Four hours and 36 minutes after the 2011 NBA draft began Thursday, deputy commissioner Adam Silver stepped on stage at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., to announce the final pick.
“The Sacramento Kings select Isaiah Thomas,” he said.
With those six simple words, it seemed as if a weight was lifted off the Washington Husky faithful hoping the team’s dynamic and diminutive star of the past three years would deliver one more dramatic comeback as he makes the transition from college to the NBA.
Perhaps fittingly, it was an appropriate ending to a college career filled with several dramatic moments, including a last-second jumper to win the 2011 Pac-10 Tournament championship. It was also a suspenseful and humbling start to a NBA career many believed would never happen.
Thomas left Washington with a year of eligibility remaining and for awhile it appeared as if he would not be selected. A few factors worked against the 5 foot 9 point guard.
In a draft that included 16 international players, several came off the board late in the second round, which suggested teams were interested in drafting players they could stash overseas.
Thomas was on the wrong side of another trend as 10 point guards were taken ahead of him. He was projected as a good fit for the Washington Wizards and Los Angeles Lakers, which took point guards in the second round.
When Boston used the No. 55 pick on shooting guard E’Twaun Moore and the next four teams selected longshot international prospects who are short on meaningful playing experience, it seemed Thomas would become an undrafted free agent.
But with the final pick, Sacramento selected the 5 foot 9 point guard who joins high-scoring guard BYU guard Jimmer Fredette (10th overall pick) and UCLA forward Tyler Honeycutt (35th pick) to comprise the Kings’ rookie class.
“I’m excited for him that he got drafted,” coach Lorenzo Romar said in a statement released by Washington. “With there only being two rounds and 60 players chosen, I’m glad that he was one of them. I know he would have like to have gotten drafter higher, but he is a part of this draft. So, I’m happy for him.”
On the Kings website, the team all of the hoopla surrounds Fredette, the consensus Player of the Year. You have to go way back to Thomas’ June 4 workout in Sacramento to spot where his relationship with the Kings began.
“He had good workouts with them, so I know they were impressed with him,” Romar said. “With Tyreeke Evans, Jimmer Fredette and Pooh Jeter there…in Isaiah’s case I know he’s going to make the best of whatever situation he is in.”
Not sure if earning the distinction as the NBA version of Mr. Irrelevant will vindicate Thomas’ decision to forgo the final year of eligibility. Still, he believed he was worthy of being taken in the draft and to that end, he proved critics wrong.
He understood better than anyone that he wasn’t going to grow any taller and no matter how many points he scored or how many games he won, there would still remain reservations among NBA decision-makers about his height.
During his UW career, Thomas was the 2009 Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, a two-time first team All-Pac-10 selection (2011 & 2010) and a second-team all-conference selection in 2009.
He ranks sixth among UW’s all-time leaders in points (1,721), third in assists (415) and eighth in steals (122).
Thomas is the seventh UW product to be drafted since 2005 and the third taken with a pick that involved the Kings. Sacramento used the 10th overall pick on Spencer Hawes in 2007 and traded with Portland to acquire the draft rights to Jon Brockman in 2009.
Matthew Bryan-Amaning and Justin Holiday , who recently graduated from UW, were not selected.
“Yeah. you’re pulling for them and we were anxious. I’m sure those guys will get invited to go somewhere,” Romar said. “I know with the pending lockout it is a different situation. But for Isaiah, he did get drafted so I’m excited for him.”
Thomas was one of six Pac-10 players taken in the draft. The others include: Arizona’s Derrick Williams (Minnesota, No. 2), Washington State’s Klay Thompson (Golden State, No. 11), USC’s Nikola Vucevic (Philadelphia, No. 16) UCLA’s Tyler Honeycutt (Sacramento, No. 35) and Bruins Malcolm Lee (Chicago, No. 42).
Washington State’s DeAngelo Casto and Stanford’s Jeremy Green who left school a year early were undrafted.