The list of University of Arizona men’s basketball student-athletes selected in the NBA Draft grew by two on Thursday night, as former Wildcat stars Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson both had their names called at the Barclays Center.
Gordon became the 19th first-round pick and 12th lottery pick in UA history when the Orlando Magic selected him fourth overall, while Johnson became Arizona’s 67th all-time draft choice when he was taken 42nd overall by the Houston Rockets.
Under the direction of head coach Sean Miller, Arizona has produced five NBA Draft picks in five years, including three first-round selections. Gordon and Johnson combine with 2013 draft picks Solomon Hill (23rd overall) and Grant Jerrett (40th overall) to give the Wildcats four draft picks in the last two years.
The two selections give Arizona 38 NBA Draft choices since 1988, tied for the national lead over that period of time. UA has had at least one player selected in 22 of the last 27 drafts, including 17 first-round selections and 12 lottery picks over that time. With Gordon’s selection in the 2014 lottery, 10 of the Wildcats’ last 12 first-round picks have been lottery selections. Overall, five of UA’s last eight NBA Draft picks have been first-round choices.
Gordon was a force during his lone season in Tucson, earning third-team All-America honors from the Sporting News and being selected as one of six finalists for the Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Year Award after averaging 12.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game for the Wildcats. He was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection and became the seventh UA player to claim Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors.
He set UA freshman records with 303 rebounds – which also ranked 10th on the program’s single-season list – and 38 games started, while ranking second on UA’s freshman charts in minutes played (1,187) and third in field goals (189).
“It’s with great pride that we’re able to congratulate Aaron on being the fourth selection in tonight’s draft by the Orlando Magic,” Miller said. “While his physical talents speak for themselves, the most impressive thing about Aaron is that he’s the ultimate winner. Being as young, smart and resilient as he is, he has as great of an upside as anyone picked in this year’s draft. Where he’ll be three to five years from now is going to be a much different place than he is today because of his work ethic, discipline and drive to be the best.”
A finalist for all three major National Player of the Year awards and a first-team All-American by nearly every major organization in 2013-14, Johnson was the Pac-12 Player of the Year and a member of the league’s All-Defensive Team as a junior. He was also honored as the United States Basketball Writers’ Association District IX Player of the Year.
He averaged a team-high 16.3 points per game in 2013-14, and finished his UA career with averages of 12.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 108 games. His 1,333-career points in an Arizona uniform rank 24th on the program’s all-time chart.
“I want to congratulate Nick on being selected by the Houston Rockets in tonight’s draft,” Miller said. “Nick is far from being a finished product. He has tremendous upside and an incredible work ethic. Nick is the ultimate team player, and when he’s given a role in the Rockets organization, he’s going to fulfill that role through hard work and a willingness to be coached. In my mind, he’s going to be a very good NBA player.”
Gordon and Johnson are the 13th and 14th Arizona underclassmen, respectively, to enter the draft early and be selected since 1991, joining Brian Williams (1991), Mike Bibby (1998), Gilbert Arenas (2001), Richard Jefferson (2001), Michael Wright (2001), Andre Iguodala (2004), Marcus Williams (2007), Jerryd Bayless (2008), Chase Budinger (2009), Jordan Hill (2009), Derrick Williams (2011) and Grant Jerrett (2013).