NEW YORK: Teen big man Karl-Anthony Towns was chosen by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the first pick in Thursday’s (Friday in Manila) NBA Draft, while Satnam Singh Bhamara made history as the first India-born selection.
Towns averaged 10.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots a game last season for a University of Kentucky squad that went unbeaten until losing to Wisconsin in the national college tournament semifinals.
“This is what you live for,” Towns said. “I’m going to go in right away and be as versatile as I can be. I’m coming with a winning attitude. I’m not coming to look for individual success. I’m coming to look for team success.”
The Timberwolves, who won last month’s NBA Draft Lottery to claim the top overall pick, have not reached the playoffs since 2004.
Bhamara, a 19-year-old center from a small Punjab village, went 52nd overall to the Dallas Mavericks, the same NBA club that in 2001 made Wang Zhizhi the first Chinese player in an NBA game.
Bhamara, a 7-foot-2 (2.18m) big man, became the first player in a decade taken after not playing for a US college or overseas pro team, instead playing for the IMG Academy squad.
India’s big NBA hope
Likely bound for a developmental team to hone his skills, he follows in the footsteps of Canadian-born Sim Bhullar, who became the NBA’s first player of Indian descent after playing for the Sacramento Kings last April.
Bhamara could open the door to the NBA into cricket-loving India much the way Yao Ming did for the league in China.
“I think I can open the door for everyone to come here and play so it’s good for India and all the players, it is good for me and my country,” Bhamara told the Washington Post after a workout with the Washington Wizards earlier this year.
The Los Angeles Lakers landed Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell with the second pick while center Jahlil Okafor was taken third by the Philadelphia 76ers.
“It’s a surreal moment,” Russell said.
Latvian power forward Kristaps Porzingis, who played for Sevilla last season, was selected fourth overall by the New York Knicks, whose host-city fans booed loudly when the choice was announced after already enduring a 17-65 season.
Porzingis became only the second player from his homeland to be taken in the draft and could become only the third Latvian to play in the NBA.