The last time San Diego State University had a basketball player selected in the first round of the NBA Draft was 1984, when a rebounding machine named Michael Cage was taken 14th overall by the then-San Diego Clippers. Cage played a very successful 15 years in the NBA.
Thursday night SDSU had a basketball player selected in the first round of the NBA Draft when a rebounding machine named Kawhi Leonard was taken 15th overall by the Indiana Pacers. Nobody knows how many years he'll last but Kawhi's journey will not start in Indianapolis.
Shortly after the pick, the Pacers traded Leonard to San Antonio for point guard George Hill. The Spurs are one of the classiest franchises in pro sports and have a history of drafting well, so for them to give up a guy a lot of people saw as the heir to Tony Parker for the Aztecs All-American speaks volumes about Kawhi's potential.
He's athletic and relentless, two things the Spurs realized they needed to add when they lost in the first round of the playoffs to the younger, hungrier, more active Memphis Grizzlies. At first glance it would appear Leonard doesn't fit San Antonio's offensive scheme. The Spurs like their players to have a more consistent jump shot than Kawhi currently has. But, his outside game is still developing and he's shown he has the desire to work hard to get better. Plus, with guys like Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Richard Jefferson on the floor any offense Leonard offers is a bonus.
Kawhi will be asked to grab rebounds and play defense, which suits him well, while his midrange game improves. A lot of people thought Kawhi would be a lottery pick. I think he'll trade that to have an impact on a title contender any day.
"I had a meeting with (the Spurs)," said Leonard. "I got a great vibe from them. I'm just happy right now. I'm just going in, trying to do whatever the coach wants me to do to make the team successful."
No other Aztecs were drafted, but former San Diego H.S. star Jeremy Tyler was taken 39th overall by Charlotte. The Bobcats ended up selling their pick (yes, you can do that on Draft night in the NBA) to the Warriors. Golden State needs size, so they are willing to take a chance on the 6' 11" Tyler, who many scouts see as the biggest wild card in the Draft.
Tyler has a ton of potential but very little experience. He dropped out after his junior year of high school to play two unproductive professional seasons overseas (one in Israel and one in Japan). Unlike Leonard, questions about character and work ethic have dogged Tyler. He says he's matured. If he's right, the Warriors may have the steal of the Draft on their hands.