Kentucky’s Enes Kanter and Brandon Knight were selected No. 3 and No. 8 overall Thursday night in the first round of the NBA Draft.
Kanter, a 6-foot-11 forward/center, was selected by the Utah Jazz. The native of Turkey did not play his freshman season at UK due to his high-profile NCAA eligibility case, but was considered one of the top international players prior to signing with the Wildcats last year.
“I’m so happy. I’m so excited,” Kanter said. “I know the Utah Jazz fans are crazy, and I love them… I felt great because it’s the Utah Jazz. I have family there. Like Mehmet Okur plays there, too, so it’s kind of like my family. So I was very happy.”
Meanwhile, Knight went to the Detroit Pistons where he could possibly be teamed with former UK All-American Tayshawn Prince. The 6-3 point guard averaged 17.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.2 assists as a freshman in helping lead the Cats to the Final Four.
The second round also saw two Cats selected as senior center Josh Harrellson was taken at No. 45 overall by the New Orleans Hornets, and junior guard DeAndre Liggins went No. 53 to the Orlando Magic. (The rights to Harrellson were later traded to the New York Knicks.)
Harrellson averaged 7.6 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, but elevated his stock even higher with a strong showing in the NCAA Tournament that included two double-doubles, including a 17-point, 10-rebound effort against No. 1-ranked Ohio State and the Buckeyes’ All-American big man Jared Sullinger.
Liggins averaged 8.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game while earning a reputation as one of the nation’s best defensive players.
The four players selected from UK brought the Wildcats’ total to nine during the last two years. Kentucky made history in 2010 when five players — John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton — were all selected in the first round.
* The last time the Wildcats had multiple players selected in the first round of the draft in back-to-back years was in 1996 (Antoine Walker – 1st Rd., 6th overall, Boston; Tony Delk – 1st Rd., 16th overall, Charlotte; Walter McCarty – 1st Rd., 19th overall, New York) and 1997 (Ron Mercer – 1st Rd., 6th overall, Boston; Derek Anderson – 1st Rd., 13th overall, Cleveland).
* Josh Harrellson was the 100th Wildcat to be taken in the NBA Draft. The Wildcats have had 101 players drafted by the NBA since the draft began in 1947.
* 27 Wildcats have been selected in the first round.
* Enes Kanter is the third Wildcat drafted by the Utah Jazz franchise. The last was Scott Padgett in the 1999 draft (1st Rd., 28th overall).
* Brandon Knight is the sixth Wildcat drafted by the Detroit Pistons franchise. The last was Tayshaun Prince in the 2002 draft (1st Rd., 23rd overall).
* Josh Harrellson is the fourth Wildcat drafted by the New Orleans Hornets franchise. The last was Jamaal Magloire by the Charlotte Hornets in the 2000 draft (1st, 19th overall).
* DeAndre Liggins is the third Wildcat to be drafted by the Orlando Magic franchise. The last was Daniel Orton in the 2010 draft.