Hornets take national player of the year Frank Kaminsky with 9th pick in NBA draft



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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver poses for a photo with Frank Kaminsky after Kaminsky was selected ninth overall by the Charlotte Hornets during the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 25, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)


NBA Commissioner Adam Silver greets Frank Kaminsky after Kaminsky was selected ninth overall by the Charlotte Hornets during the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 25, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)


CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Frank Kaminsky grew up in the Chicago area, the walls of his bedroom decorated with posters of Michael Jordan.

He wanted to be like Mike.

Now he'll get a chance to play basketball for the NBA legend.

The Jordan-owned Charlotte Hornets selected Kaminsky with the ninth overall pick in the NBA draft on Thursday night, marking the third straight year the team has selected a Big Ten power forward with its first pick.

"I really, really idolized him and it's unbelievable that he wanted me there," Kaminsky said of the former Bulls superstar.

The 7-foot-1, 242-pound Kaminsky elevated his stock his senior season at Wisconsin, where was named The Associated Press Player of the Year while leading the Badgers to a win over previously unbeaten Kentucky in the Final Four before falling to Duke in the national championship game. He was the only Division I player to average at least 17 points, eight rebounds, two assists and 1.5 blocks for the season.

Kaminsky said he's met Jordan before but has never had a conversation with him.

He can't wait.

"Michael Jordan is everything there" in Chicago, Kaminsky said. "He still is. I had all his posters on my wall. Space Jam's my favorite movie."

Jordan needs his latest Big Ten power forward to pay big dividends.

The Hornets selected Indiana's Cody Zeller and Noah Vonleh the last two seasons. The team traded Vonleh and veteran guard Gerald Henderson on Wednesday to Portland in a deal that brought Nicolas Batum to the Hornets.

The Hornets have been busy leading up to the draft, making three trades in the last 10 days in an effort to improve their outside shooting. The expectation was they would consider another pure shooter after they finished last in the NBA in 3-point shooting in 2014-15.

However, they passed on Duke's versatile guard Justise Winslow and Kentucky's Devin Booker to take Kaminsky.

Selecting Kaminsky was a surprise to some in the fan base, including those who chanted "We want Justise" at the team's pre-draft party.

Hornets general manager Rich Cho said the team had Kaminsky rated higher than Winslow on its draft board.

"He is a skilled, versatile big who can play multiple positions," Cho said. "He can play power forward and center and really stretch the floor with his shooting. He has great footwork and is an excellent passer. He can play inside and outside."

Kaminsky does shoot well for a big man.

He averaged 18.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists for the Badgers while shooting 54.7 percent from the field and 41.6 percent from 3-point range.

Kaminsky played four seasons at Wisconsin and at 22 is one of the older players in this year's draft and perhaps better prepared for the NBA.

"Having to go through some tough times in college really made me better," Kaminsky said. "I had a great last year in college and it really propelled me in the NBA draft. Going top 10, that's something I never thought I would be doing."

In a twist, Kaminsky ended up with a franchise he took a veiled shot at during a post to his personal blog on May 1, 2014.

When Kaminsky announced his intent to return to Wisconsin for his senior season, he pointed to the attendance at Charlotte Bobcats games as an example of why the NBA appeared "boring" to him and why he wanted to stay in college for another season. The team hadn't yet changed over to Hornets when he wrote the blog.

"I know the NBA has their crazy fans and all, but if you look at all of their games, there are games when teams like the Bobcats get hardly any fans, and it looks flat out boring," Kaminsky wrote on his blog. "At the Kohl Center, we play in front of nearly 17,000 fans every single time we step onto the court. When we travel, we play in front of sell-out crowds who absolutely hate us. Not because of who is on the team, but because of where we go to school. Who could leave that?"

He said Thursday night he regrets posting that and is eager to connect with Hornets fans.

"That was a different me," Kaminsky said. "In hindsight you would like to take some things back. I never meant that as a shot at anyone. It was a way to explain my reasoning for staying in college."

The Hornets drafted Juan Vaulet from Argentina with the 39th overall pick, but traded him to the Brooklyn Nets for second draft picks in 2018 and 2019.

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