ATHENS -- Last spring, there was plenty of debate about whether Kentavious Caldwell-Pope should leave Georgia after his sophomore season. The recent painful memory of basketball players leaving too early hung over the process.
This time, however, it has become pretty clear that Caldwell-Pope made the right decision by turning pro.
Caldwell-Pope is taking his many syllables and considerable basketball ability up north. The former Georgia star was selected eighth overall in Thursdays NBA draft by Detroit.
I have a lot to offer, Caldwell-Pope told the Associated Press. Besides knowing that I can shoot the ball, I can defend around the perimeter. I also rebound outside my position.
Its the highest a Georgia player has been picked since Dominique Wilkins went third overall in 1982. This is just the seventh Georgia player to be a first-round NBA pick and the fourth go to in the lottery, according to Georgia sports information.
According to the NBA rookie salary scale, Caldwell-Pope will sign a contract worth $2.2 million this upcoming season. That will increase about $100,000 each of the following two seasons.
The Pistons did not work out Caldwell-Pope, according to the Detroit Free-Press but had lunch with him recently and liked what they saw. The Pistons picked Caldwell-Pope rather than the local favorite, Michigan guard Trey Burke.
Caldwell-Pope was the SEC basketball player of the year this past season. Wilkins had been the last Georgia player to receive that honor. Caldwell-Pope is a 6-foot-5 shooting guard whose all-around skill set vaulted him into the lottery. He was Georgias leading rebounder this year and was among the SECs leaders in scoring, rebounding, steals, field goal percentage, 3-pointers and several other categories.
Detroit is getting a terrific basketball player, Georgia head coach Mark Fox said in a statement released shortly after the selection. He has perfect shooting guard size and the natural instinct to put the ball in the basket. He is a great shooter and scorer but is a far more complete player than most shooters. His ability to rebound is a strength, as is his effectiveness as a defender. Kentavious has great mobility and his speed should be a real asset in the open nature of the NBA game.
As most young guys require, he will need some time to learn the NBA game. But he is a worker, and I am sure he will keep his great approach to development in the NBA. Kentavious is a very soft spoken young man with a huge heart. He plays the game with great passion and I am certain Pistons fans will love watching him play.
Georgia still struggled this season, finishing 15-17 overall. But Caldwell-Pope impressed scouts with what they perceived as unselfish play and also through pre-draft workouts.
This is the first time a Georgia player has gone in the lottery since Jarvis Hayes was picked 10th overall in 2003.
Detroit went 27-53 this season, as the once-proud franchise missed the playoffs for a fourth straight year, and had a fifth straight losing season. The Pistons second-leading scorer, point guard Brandon Knight, is a Kentucky product entering his third year. So the Pistons potentially could have an SEC backcourt.
The teams leading scorer last year was forward Greg Monroe, the teams first-round pick (seventh overall) in 2010. Last year the Pistons drafted center Andre Drummond with the ninth overall pick.
I want to congratulate Kentavious on his selection in the NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons, Fox said in his statement. Years ago Kentavious shared with me his dream of playing in the NBA. Tonight it came true. We are very excited for him and proud he chose to spend his college years at Georgia.