The wait was long for Nick Young, happily a little longer for Arron Afflalo and painfully the longest for Gabe Pruitt on Thursday night at the NBA draft in New York.
Afflalo, the All-American guard from UCLA, and USC's guard duo of Young and Pruitt all decided to leave college after their junior seasons to make money playing basketball.
For Young and Afflalo, the decision paid off.
Young was the No. 16 pick in the first round by the Washington Wizards and Afflalo was chosen by Eastern Conference finalist Detroit as the No. 27 pick in the first round. For Young and Afflalo, that means three-year guaranteed contracts and paychecks.
Pruitt wasn't chosen until the second round by the Boston Celtics and will find himself in a spot where nothing is promised but where he can't shop himself freely to teams that might more suit his talents.
"It was a big relief," Pruitt said of hearing his name called.
Young will join another Los Angeles guard, Gilbert Arenas, on the Wizards.
"It was nerve-racking," Young said. Young said he had been given indications that New Orleans, drafting 13th, was interested, but the Hornets chose Kansas forward Julian Wright instead. The Clippers had the next pick and Young said he was excited. "I was hoping my hometown team would take me," Young said from New York. "I was kind of disappointed when they didn't want me."
Instead the Clippers chose Florida State forward Al Thornton and Young had to keep waiting.
Afflalo said he was surprised when the Pistons chose him.
"The shock definitely came because I hadn't worked out for the team so I wasn't expecting to hear my name at that particular time," Afflalo said.
Pruitt was also surprised.
"I had no clue," he said. "I didn't work out for the Celtics nor was I contacted by them so this is a pretty big shock to me."
There had been conflicting reports of whether Afflalo would get drafted in the first round and by Thursday, Afflalo said, he had quit worrying about where he was drafted.
"I know my work ethic and I know what kind of basketball player I want to be," he said. "When you talk about Detroit Piston basketball the first thing that comes to mind is mental and physical toughness and a desire to get better, and I think those are my strongest qualities."
Afflalo wasn't even the first guard west of Idaho chosen by the Pistons. Eastern Washington guard Rodney Stuckey was chosen by Detroit at No. 15, only the second Eastern Washington player ever drafted.
Spencer Hawes, Washington's freshman 7-foot center, was the first Pacific-10 Conference player selected as the 10th pick by the Sacramento Kings.
Oregon guard Aaron Brooks, the Pac-10's leading scorer, who had been projected by many as a second-round pick, was chosen by Houston in the 26th spot, right before Afflalo. Mater Dei graduate D.J. Strawberry of Maryland, who had tested out as the best athlete at the Orlando pre-draft camp, was the second-to-last player chosen at No. 59 by the Phoenix Suns.
Cal State Fullerton guard Bobby Brown, who averaged 20.2 points, went undrafted.
Young once played on an AAU team coached by Arenas' father. "We have a true connection," Young said, "and when I came to Washington it felt like home. It just so happened that I ended up here."
This was the 11th consecutive year UCLA had a player drafted, the longest active streak by any university.
"I can't think of anybody more deserving than Arron to be a first-round draft pick," UCLA Coach Ben Howland said.
Richard Hamilton is Detroit's starting shooting guard. Starting point guard Chauncey Billups, 30, recently opted out of the final year of his six-year deal with the Pistons and is an unrestricted free agent, though Joe Dumars, Detroit's president of basketball operations, has said he would like to re-sign the All-Star.