Thursday, June 29, 2000

UC duo wins lottery: Martin No. 1, Johnson No. 6

First time 2 Bearcats drafted in first round

By Mike DeCourcy
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Kenyon Martin sheds tears on the podium after the New Jersey Nets drafted him No. 1.
(AP photos)
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        MINNEAPOLIS — Kenyon Martin was reduced to tears the day his career with the Cincinnati Bearcats ended, and he cried again as his NBA career began. If his demeanor appeared to be the same, his emotions could not have been more different.

        He wept in March from the desperation and frustration that resulted when he broke his leg before the top-ranked Bearcats could begin the NCAA Tournament. Wednesday night, he heard his name called by NBA commissioner David Stern as the No. 1 selection of the New Jersey Nets and was bleary-eyed as he greeted Stern on the stage.

        “I didn't plan on doing that,” Martin said. “I guess it was just human genetics. People deal with situations in different ways, and that's my way of dealing with it.”

        Martin became the first UC player taken No. 1 overall since Oscar Robertson in 1960.

DerMarr Johnson is congratulated by NBA commissioner David Stern.
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        DerMarr Johnson, the 6-foot-9 shooting guard who left UC after his freshman season, was chosen with the No. 6 overall pick by the Atlanta Hawks. Martin and Johnson thus became the highest-drafted teammates since the lottery was introduced in 1985, tying North Carolina's Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace, who went Nos. 3 and 4 in the 1995 draft.

        A third Bearcat, Pete Mickeal, was the 58th and final pick by the Dallas Mavericks. Later, he was traded to the New York Knicks.

        Under the NBA's rookie salary scale, Martin will receive a three-year guaranteed contract worth $11.4 million, with a fourth-year option for $5.1 million.

        “These last three months have been outrageous for me,” Martin said. “With rehabbing, it's been unreal. When they called my name, it was a big sigh of relief.”

        “I showed more emotion for (Martin) than I did for myself,” Johnson said. “I was so happy for him. That's what he deserved.”

'When they called my name, it was a big sigh of relief'
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        Martin was chosen ahead of LSU's Stromile Swift, who went to the Vancouver Grizzlies with the second pick, and ahead of Darius Miles, who became the highest-drafted high school player in the league's history.

        “It was a late decision. (The Nets) were saying they might take me, they might take (Martin),” said Miles, who was taken with the third pick by the Los Angeles Clippers. “To me, he was the best player in the draft. He should be No.1. He worked hard four years to be No.1. I'm just a high school player.”

        The Nets plan to pair Martin and high-scoring veteran Keith Van Horn on a front line that needs to be rebuilt following the injury-induced retirement of big man Jayson Williams. “They're going to be a tough matchup problem for any team,” Nets vice president Rod Thorn said.

        Martin became the Nets' pick after team physicians assured themselves the broken leg he suffered during a Conference USA tournament game in March was sufficiently healed. Angelo Colosimo, the UC team orthopedist who operated on Martin following the injury, on Wednesday denied a report by ESPN's Dick Vitale that Martin would need additional surgery to heal completely.

        Martin said he is running and jumping and simply needs “to get my explosiveness back. It will come.”

        Johnson joined a stampede of inexperienced players who overwhelmed this draft. Of the first 10 picks, seven played two or fewer years of college basketball.

        He knew from working out twice for the Hawks there was a good chance he would be their selection, but when All-American center Chris Mihm still was unchosen as Atlanta pondered its pick, Johnson began to wonder, even though the Hawks already have star Dikembe Mutombo in the middle.

        “I was still kind of worrying,” Johnson said. “I thought Mihm was going to go earlier. What they tell me is you've got to pick the best player possible. Not that he's way better than me, but I guess he probably had done a little bit more in college.”

        Johnson admitted to looking forward to this night since about the time others started speculating he could turn professional following his junior season in high school.

        “For quite a few years, I've been thinking about coming here,” Johnson said. “I can't be happier. I don't show it, but I'm happy inside.”

        As for Martin's new wealth, the first luxury purchase he plans is a new home in Dallas for his mother.

        “I never thought about this,” Martin said. “It's just something that happened. I worked hard, and it paid off. I'm thrilled. There's no better feeling.”


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