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Three Canadians selected in draft, led by Nicholson at 19

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Associated Press
6/29/2012 1:02:43 AM
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- The NBA draft came and went, and for now the Orlando Magic still have Dwight Howard on the roster.

In his first bite at directing the team's immediate future, new general manager Rob Hennigan chose two young big men with the Magic's two picks Thursday night.

Orlando took a pair of four-year players in six-foot-nine St. Bonaventure forward Andrew Nicholson of Mississauga, Ont., at No. 19 and 6-10 Kyle O'Quinn out of Norfolk State at No. 49 in the second round.

With several pending off-season roster moves to make in the near future, Hennigan continued to remain mum on how he'll proceed addressing them. He said his focus Thursday was simply getting through the ebbs and flows of his first draft as a GM.

"There were some butterflies. There were some jitters," Hennigan said. "But I think you can fall back on your preparation. And you know that the preparation you've done up to this point will keep you wholesome and keep you diverting off track.

"It was exciting. Our staff did good job preparing us and we feel pretty good about the decisions we made."

Hennigan said they contemplated moving both up and back in the draft Thursday and fielded trade offers, but said nothing materialized.

"We wanted to identify good players, and good people. Guys who love the game, who want to work at it," Hennigan said. "It was one of those things that as the draft board evolved and slots started to get filed that those guys were the best selections for us based on what was available at the time."

Nicholson said he is expecting to contribute in a hurry to the Orlando Magic even though he may not have taken the traditional path the NBA.

A baseball player who didn't take up basketball until his junior year of high school, the Magic saw enough in the four-year power forward from St. Bonaventure to take him with the 19th overall pick in the NBA draft Thursday night.

"They like my versatility, they like my length and my size," he said. "I'm just ready to come in and contribute to the team. I'm very excited right now."

Nicholson finished as the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year as a senior. He averaged 18.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game in his final college season.

"I think the one good thing about 'Drew is that he has a natural instinct," Hennigan said of Nicholson. "For how to play around the rim, how to play away from the rim...Certainly there are a lot of natural skills that he possesses and he is certainly going to improve on some things."

Nicholson worked in Orlando prior to the draft and his college coach said he has a maturity level that surely was attractive to Hennigan, who listed finding "a good human being" among the attributes he was looking for in a draft pick.

He also fits the mould of the Magic's outside shooting big men, having shot 43 per cent from the 3-point line last season as well.

Nicholson said he was more than comfortable playing either in the paint or beyond the arc. He said the fact that he has only played six years of basketball wouldn't be an impediment to him being able to contribute right away.

"I feel as though I have that maturity on the court and a veteran feel," he said. "I'm ready to come in and contribute and play good minutes for the Magic."

Hennigan said O'Quinn can play either the forward or centre spots and has a lot of upside.

"He knows his bread and butter, so to speak," Hennigan said.

O'Quinn said his performance in Norfolk State's upset of Missouri in the NCAA tournament last season took him "from nobody to somebody in the basketball world."

"It opened a lot of eyes to guys that read the internet and stuff," he said. "To do what I do on a national stage opened up a lot of eyes and really put my name out there in the pre-draft process."

He said his attributes are clear.

"I'm an energy guy," he said. "Blocking shots, and being an energy presence on the defensive end. But as far as going in the NBA, I'm looking forward to developing my offensive game."

Thursday also marked the beginning of what is expected to be a busy off-season for Hennigan. Along with hiring a new head coach, there are unresolved contract situations around four key players.

The biggest surrounds Howard, who opted into the final year of his deal for 2012-13, but has yet to agree to an extension beyond that.

The Magic extended a qualifying offer to third-year forward Ryan Anderson before the draft Thursday that allows them to retain the right to match any offer the reigning NBA most improved player receives on the open market this summer. He becomes a restricted free agent on July 1.

In addition, a pair of career-long Magic players will also be in the spotlight.

Point guard Jameer Nelson holds a player option of around $8 million for next season that he must decide to exercise by Friday, and the team must also decide by July 7 whether to waive guard J.J. Redick or pay the final year of his deal. Redick is due around $6 million.

Hennigan said earlier this week that he has reached out to the agents of all four players.

"I think the next few days are gonna be really big for us in terms of trying to map our strategy and what our goals are in free agency," Hennigan said. "I think there is a chance we could be active in free agency, but a lot is going to depend on the priorities we come up internally and the goals and needs we identify.

"We're gonna be prepared to I think make good decisions."

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BOSTON - The Boston Celtics have taken Syracuse swingman Kris Joseph in the second round of the NBA draft.

Joseph, chosen with the 51st overall pick on Thursday night, was the second Orange player drafted by the Celtics. They chose Syracuse C Fab Melo with the 22nd pick after taking Ohio State F Jared Sullinger with the 21st.

The six-foot-six, 215-pound Montrealer led a well-balanced Syracuse scoring attack with 13.4 points per game as a senior. He also led the team as a junior with 14.3 points per game.

But he scored just 10 points on 4 for 11 shooting in the NCAA quarter-finals, a 77-70 loss to Ohio State and Sullinger.

---

The Los Angeles Lakers selected Gonzaga centre Robert Sacre of North Vancouver on Thursday night with the final pick of the NBA draft.

Andrew Nicholson (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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