Basketball: Nikola Vucevic goes 16th overall to Philadelphia


Former USC forward Nikola Vucevic has been selected 16th overall in the 2011 NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, becoming the fifth ex-Trojan selected in the first round in the last five years.

Vucevic, a 7-foot, 260-pound two-year starter for the Trojans, worked out in Philadelphia on June 8 and reportedly impressed the team's brass on and off the court with his work ethic, basketball IQ and inside-outside versatility.

“They say they need size and presence inside,” he told the Philadelphia Inquirer after his 76ers workout. “They say they have interest in me so I was just coming here and trying to show what I can do and help this team. We had a good meeting, twice. So it’s been good.”

Vucevic, 20, averaged 17.1 points and 10.3 rebounds for USC in 2010-2011 in leading the Trojans to the NCAA tournament. He declared for the draft nine days after USC's season ended in March and was thought of then as a potential second-round selection, but he shot up draft boards as the top-performing player at the NBA draft combine in Chicago last month.

In the days leading up to the draft, he was talked about as a potential late-lottery pick, but the earliest-drafting team to show serious interest was the Houston Rockets at No. 14. The Rockets took Kansas' Marcus Morris, who Vucevic outplayed in a December matchup at Allen Fieldhouse.

Vucevic is the eighth-highest selected player in USC history and fifth first-rounder of the last five years, following DeMar DeRozan (10th) and Taj Gibson (26th) in 2009, O.J. Mayo (3rd) in 2008) and Nick Young (16th) in 2007.