Thursday, June 23, 2011
Basketball: Nikola Vucevic goes 16th overall to Philadelphia
By Pedro Moura
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.