With the 19th pick in the 2012 NBA draft, the Orlando Magic selected Andrew Nicholson from St. Bonaventure University.
So began the international portion of the league’s annual player selection, with Nicholson the first of 15 foreign-born players from 10 countries chosen Thursday night.
“I’m beyond elated right now. It’s like a dream come true,” Nicholson told the Orlando Sentinel.
OK, so many might not consider Nicholson a foreign-born player, but the 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward was born just outside Toronto, Canada, before playing his college basketball in Allegany, NY.
The first true international player taken was Evan Fournier at number 20 by the Denver Nuggets.
The 19-year-old guard played last season with Poitiers Basket 86 in his native France.
“I’m just trying to show that I can play tough. Be strong,” Fournier told the Denver Post recently.
The Boston Celtics chose Brazil’s Fab Melo at number 22, and the Golden State Warriors’ choice of Festus Ezeli from Nigeria at number 30 ended the first round.
Melo, 22, grew up playing soccer until realizing about five years ago that, at 7-feet tall, basketball might provide a more promising future.
“I thought he struggled some in his first year at Syracuse, and then I thought he improved rapidly this year,” Celtics general manager Ryan McDonough told the Boston Herald.
Canada and Turkey each sent three players to this year’s draft, held at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ.
After Nicholson, the Celtics chose Syracuse forward Kris Joseph, a Montreal native. The LA Lakers selected 7-foot Gonzaga center Robert Sacre from Vancouver with the final pick in the draft.
The Turkish trio went late with Denver, the LA Clippers and Brooklyn taking Izzet Turkyılmaz, Furkan Aldemir and Ilkan Karaman, respectively.
The second round is where NBA general managers take chances on players from further afield.
It’s what pundits call “draft and stash” because foreign players can remain overseas perfecting their games before making the jump into the NBA.
Thursday’s other international selections were Tomas Satoransky (Czech Republic, Washington), Kostas Papanikolaou (Greece, New York), Ognjen Kuzmic (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Golden State) and Tornike Shengelia (Georgia, Philadelphia).
The New Orleans Hornets made Anthony Davis the first selection in the draft; he was the first of six players from KU selected.
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