Hill, Jerrett continue Arizona basketball's illustrious NBA draft history
Over the years Arizona men’s basketball has earned the nickname Point Guard U. After the selections of senior Solomon Hill and freshman Grant Jerrett last Thursday, the name NBA U might be more appropriate.
The Indiana Pacers selected Hill with the 23rd pick in the first round and the Portland Trail Blazers drafted Jerrett with the 10th pick in the second round. Portland then dealt Jerrett, the 40th overall pick, to the Oklahoma City Thunder for cash.
“I’m very thankful for the opportunity, but I just woke up [Thursday] morning with no expectations and I just wanted to enjoy the day,” Hill said in a telephone press conference after the draft.
Arizona has had 65 players drafted by the pros since 1948. Hill, who was not expected to be a first round draft pick and was not even in some mock drafts, was the 18th first-round pick in Arizona history and the Wildcats’ fourth first-rounder since 2008.
Solomon Hill Introductory Press Conference
“It’s very surprising and it showed the Pacers really like what I can do, they like my ability to play basketball and they like me as a person as well,” Hill said when asked if he was surprised to be a first-rounder. “It just shows that some senior guys can get picked and hard work really pays off.”
Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard said in the post-draft press conference he didn’t think Hill would be available much longer after Indiana’s 23rd pick.
“We had multiple, multiple calls immediately trying to trade for the kid, so I think that answered that question,” Pritchard said. “You can’t get caught up in the mock drafts, there’s the mock draft and then there’s reality.”
Arizona has had 36 players drafted since 1988, tied for the best during that span with Duke and Kentucky. Kansas is fourth with 33 since 1988, followed by North Carolina and UCLA with 31.
Hill was the second member of head coach Sean Miller’s first Arizona recruiting class to be drafted in the first round, joining Derrick Williams, the second overall pick in 2011.
“Sean just kept saying ‘He’s a winner, he’s an absolute winner’ and that’s how we felt about it,” Pritchard said. “We felt he’ll fit our culture perfectly that way.”
Pritchard said he liked that Hill “recreated” himself at Arizona, playing in the frontcourt and backcourt as the team needed.
“My job will basically be to play defense; play defense and spread the floor,” Hill said. “Being a part of this franchise is really big, it’s a lot of respect.”
Arizona has had multiple players drafted by the NBA 16 times with the most recent in 2009 when the New York Knicks picked Jordan Hill with the eighth selected and the Detroit Pistons drafted Chase Budinger 44th overall.
In 2001, four former UA players were drafted — Richard Jefferson (13th), Gilbert Arenas (31st), Michael Wright (39th) and Loren Woods (46th). Robertas Javtokas (56th) was also drafted in 2001, but he only played eight games at Arizona before he returned to Lithuania.
Pacers team president and Hall of Fame forward Larry Bird said the former Wildcat will be a “great fit” in Indiana during Hill’s introductory press conference Monday.
“I’m very happy to have Solomon be a part of our team,” Bird said.
While Hill’s college experience helped push him up the draft board to Indiana, Jerrett’s potential helped boost his stock as well. The one-and-done Jerrett has company too, as Arizona has had 12 underclassmen enter the draft before him. Ten of the 12 players lasted at least a few seasons in the NBA, with Wright and Marcus Williams, a member of the 2007 draft class, being the exceptions.
There were three former UA students selected in the 2013 draft, with the Trail Blazers picking two in a row — Kansas senior center Jeff Withey 39th and then Jerrett. Withey attended Arizona for a semester, but transferred before playing.
It’s also never too early to look ahead and the UA is expected to continue producing more draft picks next year.
“Draft Express” has incoming freshman forward Aaron Gordon as No. 3 pick in its 2014 mock draft. In its mock draft for next year, nbadraft.net has Arizona sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski going No. 14 to the Utah Jazz.
By the numbers:
— At least one Wildcat player has been selected in 21 of the last 25 NBA Drafts, including 16 first-round selections and 11 lottery picks. In fact, nine of Arizona’s last 11 first round selections were lottery picks. ESPN ranked Arizona No. 6 in its list of NBA talent producing schools.
— According to the UA, former Wildcats will have earned over $960 million by next season. Arizona players have won 13 NBA championships and made six All-Star games.
“Don’t know if I have ever been happier as a coach than when I saw Solomon become a first round pick in the NBA! #HonoredTheProcess @nba.” — Sean Miller tweeted