Former Gonzaga Bulldog Domantas Sabonis became the second highest draft pick in program history when the Orlando Magic made the talented forward the 11th pick in Thursday’s NBA draft.
Sabonis embraced family members, including Hall of Fame father Arvydas Sabonis, and Gonzaga coach Mark Few in the green room before posing for pictures with commissioner Adam Silver on stage at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Sabonis wasn’t with the Magic for long. Minutes after his selection was announced, Sabonis, Victor Oladipo and Ersan Ilyasova were traded to Oklahoma City for Serge Ibaka as part of a deal that included Serge Ibaka going to Orlando.
Sabonis is second highest on GU’s draft list behind Adam Morrison, taken third by Charlotte in 2006. Gonzaga has produced six first-round picks: Sabonis, Kelly Olynyk (13th in 2013), Austin Daye (15th in 2009), Morrison, Dan Dickau (28th in 2002) and John Stockton (16th in 1984).
Sabonis joins Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Mitch McGary and Ersan Ilyasova – also acquired from Orlando –in Oklahoma City’s frontcourt on a roster that features Russell Westbrook and impending free agent Kevin Durant.
The 6-foot-11 power forward from Gonzaga averaged 17.6 points and 11.8 rebounds last season.
“They’re a very good team,” Sabonis said in an interview with ESPN. “I’m just excited to go there and can’t wait to get there.”
Oklahoma City’s top concern, aside from re-signing Durant, has been strengthening its shooting guard position, a weakness since trading James Harden to Houston in 2012. Oladipo fills Oklahoma City’s need for a two-way shooting guard. He averaged 16 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.9 assists last season.
The 6-foot-10 Sabonis declared for the draft after averaging 17.6 points and 11.8 rebounds as a sophomore.
Asked about comparisons to his father, Sabonis said, “I’m trying to make my new image. I just use it as motivation. I’m proud of my father. He’s the best that ever was. He’s my idol.”
The elder Sabonis spoke highly of his 20-year-old son’s maturity.
“He’s a good guy,” Arvydas said. “He knows what he needs to do. He’s very professional. I wish for him all the best and health, most importantly.”
Gonzaga’s Few and Thunder coach Billy Donovan are good friends. Donovan was the head coach and Few an assistant for a USA Basketball squad that won a gold medal at the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 championship.
Gonzaga senior forward Kyle Wiltjer was not drafted but signed a free-agent contract with the Houston Rockets.
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