TORONTO -- There was no reputation, and little fanfare, when Joe Smith arrived on the basketball scene over two years ago. But last night, the 19-year-old from the University of Maryland was the cream of the 1995 NBA draft.
The moment came at 7:34 p.m. when the Golden State Warriors used their top pick to select Smith, who became the first Atlantic Coast Conference player since 1986 (Brad Daugherty) to be selected with the top choice.
As expected, sophomores were taken with the top four selections, but there was a little surprise in the order they were picked. The Los Angeles Clippers were expected to take Jerry Stackhouse with the second pick, but opted for Antonio McDyess from Alabama. But the Clippers didn't keep McDyess long, trading him and point guard Randy Woods to the Denver Nuggets for Rodney Rogers and the No. 15 pick, Brent Barry. Stackhouse went to the Philadelphia 76ers, who had the third pick.
In a draft that was presumed loaded with front-court players, two guards, Damon Stoudamire and Shawn Respert, were among the top 10 picks. Stoudamire became the first draft choice of the Toronto Raptors, who selected him with the seventh pick. And Respert, out of Michigan State, was taken with the eighth pick by the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Bullets, who spent the days leading up to the draft discussing whether to trade the fourth pick, instead used it to take Rasheed Wallace of NOrth Carolina. And the Minnesota Timberwolves took what may be the biggest risk of the draft, using the sixth pick to select high school player Kevin Garnett.
Smith, the consensus college basketball Player of the Year, admitted before the draft that being the top pick would be special. As Smith made his way to the podium shortly after his selection, the first of a record eight Atlantic Coast Conference players selected in the first round, he proudly pounded his chest, much to the delight of the 21,268 fans attending the draft at Skydome.
"When I got to Maryland, no one expected me to have as successful a season as I had," Smith said. "My confidence just skyrocketed from game one, and it never went down.
"I think I'll fit in well with Golden State and, hopefully, I'll go in and play right away. I like their style of play; getting the ball up and down the court, that's what I like to do."
It didn't take long for the first surprise of the draft, with the Clippers taking McDyess at No. 2.
"A lot of people didn't think that I'd be there [second pick]," McDyess said. "I really thought I'd be three or four, and it kind of surprised me."
If McDyess was surprised, Stackhouse and the Sixers were thrilled. The day before the draft, Stackhouse said he didn't care much for the city of Los Angeles or the Clippers. So Stackhouse was beaming as he was picked by the Sixers, a team that wanted him but didn't think would have an opportunity to draft him.
"I'm happy to be on the East Coast, close to home and close to my family," said Stackhouse, who is from North Carolina. "When I heard McDyess No. 2, I was happy as if they called my name. Of the teams with the top picks, I felt Philadelphia was the one I was best suited to be with."
Stackhouse will get a lot of opportunities to play against college teammate Wallace, who went to the Bullets. And the Timberwolves followed with a move that was not unexpected but which carries a tremendous risk by taking Garnett, the best high school player in the country.
Garnett just turned 19, and is only 10 months younger than Smith. But many have questioned his maturity.
"Me and my friend Jamie were sitting on the couch and I was like, 'I can't wait until my day,' " Garnett said. "I didn't know my day was coming so fast."
Garnett was quick to fend off criticism that entering the draft was an irrational move.
"A lot of people said I really didn't think about this, but I did," Garnett said. "If given the chance, I am going to prove to all of you that I am man enough to take what is given and mature enough to give it out."
The Vancouver Grizzlies, in need of a center, made Bryant Reeves of Oklahoma State their first-ever pick and the first senior selected. And then the Raptors, who Saturday selected B. J. Armstrong with the first pick of the expansion draft, made somewhat of a surprise choice by selecting Stoudamire, leading to speculation that the Raptors might be ready to trade Armstrong.
Stoudamire said he's looking forward to learning under Isiah Thomas, the former Pistons point guard who is the Raptors' general manager.
"He's one of the greatest in the game at his position," Stoudamire said of Thomas. "I felt if I was there, he would take me. To be able to learn from one of the all-time greats is something I'm looking forward to."
The New Jersey Nets, desperately in need of a shooting guard, were hoping to land Respert with the No. 9 pick. When Respert was selected eighth by Portland, the Nets, who also need a small forward, took a risk by selecting Ed O'Bannon of UCLA.