It took longer than expected, but the UCLA basketball team has its first player taken in this year’s NBA draft. Kevon Looney was selected by the defending champion Golden State Warriors with the 30th overall pick.
At one point, Looney was considered a potential lottery pick. He was among the 19 players to attend the draft, but, according to Draft Express' Jonathan Givnoy, by the last few picks in the first round, Looney, still waiting, left the room disappointed.
His tumble was likely because of, in part, an ESPN.com report on the morning of the draft that called Looney’s health into question. Looney underwent surgery on his hip before last season. He did not miss time at UCLA, but the report said, “he probably misses the season.”
The report was refuted by Looney's camp.
UCLA Coach Steve Alford said he fielded many calls regarding Looney's health status in the two weeks leading up to the draft. He told each team that Looney is durable, and he cited his perfect attendance at practice and in games.
Still, Alford said, the questions affected Looney's stock.
"There's no question," he said. "He definitely dropped because of that. Fortunately, he dropped into a great situation."
Looney played only one season at UCLA but had a big impact. He started all 36 games and did not miss a practice, even after a facial fracture suffered in the Pac-12 tournament.
Looney showed flashes of perimeter shooting and finishing ability, but he excelled as a rebounder. He averaged 11.6 points and 9.2 rebounds, which was second-best in the Pac-12. His 41.5% three-point shooting led the Bruins.
Earlier this week, Pac-12 Networks analyst Don MacLean said Looney could be the best player out of the Pac-12 in this year's draft.
"I really like him. You just don't see guys with the length, the rebounding, the instincts," MacLean said. "The way he was used at UCLA, you didn't see the entire package."
Three Pac-12 players were drafted ahead of Looney. Arizona's Stanley Johnson went with the eighth overall pick and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson went at No. 23. Delon Wright of Utah was selected with the 20th overall pick by the Toronto Raptors.
Looney has now landed on the NBA's best team. It is an opportunity to win early — but the fight for playing time will likely be fierce.
UCLA still has one player awaiting selection. Norman Powell, projected to go in the second round, has not yet been picked.
Follow Zach Helfand on Twitter @zhelfand