NBA Commissioner David Stern with Illini Meyers Leonard, the 11th pick in the NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. Photo Credit: 2012 NBAE, Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images.
June 28, 2012
University of Illinois center Meyers Leonard (Robinson, Ill./Robinson H.S.) was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers with the No. 11 overall pick in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft.
"It was really an unbelievable and surreal feeling," Leonard said of being drafted. "I couldn't be more honored and proud to be drafted to the NBA and become a member of the Portland Trail Blazers. It was a combination of things, I think, that helped my draft stock. I think I surprised people on the court with my ability to shoot the ball and my willingness to play hard and compete, and off the court, during my interviews, I think I impressed some teams. Overall, sharing this experience with my mom, close friends and family was very special."
Leonard was the first Big Ten player taken in this year's draft. The first Fighting Illini to be drafted since 2006, he becomes the 15th first-round pick in school history and the third Illini chosen in the lottery since it began in 1985. He is Illinois' highest drafted player, meanwhile, since 2005, when Deron Williams was taken third overall.
Leonard averaged 13.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots last season, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. He led the conference in blocks, ranked 11th in the nation in field goal percentage (.584) as was third in the conference in rebounding.
Leonard scored in double figures 21 times during his sophomore campaign, led by a pair of career-high 22 point outings vs. Richmond (Nov. 22) and Iowa (Feb. 26). He had six 20-point games on the year and was the UI's leading scorer in 10 contests.
Leonard ranked third in the Big Ten with eight double-doubles and was the Illini's top rebounder in 21 games, led by a career-high 16 boards vs. Cornell (Dec. 19). His 60 blocked shots were the second-highest single-season total in school history. He tallied a career-high six blocks in the season opener vs. Loyola-Chicago (Nov. 11).
Leonard becomes the first-ever Illini player on Portland's roster.
University of Illinois All-Time First-Round NBA Draft Picks:
2012 - Meyers Leonard, No. 11
2005 - Deron Williams, No. 3; Luther Head; No. 24
2003 - Brian Cook, No. 24
2002 - Frank Williams, No. 25
1990 - Kendall Gill, No. 5
1989 - Nick Anderson, No. 11; Kenny Battle; No. 27
1987 - Ken Norman, No. 19
1983 - Derek Harper, No. 11
1973 - Nick Weatherspoon, No. 13
1970 - Mike Price, No. 17
1957 - George BonSalle, No. 7
1954 - John Kerr, No. 6
1951 - Don Sunderlage, No. 9