College Freshman Are Top Three NBA Picks For the first time ever, the top three NBA draft selections are college freshmen. columnist Peter Schrager will tell us everything that happened.
NPR logo

College Freshman Are Top Three NBA Picks

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
College Freshman Are Top Three NBA Picks

College Freshman Are Top Three NBA Picks

College Freshman Are Top Three NBA Picks

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

For the first time ever, the top three NBA draft selections are college freshmen. columnist Peter Schrager will tell us everything that happened.

(Soundbite of ESPN's 2008 NBA Draft Broadcast)

Mr. STUART SCOTT (Host, "SportsCenter;" Announcer, ESPN's 2008 NBA Draft Broadcast): With the first pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls select...


Oh, it's going to be Michael Jordan.

Mr. SCOTT: The Chicago Bulls select...

PESCA: Oh man, I bet they cloned Michael Jordan!

Mr. SCOTT: The Chicago Bulls select...

PESCA: Why am I not seeing a cloned Michael Jordan pulling on a new Bulls jersey?

Mr. SCOTT: Derrick Rose from the University of Memphis!

(Soundbite of applause)

PESCA: Oh, ah, there, it happens. Here with the breakdown of the non-cloned NBA Draft is the original Peter Schrager. He's a columnist for He was at the draft last night. He's been reporting on it all week. He's been getting to know the players. Hello, Peter.

Mr. PETER SCHRAGER (Columnist, Hey, guys. How are you?



PESCA: So, Rose went first, which wasn't a big surprise at all, except for the fact that I think the Bulls are - I always thought they were set at point guard with Hinrich. Why'd they go with Rose?

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yeah, I mean, Rose is a local guy. He grew up in Chicago, big fan favorite. They weren't sold on Beasley. He's one of those guys that he could be the next great shooting guard-slash-point guard in the NBA.

PESCA: Well...

MARTIN: So, wait. You're telling me that people actually choose people based on their hometown appeal because they actually originated from said city?

Mr. SCHRAGER: Oh yeah. There's a lot of - still to this day, there's a lot of regional alliances...


Mr. SCHRAGER: It is nice. There's a homely feel to that.

PESCA: Yes. I would say, win games and people will like you.

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yeah. I was saying...

PESCA: Hey, the loser grew up right here. Yeah, look how Marbury's working out for the Knicks.

Mr. SCHRAGER: Exactly.

PESCA: Yeah. And so, the first three picks were all guys who were going to be college sophomores.


PESCA: First time that ever happened.


PESCA: Is it because of the NBA rule that you have to go to college?

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yeah. I mean, the NBA installed a rule two years ago where you have to - you don't have to go college...

PESCA: Right.

Mr. SCHRAGER: But you have to be at least 19 years old, and you have to go at least one year after high school playing somewhere something. So there's a controversy right now...

PESCA: Like, playing bass in an Eagle's cover band, would that count?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yeah. I mean, you can do that. I mean, you can play for a Journey cover band and be Steve Perry if you want - that is your prerogative - but you need to take that year after college - or after high school, and find yourself somewhere.

PESCA: Right, and so, because of this, I got the impression that it was a little better than recent drafts, because all the players were known. You know, we got to know them all in college. In fact, a few of them went pretty far in the NCAA tournaments.

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yeah. I mean, if you look at it, you had a guy like Brandon Rush going in the lottery. You had a guy like Derrick Rose, Kevin Love. They were all Final Four players. And you know, America got to know these guys. So, when the draft comes along, usually - or in the past, there's like eight high-school kids that you have never seen or never heard of. And you're like, hm, OK, it sounds great that he's going there. But now, it's guys that we're familiar with. There's players that we've seen both succeed and fail. So, there is a nice touch to that, where there's a little more familiarity with the players.

PESCA: There is a little bit of a restriction-of-trade aspect to this. But I think the teams have better information, because they get to look at the players in college. The fans are, like, oh, we know these guys. And the players, they have to delay earning their millions for a year, but in a lot of cases, it seems like they get skills. Are you in favor of this rule that you have to - that you can't go right from high school to the pros?

Mr. SCHRAGER: It's an interesting story, and I think William Roden in The New York Times on Sunday had an article about a player named Brandon Jennings, who's in high school now, who is going to play a year in Europe, he thinks, instead of going to college. Make a pro salary in Europe, and then into the draft. So he has every right to do that, and that could be a pretty dangerous thing for American basketball if that's a trend.

PESCA: But for the kids, I would say, good, expand your horizons. Pick up another language.

Mr. SCHRAGER: He said, I've been learning - yeah, and he said, I've been learning basketball my whole life. And you know, what's the point of going one year and getting 20 credits and then coming out in the NBA, anyway? I mean, there is a logical point to that except, oh, yeah, stay in school and get an education. That's pretty nice.

PESCA: Yeah. Well, you and me had to do that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: But you know, these guys have a lot of other ways to make money. Tell me about the atmosphere. It takes place in New York City, so are Knick fans kind of dictating the tone?

