Canada's Bennedict Mathurin, Shaedon Sharpe go back-to-back in top 10 of NBA draft
Raptors draft centre Christian Koloko 33rd overall
Canadians Bennedict Mathurin and Shaedon Sharpe were selected back-to-back in the first round of Thursday's NBA draft.
Mathurin, a 20-year-old from Montreal, was selected sixth by the Indiana Pacers.
Moments later, the Portland Trail Blazers took Sharpe, a 19-year-old from London, Ont., at No. 7.
It's only the second time in history that two Canadians have gone in the top 10 in the NBA draft. In 2014, Andrew Wiggins was taken first overall by Cleveland, and Sacramento took Nik Stauskas with the No. 8 pick.
Mathurin and Sharpe took very different paths to the draft.
Mathurin, a 6-6 guard, became the first Canadian to attend the NBA Academy in Mexico City from 2018-20. He then played two seasons at the University of Arizona, winning the Pac-12 Tournament's most outstanding player honours, and averaging 17.4 points and 5.6 rebounds a game this year.
He scored 30 points in a big game in the second round of March Madness, helping Arizona beat Texas Christian University in overtime.
WATCH | Mathurin, Sharpe go back-to-back picks:
Broadcasters compared Mathurin's game to the Toronto Raptors' OG Anunoby.
Sharpe hasn't played a significant five-on-five game since last fall.
He joined the Kentucky Wildcats in January, but never played a game, and then raised eyebrows when he declared for this year's draft.
Two more Canadians went back to back in the second round. Gonzaga guard Andrew Nembhard is headed to the Indiana Pacers at No. 31, while Caleb Houstan was selected at No. 32 by Orlando.
Canada has had 37 players chosen since the draft went to two rounds in 1989, the second most of any country behind the U.S.
Raptors draft Koloko
The Toronto Raptors selected Arizona center Christian Koloko with the 33rd overall pick in the NBA draft on Thursday night.
"Good shot blocker, really good defensive numbers," Raptors coach NIck Nurse said of Koloko. "Ranks really highly in all of college basketball last year in a lot of categories. Pretty decent pick and roll player, and he's got good feet."
The 7-foot-1 Koloko played three seasons with the Wildcats, averaging career bests of 12.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in 37 games as a junior.
"I did talk to him and he's super, super excited to be here," Nurse said. "Like, really, really happy that we selected him."
Koloko, 22, is from Douala, Cameroon, the same birth city as Raptors All-Star forward Pascal Siakam.
"I'm sure it'll be interesting to see those guys together," Nurse said.
Welcome to the family, <a href="https://twitter.com/kolokojunior1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@kolokojunior1</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WeTheNorth?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WeTheNorth</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NBADraft?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NBADraft</a> <a href="https://t.co/jRYKzRQaUg">pic.twitter.com/jRYKzRQaUg</a>—@Raptors
Raptors president Masai Ujiri and forward Precious Achiuwa are from neighbouring Nigeria.
The 2019 champions, Toronto, returned to the playoffs this season after a one-year absence, but fell behind 3-0 in the first round before losing a six-game series to Philadelphia.
Despite being loaded with long, athletic players, the Raptors didn't have anyone on their roster taller than 6-foot-9, which made the already difficult task of defending 76ers centre Joel Embiid an even tougher challenge come playoff time.
"He certainly kind of slots in, possibly, into a position of need, and roster balance, too," Nurse said of Koloko. "Pretty exciting pick, I think, for that one tonight."
Koloko was the 2021-22 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Most Improved Player, and an all-conference first-team selection. He led the conference and ranked 14th in the NCAA with 2.76 blocks per game, and tied an Arizona single-season record with 102 blocks.
Koloko was also one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Toronto's pick, which originally belonged to Detroit, was acquired from San Antonio along with forward Thaddeus Young in exchange for guard Goran Dragic and Toronto's first-round pick, 20th overall.
Last year, the Raptors picked Florida State forward Scottie Barnes with the fourth overall pick. Barnes went on to be named NBA Rookie of the Year, joining Vince Carter and Damon Stoudamire as Toronto players to win top rookie honors.
The Raptors drafted 33rd for the first time in team history.
Magic take Banchero 1st, Holmgren, Smith follow
The Orlando Magic selected Duke freshman Paolo Banchero on Thursday night with the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
After leading the Blue Devils to the Final Four in coach Mike Krzyzewski's final season, the 6-foot-10 forward was called first by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to begin the draft, beating out fellow first-year forwards Jabari Smith Jr. and Chet Holmgren.
Banchero, wearing a purple suit full of bling, received a loud ovation inside Barclays Center, where Duke lost in the ACC Tournament final.
The Magic were picking first for the fourth time and they've done well with their previous choices. They took Shaquille O'Neal in 1992, traded the rights to Chris Webber for Penny Hardaway the next year, and went with Dwight Howard in 2004.
All eventually reached the NBA Finals with the Magic.
Holmgren went second to the Oklahoma City Thunder after the 7-footer led the West Coast Conference in blocked shots, rebounding and shooting percentage at Gonzaga. He looked sharp in his black suit but may need it to eventually be a bigger size for success in the NBA, as he's listed at just 195 pounds.
The Houston Rockets took Smith at third, happy to end up with a player who many thought would end up going first. The 6-10 forward from Auburn is a natural fit in the current NBA game, able to defend all three frontcourt positions and with a shooting stroke that allowed him to hit 42% behind the arc.
Forward Keegan Murray, after a huge leap in his second season in Iowa, jumped all the way to the No. 4 pick by the Sacramento Kings. The Detroit Pistons, a year after taking Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 pick, took athletic Purdue guard Jaden Ivey fifth.
Before the selections began, Silver congratulated the Golden State Warriors on their recent NBA championship and reminded fans that their core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green was built through the draft.
All the teams at the top of this draft need help and have recent high picks already on their rosters, so will hope the Warriors way works for them as well.
with files from The Associated Press