A pair of Ohio natives heard their names called consecutively in the top 10 of the NBA Draft Thursday night, and both Trey Burke and C.J. McCollum are headed west to begin their professional careers.
The wait was longer for a trio of players who played college basketball in Ohio but grew up elsewhere. Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas went at No. 58 to the San Antonio Spurs, while Akron’s Zeke Marshall and Ohio’s D.J. Cooper went undrafted.
Burke, the National Player of the Year last season at Michigan, was selected at No. 9 overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves and later traded to the Utah Jazz. The Columbus native becomes the second Columbus Northland product drafted in the first round in as many years.
His longtime friend, former Ohio State star and current Boston Celtic Jared Sullinger, was with Burke in the draft’s green room.
“I got drafted by the Timberwolves and then I found out I was getting traded to the Utah Jazz,” Burke said. “My mind was pretty much everywhere. I was just ready to figure out where I was going to finally end up. Now that I’m in Utah, I’m definitely thrilled for the opportunity.”
McCollum became the first Lehigh player ever drafted when he went to the Portland Trailblazers at No. 10. Lehigh was the only school that seriously recruited McCollum out of Canton’s GlenOak High School.
McCollum might have led the nation in scoring last winter if he hadn’t broken his foot in early January. He missed the rest of the season but said leading up to the draft that he was healthy and anxious to get started. In Portland, he’ll get to show off his 3-point shooting ability with the help of last year’s Rookie of the Year, point guard Damian Lillard.
“It’s a blessing to be able to play in the NBA,” McCollum said. “It’s even more blessing to be able to play with Rookie of the Year, a guy you can learn from, a guy who has been in similar situations as you. He seemed like he’s where I’m trying to get.”
McCollum said he would take the night to celebrate and reflect upon his journey, but that he was looking forward to moving ahead.
“Tomorrow is back to work, back to business,” he said.
Thomas gave up his final year of eligibility at Ohio State after leading the Big Ten in scoring. His slide down the draft indicates teams saw flaws in his game, but the Spurs get a gifted scorer with an NBA body who should benefit from playing on an established Spurs team that should again rank among the NBA’s best.