Mr. SCHRAGER: It's wild! It was nuts last night. And the Knicks fans, usually, are pretty negative against Isaiah Thomas. They'll do a fire - Isaiah Thomas is no longer there, so they had to focus their negative attention on someone. And there was a poor kid named Danilo Gallinari. He was an Italian kid. There was rumor that the Knicks might take him. And it's almost like the Knicks fans are from, like, the Know Nothing Party of, like, the 1800s, where they were just, like, xenophobic. Like, we don't want this Italian guy. Like, we've never seen him.

PESCA: Right. Because no foreigners were ever good or have won a lot of titles.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCHRAGER: Exactly! Like, foreign guy? What does he bring to the....

PESCA: And because New York has no foreigners in it. Yeah, yeah.

Mr. SCHRAGER: Exactly. It's, you know...

PESCA: Especially Italians.

MARTIN: Italians, so exotic and strange!

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCHRAGER: So exotic! This tropical country. So, yeah, there's this player, and you know, every time they showed him on the big screen, the Knicks fans went in an outrage and booed, and malicious things that I'm thinking about, like, what did this guy do wrong? And so Knicks around the clock at six, and who do they draft?

PESCA: Well, let's hear.

(Soundbite of ESPN's 2008 NBA Draft Broadcast)

Mr. SCOTT: With the sixth pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, the New York Knicks select Danilo Gallinari.

(Soundbite of applause)

(Soundbite of booing)

MARTIN: Are they boos?

PESCA: I hear mostly boos and a smattering of applause.

Mr. SCHRAGER: Those are not cheers! Those are not cheers.

MARTIN: Ooh! Poor Danilo.

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yeah. And you should see these fans. I mean, these Knicks fans who might not be any older than 20 years old, head in their hands. You'd think that, like, the world was coming crumbling down because of this poor guy. And this kid, Gallinari, who I spoke with the day before, and he just looked like a deer in headlights, just walking across that stage. Just like, what did I just walk into? And...


PESCA: Now the Knicks coach, D'Antoni, he played in Italy, and he was a teammate of Gallinari's father.

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yes. And they were both very established, great players in the Italian league, and a lot of the fans are not pleased. But the Knicks have a guy named Donnie Walsh now in town who also gave his seal of approval. He's the new general manager. From all - you know, from a media standpoint, from everyone I speak to who knows, you know, foreign basketball and says that this kid's legit. He's the best foreign player in the past two years to come out of the draft. He's going to be fine. But there's something to the psyche in playing in New York, and if you're getting booed every time you're touching the ball, it's hard to succeed.

MARTIN: Ugh. I think that's awful.

PESCA: You know what? His first 20-10 night...

MARTIN: I'm going to root for him.

PESCA: Yeah, right? Cute little kid. Anyway, I could talk about the Knicks all night. Let's talk about the outfits.


PESCA: Jalen Rose, my opinion, set the bar high back in '94.

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yep. Oh, yeah.

PESCA: He wore this crazy fire-engine-red outfit. It seems like since then, everyone is trying to one-up him. Who's the sartorial star of this year's draft?

Mr. SCHRAGER: It's funny. O. J. Mayo showed up to the Wednesday media session, which was something - a couple of media members get to meet the players, and he's dressed in a Brooks Brothers suit looking stylish, looking great. He got earrings in. He shows up Thursday night, and I swear he looked like a middle-school librarian. He had, like, bowling shoes on, I think.

Now, this might have cost him several thousand - I have no idea what fashion is about. I don't do the shows, you know, the fashion shows. But he was wearing beige shoes. He had, like, middle-school librarian glasses on. Like, I wanted to call him Phyllis and talk about the Dewey Decimal. And he looked ridiculous, but stylish at the same point, but it was an absurd outfit, and it blew everyone else out of the water.

PESCA: The last question is the NBA is very strict about their dress code. I feel they give a wrong message. They make these guys - and these guys like to show up in a suit. And they - first thing they do is they stick a baseball cap on their heads...


PESCA: Which is totally inappropriate for a suit.

Mr. SCHRAGER: Yeah. And there's a kid, Robin Lopez, who has this giant, like, this giant, like it's an afro, would be the word, but it's this huge hair.

PESCA: He looks like...

Mr. SCHRAGER: He looks like Sideshow Bob...


(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCHRAGER: Or last night - from "The Simpsons" - or last night, there was a lot of Justin Guarini comments. Now, "American Idol" first season, Love you, Kelly Clarkson.

MARTIN: Oh, yeah, Justin.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCHRAGER: But Robin Lopez has this huge head of hair, and he puts this little ball cap on. And it looks pretty absurd, and that's the photo image I'll remember from the night.

PESCA: With the atmosphere and the analysis, Peter Schrager, columnist for Thank you, Peter.

Mr. SCHRAGER: Thanks, guys.

MARTIN: Thanks, Peter.

Mr. SCHRAGER: Good luck, Rachel.

MARTIN: Thanks.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.