Maurice Harkless goes to 76ers

NEWARK, N.J. -- New York City has two NBA teams, but a local college team stole the headlines Thursday night.

With the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets both lacking a first-round pick, attention turned toward St. John's forward Maurice Harkless, who was selected in the first round, 15th overall, by the Philadelphia 76ers.

Harkless, a Queens native, is the first St. John's player selected in the draft since Omar Cook in 2001, and the school's highest selection since the late Malik Sealy was chosen 14th by the Indiana Pacers in 1992.

"Thankful for the opportunity and thankful to Philadelphia for drafting me," Harkless said. "Hope I can help the team any way I can."

The 6-foot-9, 207-pound forward averaged 15.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game in his one season with the Red Storm. He was named the Big East Rookie of the Year.

But Harkless was not one of the players invited by the NBA to sit in the "green room" in front of the stage. Instead, he sat three rows up in the stands -- with family, friends and St. John's coach Steve Lavin -- before walking up to shake NBA commissioner David Stern's hand.

"Moe is the most well-rounded and complete player I've coached relative to this juncture or stage of a playing career," Lavin said.

Said Harkless: "I felt that I should have been invited to the green room. But like I said, it really didn't matter to me because I'm just blessed to be here."

Harkless grew up a Knicks fan, but sounded very happy to be joining the rival 76ers, who are a relatively short trip down the New Jersey Turnpike.

"That's really cool to me because I've pretty much been close to home my whole life, going to St. John's and being from New York," Harkless said. "Having my family close and being able to come out to games is definitely a great feeling."

Harkless wasn't the only local product to hear his name called in the early going. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the Kentucky swingman and Somerdale, N.J., native, was taken second overall by the Charlotte Bobcats.

Kansas guard Tyshawn Taylor -- also a New Jersey native who played for coach Bob Hurley at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City -- was taken in the second round, No. 41 overall, by the Portland Trail Blazers and subsequently shipped to the Nets for cash.

The Nets also acquired the No. 54 pick from the 76ers for cash considerations, taking Tornike Shengelia, a 6-9, 220-pound, 20-year-old forward from Tbilisi, Georgia. And with the No. 57 pick, which they already owned, they selected Ilkan Karaman, a 6-9, 236-pound, 22-year-old forward from Istanbul, Turkey.

With the No. 48 pick, the Knicks also reached across the Atlantic, grabbing Greek forward Kostas Papanikolaou, a selection met by a loud chorus of boos from the Knicks fans in attendance. Papanikolaou, 21, is 6-8 and 230 pounds, and is not expected to join the team until at least the 2013-14 season.

Other players with metropolitan-area roots who were drafted Thursday night include another pair of Queens natives -- Kentucky shooting guard Doron Lamb (Milwaukee, No. 42) and Norfolk State center Kyle O'Quinn (Orlando, No. 49).

Local prospects not among the 60 draftees were Iona guard Scott Machado, West Virginia forward Kevin Jones and Xavier guard Tu Holloway. Jones also sat in the stands with family members, walking out of the arena just before the announcement of the final pick.

It was a bitter ending for the former Mount Vernon High School and Mountaineers star. But all in all, it was a historic night at the Prudential Center, where the draft was held for the second consecutive year while Madison Square Garden undergoes summer renovations.

With the two Kentucky forwards, Anthony Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist, being selected at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, it marked the first time in the common draft era (since 1966) that players from the same school were taken with the top two picks.