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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Pacific 10 Conference stands out in New York

    NEW YORK – As the nation’s top college basketball prospects anxiously awaited their respective futures at the 2008 NBA Draft last week, former Stanford Cardinal Brook Lopez felt comfort around familiar peers.

    So comfortable and already acquainted, Lopez called his trip 3,000 miles eastward a “”social gathering,”” while mingling with fans just outside Madison Square Garden.

    And who wouldn’t? A record seven Pacific 10 Conference players – including Brook’s twin brother, Robin – were drafted in the first round.

    “”I’ve been joking they should hold this at Staples Center this year just in honor of all the prospects from the Pac-10,”” said Brook, who joined Robin to become the first twins ever drafted together in the first round. “”We know so many of them joking around on the floor. It’s really good to see them all here at tonight’s social gathering.

    “”I always thought the Pac-10 was the most competitive conference in the country,”” Brook added. “”I’m always so proud to say (Stanford) finished second in the most competitive conference in the country.””

    The conference that identifies itself with the most NCAA titles (388 among 10 schools) also proved to be the most represented at the NBA Draft. Five of the first 11 overall selections came from the Pac-10, which propelled the total to seven by the end of the first round.

    “”The strength of the league is ridiculous and I think it’s the best conference in the country this year,”” said former UA guard Jerryd Bayless. “”It just shows a lot of people are going into the league right now.””

    Both Bayless and Brook, taken 10th and 11th overall, respectively, slipped from early top-five projections due to the fast rising stocks of fellow Pac-10 competitors Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love of UCLA, who were taken fourth and fifth overall, respectively.

    USC’s O.J. Mayo fared the best with his third overall selection by the Minnesota Timberwolves, giving the Pac-10 the 3rd, 4th and 5th picks.

    Hours after the draft, Minnesota traded the rights to Mayo to Memphis for the rights to Love. Indiana also traded Bayless to Portland for the rights to former Kansas Jayhawk Brandon Rush.

    Phoenix selected Robin with its 15th overall selection, and New Jersey selected California’s Ryan Anderson at 21st.

    “”O.J. (Mayo) is a big guy and Kevin (Love) right behind me,”” Westbrook said. “”He’s my boy and he’s been there through the whole time I’ve been here. I’m real proud of the Pac-10, real proud for them.””

    Said Robin: “”Just playing against the competition you see here, it makes you feel that more confident.””

    The Pac-10 brought five teams to last year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament, anchored by UCLA, a No. 1 seed that reached the Final Four for its third consecutive season.

    “”It’s crazy, we had three of the top-five picks and I was so happy for Russell that he got picked there,”” Love said. “”You know, he’s going to the Northwest and that’s where I’m from and I’m happy for him.

    “”I told him beforehand if he got picked before me, to give me a big hug and vice versa and it worked

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