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June 29, 2007
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NEW YORK - Two months after earning their place in college basketball history, the Florida Gators made their mark on the NBA draft.
Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah, the players who returned to Florida to lead the Gators to a second straight national championship, became the first trio of college teammates to be selected in the first 10 picks of the draft on Thursday night.
Horford was taken third by Atlanta, while Brewer went seventh to Minnesota and Noah was taken two picks later by Chicago.
"It means a lot," Noah said. "I'm really proud of my teammates. It's such an exciting time for all of us. I'm at a loss right now."
It was the 10th time five players from the same team were taken in one draft. The record is six by UNLV in 1977.
Noah was the only future NBA player in attendance at Madison Square Garden wearing a bow tie. His pinstriped cream suit didn't draw nearly as much attention as his hair.
People used to seeing Noah play with it pulled back in a pony tail, instead saw a lot of his thick hair flowing down to his shoulders. It took some work to get it under the Bulls cap he was given to wear for pictures.
"That was the longest hour of my life," Noah said of sitting and waiting to hear his name called. "I'm really happy for Al and Corey. I'm really happy for those guys."
When Brewer was done shaking hands with commissioner David Stern on the stage, he extended his arms and clapped his hands, the famed "Gator chomp" that so many opponents saw the last two seasons.
Horford knows it will be tough to have new teammates after all the success he had at Florida.
"It's going to be different. We're going our separate ways," he said. "We had a great time at Florida, but now it's time to move on."
The earliest three teammates had been taken in the draft was Indiana in 1976 when Scott May (2), Quinn Buckner (7) and Bobby Wilkerson (11) were taken in the first 11. UNLV in 1991 had Larry Johnson (1), Stacey Augmon (8) and Greg Anthony (12) taken in the first 12 picks.
Overall No. 1 pick Greg Oden and his Ohio State teammates lost to Florida in the title game. He was asked if his selection took away any of the sting from that Monday night loss in April.
"No. Not at all. I still lost. They still won two national championships in a row and that doesn't change," Oden said. "This feels good but it's two different categories. I'm always going to have that memory of that loss forever."
ONE-TWO PUNCH: Greg Oden and Kevin Durant were the first American-born college players to be the first two picks in the NBA draft since Kenyon Martin of Cincinnati and Stromile Swift of LSU went to New Jersey and Vancouver, respectively, in 2000.
Oden and Durant were the first freshmen to ever go with the top two picks. Twice before freshman went third and fourth: Shareef Abdur-Rahim of California and Stephon Marbury of Georgia Tech in 1996, and Carmelo Anthony of Syracuse and Chris Bosh of Georgia Tech in 2003.
"As long as we're in the league, I know we're going to be connected for a long time," Oden said of Durant. "He's a really, really good player. I'm a pretty decent player. So I hope things work out. I would love to win more championships than him."
Durant echoed the feelings.
"I know we are going to be linked for a long time. We are 1 and 2," he said. "I don't see me and him as player rivalries; our teams could be rivalries, but we play two different positions. It's been great getting to know Greg as a friend and gaining a new friendship."
CONFERENCE TIE: The selection of Ohio State's Greg Oden as the No. 1 pick brought the Big Ten into a tie with the Atlantic Coast Conference for most overall top picks with nine.
The last Big Ten player to be taken No. 1 was Glenn Robinson of Purdue by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1994.
The last ACC player to be the top pick was Elton Brand of Duke by the Chicago Bulls in 1999.
CAROLINA CONNECTION: The Charlotte Bobcats have been around for four NBA drafts and three of their first-round picks have played at North Carolina.
The Bobcats selected Brandan Wright, a freshman with the Tar Heels last season, as the eighth overall pick Thursday night.
In 2005, Charlotte took Raymond Felton with the fifth pick and Sean May with the 13th. They were key members of the North Carolina team that won the national championship months before.
Michael Jordan, probably the most famous Tar Heel of them all, became a part-owner of the Bobcats last year. He hired Buzz Peterson, his former college roommate, as the team's director of player personnel.
The Carolina connections didn't translate into a long career there for Wright. His draft rights were traded to the Golden State Warriors for Jason Richardson and the rights to Jermareo Davidson of Alabama, the 36th pick.
"I still feel honored to still be in a good situation and going to a team that really can run and tries to score a lot of points," Wright said after the trade. "I've never spent a lot of time in California but it's always been a great experience for me."
SENIOR CITIZENS: Acie Law IV of Texas A&M was the first senior taken in the draft, picked 11th by the Atlanta Hawks. He and Al Thornton of Florida State, who was taken 14th by the Los Angeles Clippers, were the only seniors taken among the 14 lottery picks.
Last year, there were five seniors taken in the lottery - Shelden Williams of Duke, Brandon Roy of Washington, Randy Foye of Villanova, J.J. Redick of Duke and Hilton Armstrong of Connecticut.
TRIVIA ANSWER: This was the second draft since the NBA implemented its age requirement rule, which forces U.S. players to be 19 and a year out of high school before they are eligible for the draft. It appears the rule will be around for a while so the burning trivia question will be who was the last high school player taken in the NBA draft?
Amir Johnson of Westchester, Calif., was taken by Detroit with the 56th pick of the 2005 draft. The 6-foot-9 Johnson played in eight games for the Pistons last season, averaging 5.9 points and 4.6 rebounds.
He was one of eight high school players drafted that year and, unless the rule is changed, will be the last one ever taken.