By Jerry Tipton McClatchy Newspapers
NEW YORK — Kentucky made NBA Draft history Thursday night when the Orlando Magic picked Daniel Orton with the 29th selection of the first round. That enabled UK to become the first college team to boast five first-round picks in an NBA Draft.
But long before Orton got selected with the next-to-last pick of the first round, another agonizing wait had unfolded.
After John Wall made individual history by becoming the first UK player chosen with an NBA draft’s first overall pick, and after DeMarcus Cousins went to Sacramento with the fifth pick, Patrick Patterson learned what Tom Petty meant when the rocker sang about the waiting being the hardest part.
“Nervous” was how Patterson said waiting for his name to be called made him feel. “Shaking inside.”
The wait ended with the 14th pick of the first round when the Houston Rockets took Patterson. By then, the former Kentucky player was losing patience, not necessarily with NBA teams but with his father Buster.
Every time Commissioner David Stern approached the lectern at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden, Buster told his son this would be his future basketball home.
“That’s where you’re going,” his father would say. “Are you ready?”
Then team after team picked someone else.
“I was getting mad,” Patterson said. “It’s aggravating. I was thinking, ‘Man, you’re jinxing me.”’
When asked whether he fretted about being that last lonely player left waiting for his name to be called, Patterson said, “I wasn’t worried about that. I just wanted a hat.”
After Stern announced Houston’s pick, Patterson put on a red Rockets cap. Buster put on his own red Rockets cap, twice doffing it to the crowd as his son approached the stage.
“I had a good feeling they liked me,” Patterson said of the Rockets. “From the feedback I got. They talked about how well I did things.”
No college ever did as well as UK did in this NBA draft. With Eric Bledsoe going to Oklahoma City with the 18th pick (his rights were reportedly traded to the Los Angeles Clippers), the Wildcats eclipsed the previous record of four first-rounders shared by North Carolina in 2005, Duke in 1999 and Connecticut in 2006.
Patterson, who wore a light gray suit, white shirt and solid gray tie, voiced contentment with Houston as his future home.
“I’m hearing it’s the fourth-largest city,” he said. “As far as night life, I’ve heard it’s a good city.
“And the basketball team’s well-established. It’s playoff-caliber team.”
Cousins sounded happy, too, even though he went to Sacramento with the fifth pick after proclaiming himself the second-best player in the draft earlier in the week.
“If somebody is considered better than me, I’m going to try to go out and (prove them wrong),” he said.
Cousins, who wore a gray suit and noted that his purplish striped shirt and tie matched the Kings’ color, had worked out for NBA teams with another freshman big man, Derrick Favors of Georgia Tech.
Favors being picked by the New Jersey Nets with the draft’s third selection marked a minor defeat for Cousins. The UK big man had said he should be drafted ahead of Favors. “I’m the better player,” he said on Wednesday. “Hands down.
“I’m the best player in the draft. It’s that simple.”
Although it didn’t turn out that way, Cousins declared himself “truly blessed.”
He set lofty goals for himself and the Kings.
“Hopefully build some good chemistry and bring a championship back to the building for the Kings,” he said of his goals for next season. “… Help my team win some games, get to the playoffs, go for the championship and my own personal goal is to win Rookie of the Year.”
Cousins dismissed the pre-draft talk of teams having concerns about his level of conditioning or his attitude.
“I just want a team that I can be myself and, hopefully, go out and play some good ball,” he said. “And I believe that perception will be out the door.”
If that scenario unfolds, Cousins’ disposition will be as sunny as he found the Sacramento weather when he worked out for the Kings.
“First thing I like about the city is the weather,” Cousins said. “It was like I was in a movie. Perfect weather.”