Bulldogs’ Edwards picked first overall in NBA draft

Georgia guard Anthony Edwards (right) is headed to the NBA.   Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

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Georgia guard Anthony Edwards (right) is headed to the NBA. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: ccompton@ajc.com

There’s no question about Anthony Edwards’ scoring ability. Now the former Georgia star has to prove he can play defense, too.

The 19-year-old shooting guard was the first overall pick in the NBA draft Wednesday night. He was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Edwards watched the draft while seated next to portraits of his late mother and grandmother. They both died of cancer.

“As far as just being excited and just being happy and ready to go and ready to work and ready to get there as soon as possible, those emotions were overwhelming with just my mother and grandmother being there,” Edwards said. “I mean, it was just a dream come true and just a blessing.”

Edwards became the first UGA player to be picked No. 1. Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins went third to the Utah Jazz in 1982, who traded him to the Hawks.

Georgia has now had eight first-round picks, including four other top-10 picks: Wilkins, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (No. 8 in 2013), Jarvis Hayes (10, 2003), Willie Anderson (10, 1998), Alec Kessler (12, 1990), Vern Fleming (18, 1984) and Jumaine Jones (27, 1999).

Edwards was the nation’s top-scoring freshman last season and was named the SEC freshman of the year. In 32 games for the Bulldogs, he averaged 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists.

“He’s just scratching the surface, he really is,” Georgia coach Tom Crean said.

The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Edwards, who played at Holy Spirit Preparatory School, has the ability to score from all over the court. He put it all on display six games into his college career, going for 33 of his 37 points after halftime in a one-man show in a loss to then-No. 3 Michigan State.

Edwards’ efficiency and consistency are questions. He shot just 40.2% from the field and made at least half his shots only seven times in 32 games. He also shot just 29.4% from 3-point range, including empty lines in losses to LSU (1 for 12), Mississippi (1 for 9), South Carolina (0 for 7) and Alabama (0 for 6).

In pre-draft interviews, Edwards has tried to bolster his reputation on the defensive end.

“Of the skills I bring, a lot of people don’t think I play defense,” Edwards said. “But I feel like I’m a really good defensive player.”

Edwards was the only player from a Georgia college drafted in the two rounds Wednesday.

The Golden State Warriors, stung by the news that Klay Thompson sustained another leg injury earlier Wednesday, took Memphis center James Wiseman with the second pick. They stumbled to the bottom of the league while Thompson missed the entire season with a torn ACL in his left knee.

The severity of his injury had not been revealed as the draft began but it didn’t persuade the Warriors to take another guard. Instead they went with the 7-foot-1 center who arrived as the No. 1 recruit out of high school and averaged 19.7 points and 10.7 rebounds in three games before he was suspended for eligibility reasons and eventually left the program to prepare for the draft.

LaMelo Ball then went to the Charlotte Hornets, the next stop on a lengthy basketball journey that sent the guard from high school in California to stops as a professional in Lithuania and Australia.

The Chicago Bulls took Patrick Williams of Florida State, the ACC sixth man of the year as a freshman, at No. 4. Cleveland followed with Auburn’s Isaac Okoro, another freshman, to round out the top five.

The Hawks took USC’s Onyeka Okongwu with the sixth pick. Okongwu is an explosive center/power forward with great defensive ability. He added 16.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game as a freshman.

The latter half of the top 10 featured a couple highly regarded international players in France’s Killian Hayes, taken by Detroit at No. 7, and Deni Avdija, the highest player to come from Israel when Washington picked him at No. 9.

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