Former Boston College forward Jared Dudley held a party at a club in downtown San Diego with a couple of hundred family members and friends last night, but even the partygoers weren't expecting what came out of commissioner David Stern's mouth when he announced the 22d pick in the NBA draft.
The Charlotte Bobcats selected Dudley, stunning both him and the crowd.
"We were shocked," said Dudley, who was generally considered a borderline first-round candidate. "They didn't call me. I thought they weren't interested in me. It's just a real happy, real emotional time."
Dudley wasn't the only Eagle celebrating.
Sean Williams, who was dismissed from the team in January for repeated off-court violations, was picked a few minutes before Dudley -- going 17th to the New Jersey Nets -- ensuring that 2007 would be the first year two BC players were selected in the first round.
Dudley joins a team entering its fourth year of existence that has never made the playoffs, but he is excited about the challenge.
"I'm ready to go right in," Dudley said. "I think the opportunity to play is right there. It's a young team on the rise."
Though the 6-foot-7-inch Dudley said it didn't bother him, he plays the same position as dynamic forward Gerald Wallace (18.1 points per game) and 2006 first-round pick Adam Morrison. The trio figure to battle for minutes at the small forward spot.
The surroundings will be familiar to Dudley, as the team has an Atlantic Coast Conference -- well, North Carolina -- motif. Former Tar Heel Michael Jordan is part owner, and the Bobcats have ex-UNC players Raymond Felton, Sean May, and Jeff McInnis on the roster.
Dudley fits the mold of a typical NBA small forward, though he played power forward at BC.
The ACC Player of the Year averaged 19.0 points and 8.3 rebounds as a senior, showing an improved outside game while leading the Eagles to a 21-12 record, ending with a loss to eventual Final Four participant Georgetown in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Dudley, the Eagles' No.5 career scorer with 2,071 points, was BC's best player, but Williams was its most talented.
When Williams was dismissed from the team, his draft status likely took a hit as teams worried about his history with marijuana.
But talent can trump a lot of things in the NBA.
The athletic 6-10 forward will have a chance to contribute immediately. Nets guards Jason Kidd and Vince Carter -- who averages better than 25 points per game -- as well as small forward Richard Jefferson are stars. But in the paint, the Nets, who were ousted by Cleveland in the second round of the playoffs, are lacking, as power forward Jason Collins and center Mikki Moore are marginal.
Perhaps the most pertinent statistic to illustrate the Nets' interior woes is that Kidd, the point guard, led the team in rebounding last season.
In addition, the entire team averaged 3.3 blocks per game, while Williams averaged 5.0 -- a BC record -- in 15 games during his abbreviated junior season.
Nets president-general manager Rod Thorn overlooked Williams's past, which includes an arrest for marijuana possession in May 2005 and a 90-day stint in a drug rehabilitation program in Houston to resolve the case.
"He's a player who had over 1200 on his college boards, so he's a guy who has a brain," Thorn said on the ESPN telecast of the draft. "Has there been some immaturity there? Yes. But the upside is such an upside, particularly with our team, that he's worth the risk."
According to the rookie salary scale, in which first-round picks get guaranteed two-year contracts with team options for the third and fourth years, Williams will start at $1.18 million in 2007-08 and get raises to $2.09 million in his fourth season if the Nets exercise the option. Dudley will make $947,500 this season, with his salary hitting $1.79 million in year four if the Bobcats keep him.
The pair will carry the Eagles' flag in the pros with Minnesota's Craig Smith, a second-round selection last year and the only other ex-BC player in the NBA.
Another New Englander was tabbed in the second round: 6-7 University of Massachusetts forward Stephane Lasme went to the Golden State Warriors with the 46th pick. A native of the central African nation of Gabon, Lasme, 24, averaged 13.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in his senior season. He also averaged 5.09 blocks, drawing comparisons to Williams.
Lasme, who would be an undersized big man in the NBA, wasn't listed among the 58 "Top Prospects" in the NBA draft media guide.
Daniel Malloy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.