NEWARK, N.J. -- No one-and-done for Kentucky’s kids in the NBA draft. The Wildcats instead became the first school to go 1-2.
After the New Orleans Hornets selected Kentucky forward Anthony Davis with the No. 1 pick Thursday, Charlotte followed by taking fellow freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
The Wildcats are the first school to have the top two picks, part of what they hoped would be perhaps five or even six players selected in the first round. John Calipari has been criticized for recruiting "one-and-done" players -- they stay the required one year and leave -- but he looked thrilled hugging his two stars.
"It’s crazy," Davis said. "Michael is a great player. We have two down and four more to go. Hopefully all of them will go in the first round."
It’s been a long time since a school made such an impact at the top of the draft.
UCLA had the Nos. 1 and 3 picks in 1969, when Milwaukee took Kareem Abdul-Jabbar -- then Lew Alcindor -- and Lucius Allen went third to the Seattle SuperSonics.
Davis will begin his pro career in the same city where he ended it with a national title. College basketball’s player of the year as a freshman was the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four despite shooting just 1 for 10 from the field in the championship game, grabbing 16 rebounds and blocking six shots in the victory over Kansas.
Davis slipped on a blue and purple Hornets hat above a conservative
The 6-foot-10 Davis averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 blocks, becoming a dominant defender after growing 7 inches from the start of his junior year of high school.
A season after the Hornets traded longtime star Chris Paul, Davis is ready to be their centerpiece, since playing for the Wildcats means he’s already accustomed to plenty of attention.
"Like I said, at Kentucky we had it all the time, especially the six who played, we had the spotlight all the time," Davis said. "I think it really prepared me."
Charlotte, coming off a 7-59 season and the worst winning percentage in NBA history, had been open to moving the No. 2 pick if it found the right deal. Instead, Michael Jordan’s team went with Kidd-Gilchrist, whose selection by the Bobcats was loudly cheered, a sharp contrast from the boos Commissioner David Stern received when coming out to announce the picks.
The new Charlotte swingman played in high school at nearby St. Patrick’s in Elizabeth, N.J., and fans chanted "MKG! MKG!" as he walked off the stage. Though he and Davis talked before the draft, they didn’t discuss the history the Wildcats were about to make.
"No. I was shocked at first," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "I was shocked. But no, we didn’t. We didn’t at all."
Houston took Jeremy Lamb of Connecticut at No. 12 with its first of three top-20 picks. But the Rockets, who also had the Nos. 16 and 18 picks, were hoping not to use all of them, instead packaging them for an established player after their pursuit of the Lakers’ Pau Gasol fell through last year.
Jared Sullinger, once considered a top-10 pick, ended up in a draft free-fall over concerns with his back but was finally taken at No. 21 by Boston. The Celtics followed with Fab Melo of Syracuse, giving them two potential replacements if Kevin Garnett doesn’t return.