all fall into place and see it all happen is kind of crazy.”
Five of the first seven players selected were freshmen, also an NBA record. It was also a big night for the Pac-10 Conference, which had five of the first 11 picks.
Rose led the Tigers to the national championship game in his lone college season. The Bulls opted for the point guard’s playmaking ability over the scoring and rebounding of Beasley, who ranked in the top three in the nation in both categories.
“We talked so much about it. We really did,” Bulls general manager John Paxson said. “Very honestly, at the end when we made our decision, it was unanimous with my scouts and coaches and myself. This was the direction we wanted to go in the end, and it has nothing to do with the talent of Michael Beasley. This had everything to do with the direction we felt was right for us.”
Rose is the Bulls’ first No. 1 overall selection since they grabbed Elton Brand in 1999. He’s the second straight freshman taken with the top pick, following Portland’s Greg Oden last year.
The 6-foot-3 guard put on a red Bulls cap, hugged some supporters, including Memphis coach John Calipari, and shook hands with Beasley, seated at a nearby table, before walking onto the stage to meet NBA commissioner David Stern.
“I was a little nervous when they came back out, but I always had that in mind that I want to be No. 1,” Rose said. “So it was great hearing my name and being the No. 1 pick.”
Rose should be an upgrade over Kirk Hinrich, who now could be traded, and gives the Bulls another option if they don’t re-sign guard Ben Gordon.
Expected to contend for a division title, the Bulls instead stumbled to a 33-49 record and eventually replaced two coaches. But with just a 1.7 percent chance, they won last month’s draft lottery, giving them a chance to quickly return to the playoffs.
“It feels great to go in and compete,” Rose said. “I’m just blessed to be in that position right now, because a lot of people aren’t. And just knowing that we are a few pieces away from really contending as a team, it just makes me happy.”
Miami settled for Beasley at No. 2, even though he wasn’t sure if the Heat would go for Mayo instead. Beasley averaged 26.2 points, third in the nation, and topped Division I with 12.4 rebounds per game. But with questions about his size—he may be 2 inches shorter than the 6-foot-10 he’s listed at—the Bulls may not have believed he could play the 4 spot in the NBA.
After Mayo’s selection, UCLA guard Russell Westbrook was the first non-freshmen taken, going fourth to the Seattle SuperSonics—with new teammate and reigning Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant standing and applauding the pick from the back.
Kevin Love gave UCLA consecutive picks, going to Memphis at No. 5. The New York Knicks followed with Italian forward Danilo Gallinari, whose father played with new coach Mike D’Antoni overseas. Fans in Madison Square Garden weren’t impressed, booing loudly.
“It’s part of the game, all the players have got to hear this,” Gallinari said. “Not every time can you hear good things. It’s normal.”
Indiana guard Eric Gordon became the fifth freshman taken, going to the Los Angeles Clippers at No. 7. West Virginia’s Joe Alexander, whose stock began to rise after a strong run at Madison Square Garden in the Big East tournament, went to Milwaukee with the next pick.
Charlotte gave new coach Larry Brown a point guard, taking D.J. Augustin of Texas with the ninth pick. New Jersey took Stanford center Brook Lopez at No. 10, and Arizona’s Jerryd Bayless joined fellow Pac-10 guards Mayo and Westbrook by going 11th to Indiana.
Bayless’ rights were later traded to Portland along with Ike Diogu for the rights to Brandon Rush, the No. 13 pick from national champion Kansas, Jarrett Jack and Josh McRoberts. Rush’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, told The Associated Press about the deal shortly after Rush was taken.
The Pacers also had a proposed trade with the Toronto Raptors. Indiana would send six-time All-Star forward Jermaine O’Neal to Toronto for T.J. Ford, center Rasho Nesterovic, the 17th pick in the draft and a player to be determined.
Sacramento pulled a surprise at No. 12 with Rider forward Jason Thompson, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference player of the year and the first senior taken. Golden State grabbed LSU forward Anthony Randolph—yet another freshman — with the 14th and final lottery pick.
Robin Lopez joined twin brother Brook in the NBA when Phoenix chose him at No. 15. That started a run of big men in which Philadelphia took Florida’s Marreese Speights, Toronto picked Roy Hibbert of Georgetown at No. 17, and Washington drafted Nevada 7-footer JaVale McGee with the 18th pick.
After taking guards earlier, Seattle and Charlotte both went big with their second first-round picks. The Bobcats selected French center Alexis Aninca at No. 20 and the Sonics took Congo’s Serge Ibaka four picks later.
Darrell Arthur of Kansas was the final player in the green room, lasting until the 27th spot, where New Orleans grabbed him. The Hornets already agreed to send his rights to Portland for cash.
NBA champion Boston chose J.R. Giddens of New Mexico with the 30th and final pick of the first round.
Mario Chalmers, Darnell Jackson (No. 52, Miami) and Sasha Kaun (No. 56, Seattle) were taken in the second round, giving the Jayhawks five players in the draft. Chalmers was picked by Minnesota but his rights were later dealt to Miami.
Joey Dorsey (Portland, No. 33) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (New Jersey, No. 40) of runner-up Memphis also were picked. Texas A&M center DeAndre Jordan, considered a possible lottery pick, tumbled to the Clippers at No. 35.
Other well-known names going late in the draft included: UCLA’s Luc Mbah a Moute (No. 37, Milwaukee); Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing Jr. (No. 43, Sacramento); Kansas State’s Bill Walker (No. 47, Washington, rights traded to Boston); and Kentucky’s Joe Crawford (No. 58, Lakers).