"Did we surprise you a little bit?" the Lakers' general manager asked the
Everyone knew the answer: Absolutely.
The Lakers passed up the safe pick, Duke center
An avowed Lakers fan, Russell wowed the team with his lights-out shooting at workouts, not to mention a personality to match.
He met with reporters a minute after taking Kupchak's call and said he felt like "busting out like a baby, in tears."
Then he added, "I'm still in shock ... but dreams come true. I'm here and I'm ready to make an impact right away."
He was properly deferential to
"Not knowing how much he has left in the tank is the scary thing, knowing how much he brings to the game," Russell said. "But I'm really looking forward to him taking me under his wing if possible and really just feeding me the most knowledge he can and just letting me use that as fire against my opponents."
Russell shot 41% from three-point range in his only season at Ohio State but was prone to some erratic games, including a three-for-19 effort as the Buckeyes were eliminated by Arizona in their second NCAA tournament game.
Kupchak is known to be a fan of post players, often saying a good big man is better than a good little man. There was sentiment within the organization earlier Thursday that the Lakers would go with Okafor for that reason, not to mention his strong post game and reliable mid-range jump shot.
Kupchak knew his scouts and coaching staff were impressed by Russell. In a sense, he let the majority rule before making a final decision.
Russell wasn't made aware of the Lakers' decision until the final few seconds of the five-minute window to make the pick.
Okafor was then snapped up by Philadelphia with the third pick.
Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns went first overall to Minnesota.