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    Saturday, July 13, 2024

    UConn’s Hawkins achieves lottery pick status; Jackson also taken in NBA Draft

    Jordan Hawkins poses for a photo with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being selected 14th overall by the New Orleans Pelicans during the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 22, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
    Jordan Hawkins reacts as he walks off the stage after being selected 14th overall by the New Orleans Pelicans during the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 22, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
    Jordan Hawkins hugs family and friends after being selected 14th overall by the New Orleans Pelicans during the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 22, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
    In this March 23 file photo, UConn's Andre Jackson Jr. dribbles towards the basket in the second half of a Sweet 16 game against Arkansas in the West Regional of the NCAA tournament in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

    Time for UConn to put up another NBA Draft lottery pick banner on the Werth Center practice facility wall in Storrs.

    Jordan Hawkins became the 15th lottery pick in UConn basketball history on Thursday, as the New Orleans Pelicans selected him at No. 14.

    An emotional Hawkins hugged his family after hearing his name called and then walked up to the stage and shook hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

    Hawkins, who helped lead the Huskies to the national championship in April, watched the draft unfold from the Green Room with his family, including parents Craig and Jasmine, as well as UConn coach Dan Hurley and associate head coach Kimani Young.

    “A whole bunch of emotions,” Hawkins said. “I told somebody I wasn’t going to cry, but I wimped out. It was a really cool experience.”

    Later Thursday night, Hawkins’ teammate Andre Jackson Jr. celebrated his second-round selection at a New York City restaurant where he held a draft night party. Orlando chose Jackson, a 6-foot-6 guard, at No. 36 overall and then sent him to Milwaukee.

    It’s the first time that two Huskies were taken in the same draft since 2014 when Shabazz Napier and DeAndre Daniels went at No. 24 and No. 37, respectively.

    Hawkins, a 6-5 guard from Gaithersburg, Maryland, fulfilled a dream that his father, Craig, had for him.

    Craig brought a basketball to the hospital on the day that Jordan was born. With help from his father, Hawkins worked hard to achieve his goal growing up and accomplished his mission on Thursday.

    Both father and son talked about the journey in an interview during the ESPN broadcast.

    “A lot of hard work,” Hawkins told ESPN. “These two (my parents) sacrificed everything for me and just for them to see me get my name called, it’s a true blessing, so I don’t know how to feel.”

    “Amazing,” Craig said. “I love it, I love it. Now we’ve got to start all over and do it all over again.”

    Most mock drafts projected that Hawkins, one of the best shooters in the draft pool, would go in the No. 12 to No. 17 range.

    Hawkins entered the NBA draft after a superb sophomore season during which he earned All-Big East first team honors and averaged 16.2 points and 3.8 rebounds.

    He improved his draft stock during UConn’s magical NCAA championship run. He was named to the Final Four all-tournament team after averaging 16.3 points and shooting 50% (21-for-42) from 3-point range in six March Madness games.

    During the pre-NBA Draft process, Hawkins worked out for New Orleans.

    “It was one of my better workouts,” Hawkins said. “I had no clue really where I was going to go. A couple of the teams passed up on me that I worked out for, but they took a chance on me.”

    New Orleans general manager Trajan Langdon, who played on the Duke team that lost to UConn in the 1999 national championship game, told reporters during a post-draft press conference Thursday that he’s very excited about adding Hawkins to the roster.

    “A lot of our players are excited about his skill set and what he’ll bring,” Langdon said. “Obviously, the shooting component will be a huge addition for our team this year. He’s a high basketball IQ player, obviously a winner and a big time competitor so he’ll be a really good fit with our group.”

    Jackson will join a Milwaukee team that is led by first-year coach Adrian Griffin, who played with Dan Hurley at Seton Hall and whose daughter Aubrey is on the UConn women’s basketball team.

    Milwaukee general manager Jon Horst called Jackson a really special young man that has a chance to be a really good player.

    “Andre Jackson Jr. is a national champion, an experienced player at a big-time program, a winner, a guy that was on the award ballots and on the watch list for being defensive player of the year in college basketball,” Horst told reporters Thursday. “Kind of a Swiss Army knife guy. Just a top level athlete, great in the open floor, really knows how to play, great pace, great decision-making, high character and just a winner.

    “So we’re really excited to have him on our team and to be able to draft him.”

    If not for Jackson’s offensive limitations, he may have been drafted higher. He averaged 6.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists during his junior season but shot just 28.1% from 3-point range.

    Jackson made an impact on the offensive end at UConn without taking and making a lot of shots.

    “To impact winning at a high level with low attempts, he just knows how to do it.” Horst said. “It’s not that he can’t shoot or he won’t shoot, it’s just that he knows how to play. He’ll find his spots, he’ll pick his spots. … He will work on it. He’s a tireless worker and a big-time competitor. He’ll get better in that area. It’s a teachable skill, it’s something that you can improve on.

    “… He’s a second-round pick and he’s a rookie so he’s going to have to grow and develop. But I think he’s got the right makeup to do that and he’ll have the right opportunity to get what he earns here with Milwaukee.”

    UConn has had a player drafted in three straight years. Tyrese Martin went at No. 51 overall to Atlanta last year and James Bouknight was the No. 11 choice in 2021, going to Charlotte.

    Hawkins and Jackson are the 46th and 47th UConn players taken in the draft since 1965 while the former is the 21st first-round pick in program history.

    And Hawkins will have his banner along with the other lottery pick winners on the wall at Werth.

    “They’re going to have to see my face every single day,” Hawkins said. “That’s going to be lovely.”

    Forward Adama Sanogo, UConn’s best player during the national championship run and the Final Four Most Outstanding Player, was not drafted Thursday night. He has reportedly signed a two-way contract with the Chicago Bulls for the upcoming season.

    g.keefe@theday.com

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