LOUISVILLE, Ky.-Two members of the 2008-09 University of Louisville men's basketball team-Earl Clark and Terrence Williams-were selected in the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft. Williams was the 11th selection overall by the New Jersey Nets, while Clark was taken as the 14 th overall pick by the Phoenix Suns.
"I'm so excited for both young men who have seen their dreams become a reality," said U of L Coach Rick Pitino, who attended the draft ceremonies in New York. "(New Jersey Nets President) Rod Thorn is close friend and I'm so happy that T-Will has an opportunity to play for the Nets. And for Earl, it doesn't get any better than being drafted by the Suns because they play a perfect style of play for him and they're a super organization. I couldn't be any happier for both young men and their families."
U of L has had two first round selections in the same year twice previously: 1989 with Pervis Ellison (first overall selection in the 1989 draft) and Kenny Payne (19th overall) and in 1994 with Clifford Rozier (16th) and Greg Minor (25th). Williams is the highest U of L player selected in the draft since Samaki Walker was the ninth overall choice in the 1996 NBA Draft by the Dallas Mavericks. Williams was the first college senior selected in the draft this year and U of L was the only school with two lottery picks.
Clark and Williams helped U of L attain its first-ever Associated Press No. 1 national ranking, achieving that position in the final poll of the season. The Cardinals (31-6, 16-2 BIG EAST) won their first BIG EAST Conference regular season title, accomplished in a year in which the league had a record nine teams earn national rankings during the season. U of L also won its first BIG EAST Conference tournament championship. The Cardinals entered the NCAA Tournament the overall No. 1 seed and reached the NCAA Elite Eight for the second straight season. Ten members of the team earned recognition on the Athletic Director's Honor Roll, including Clark and Williams.
Williams put up impressive numbers in his senior season, leading the Cardinals in assists (5.0), steals (2.3) and three-point goals (57) while ranking second on the team in scoring (12.5) and rebounding (8.6). He is the only player in Louisville history with career totals over 1,500 points, 900 rebounds, 500 assists and 200 steals. He finished his career ranked 18th in career scoring at U of L with 1,564 points, second in assists (541), seventh in rebounding (966), fourth in three-point goals (195), fifth in steals (210) and second in minutes played (4,486).
Williams became the Cardinals' 19th All-America selection this season. He was on the final ballot for the Wooden Award for national player of the year and was one of 10 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, presented to the top senior in the nation. Williams was named to the Wooden Award All-America team, Sports Illustrated first team, Lowe's Senior CLASS first team, ESPN second team, Fox Sports second team, Associated Press third team, Rupp Awards second team and NABC third team.
Clark, who left U of L following his junior year, led the Cardinals in scoring (14.2) and rebounding (8.7). He produced 17 double-doubles during the 2008-09 season and 27 for his career. He scored in double figures in 38 of his last 42 games dating back to his sophomore season.
Clark played well in post-season tournaments over the past two years. In NCAA Tournament games over the last two years, he averaged 15.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and shot 56.8 percent from the field (50-of-88). In three 2009 BIG EAST Tournament games, Clark averaged 18 points, 9.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists (54.1 FG pct.), earning all-tournament honors. He scored 19 against both Arizona and Michigan State in the NCAA Midwest Regional semifinals and finals.
A total of 59 former U of L players have been selected in the NBA Draft, the last prior to this year being Francisco Garcia, a first-round pick of the Sacramento Kings in 2005 (23rd overall selection). Louisville has produced 19 first-round NBA Draft choices, including four among the top three picks (Ellison; Darrell Griffith second in 1980; Wes Unseld second in 1983; Rodney McCray third in 1983).