NY-area products headline draft class

NEWARK, N.J. -- In the end, Kyrie Irving only had to travel seven miles to make his dream come true.

Irving, who played his high school basketball at St. Patrick High School in Elizabeth, N.J., before spending one year at Duke University, was the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NBA draft, held at the Prudential Center in nearby Newark.

"Honestly, I'm really holding myself back from really letting all my emotions out," Irving said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime [experience], and it's an honor to be drafted, especially No. 1."

It was widely expected that Irving would be the No. 1 selection by the Cleveland Cavaliers. But the Cavaliers had given Irving no indication that he was their choice prior to the selection being announced by NBA commissioner David Stern.

"When David Stern came up there and said that the Cleveland Cavaliers have five more minutes on the clock, that felt like the longest five minutes of my life," Irving said.

Irving was one of several New York-area products selected in this year's draft. In fact, as Irving was addressing the media after his selection, the No. 4 pick in the draft was announced -- Tristan Thompson, who played a year and a half of high school basketball at St. Benedict's Prep in Newark, just a few blocks from the Prudential Center.

Irving glanced at one of the TVs in the interview room while he was being asked a question by a reporter, and smiled when he saw who his new teammate was -- the Cavaliers also owned the No. 4 pick in the draft.

"Tristan is a great friend of mine," said Irving, who played against Thompson in high school -- St. Patrick and St. Benedict's are rivals. "I'm really excited ... having somebody alongside you that will go through the rookie ups and downs with you, it will make the transition into the NBA that much easier.

Thompson also sounded very excited about being drafted No. 4 by the Cavaliers and joining Irving. "It's like we are reunited, and Kyrie being from St. Pat's, a little Jersey rivalry, so I'm happy."

Thompson, a 6-foot-9 power forward who played one season at the University of Texas, was picked higher than most draft experts pegged him to be. "I know a lot of people never expected it and neither did myself," Thompson said. "It just shows the wonders that hard work puts in."

Speculation was swirling at the Prudential Center about the fate of former Rice High School and University of Connecticut guard Kemba Walker, who some thought might fall out of the lottery, depending on how the chips fell. But Walker did not have to wait long to hear his name called, either -- the Charlotte Bobcats selected him with the ninth overall pick.

"I'm extremely happy to be going to Charlotte," said Walker, who repeatedly wiped tears from his eyes as he walked on stage to shake hands with the commissioner. "I'm happy to be a New York City kid, being able to live his dream."

Walker, who led UConn to a storybook finish to last season, winning the Big East tournament followed by the national championship, was asked to reflect on what the past few months have been like.

"It's been like a movie," Walker said. "This whole year has been magical, honestly. So many different, crazy things have been happening to me, and you know, I just feel lucky. I feel blessed."

Ten picks later, Tobias Harris -- who is from Dix Hills on Long Island and played one season at the University of Tennessee -- was chosen, also by the Bobcats, but he is headed to the Bucks as part of a three-team trade involving the Sacramento Kings.

"I think it's a great honor to be drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks," Harris said. "I just feel like it's a great fit for me as a player."

Three picks later at No. 22, Kenneth Faried -- a Newark native who led the nation in rebounding last season (14.5 per game) for Morehead State -- became the latest addition of the Denver Nuggets.

"My family being able to watch, and a lot of my family just to basically take a bus ride down to come see me get drafted is a great feeling," Faried said. "It was overwhelming."

Despite the fact that he hails from Newark, Faried was not one of the players invited by the NBA to sit in the so-called "green room" in front of the stage. Instead, Faried was sitting with his family a few rows up from the floor, and had to climb down in order to get his moment on stage with the commissioner.

Faried was asked if he was surprised he didn't receive the invite from the NBA. "It was a little surprise, (I was) a little depressed, but it just made my chip on my shoulder grow a little more," Faried said. "It's just going to make me push myself that much harder to be hopefully invited to the All-Star Game and things like that."

As the second round got under way, some fans in attendance turned their attention to Hofstra guard Charles Jenkins. Jenkins -- Hofstra's all-time leading scorer, and only the third player ever to win the Haggerty Award (given to the New York metropolitan area's best collegiate player) three times -- was not at the Prudential Center, electing instead to watch the draft at a hotel with his family. But he was nonetheless on the minds of many fans in the building, who began chanting his name at 10:55 p.m., not long after the second round began.

Twelve minutes later, those fans got their wish, as Jenkins was announced as the 14th pick in the second round, No. 44 overall, by the Golden State Warriors.

Jenkins' closest competition for the Haggerty Award this past season, St. John's guard Dwight Hardy, was not among the 60 picks on Thursday night. But the first-team All-Big East selection has already had a workout with a team in France. And New Jersey Nets GM Billy King, after watching Hardy work out for his team on Monday, said he thinks Hardy has a chance to at least make an NBA training camp roster.

But with a lockout looming, it could be a long time before any of these players get to participate in the first training camp of their professional careers.