The 76ers showed interest last night. Big-time interest. Enough to make Young, now 6-8, 220, the No. 12 selection in the NBA draft. This was after one season at Georgia Tech in which Young averaged 14.4 points. After a high school career as an inside player, he stepped comfortably to the perimeter, draining 39 of 93 three-point attempts.
While division rivals New York and Boston reached out for help within the league, the Knicks acquiring Zach Randolph from Portland and the Celtics adding Ray Allen from Seattle, and New Jersey took the evening's biggest risk, using the No. 17 pick on Boston College forward Sean Williams, the Sixers went young.
At No. 21, they decided on Jason Smith, the 7-foot Colorado State center, working a deal with Miami to make it happen. The Sixers chose Ohio State shooting guard Daequan Cook at 21, then sent him to the Heat, along with some cash and a second-round pick in 2009, for Smith, who had been taken at No. 20.
At No. 30, they finally made a first-round international selection, choosing 6-4 Finnish guard Petteri Koponen, 19, who played for the Honka Espoo Playboys.
The Sixers traded Koponen to Portland for its No. 42 pick and cash, ostensibly the cash the Sixers had given to Miami in the Smith deal. With the No. 42 pick, Portland selected 6-7 Vanderbilt guard Derrick Byars.
The Sixers used their own second-round pick, No. 38, on Kyrylo Fesenko, a 7-foot center from the Ukraine. After his workout at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, president/general manager Billy King referred to him as "a first-rounder." He is, however, very inexperienced, having appeared in just 13 games in EuroCup/EuroCup Challenge competition and in just 29 games in two seasons in the Ukrainian SuperLeague.
Fesenko was traded to Utah for the 55th pick, Providence's Herbert Hill, a 6-10 forward/center.
Young was one of 43 players worked out by the Sixers and he surprised them a little, showing them more than they had anticipated.
"They got a good one there," said Paul Hewitt, the Georgia Tech coach and onetime Villanova assistant. "He's a great kid, and he'll be a better player in a year. He's going to make it because his commitment and reliability will never be a problem. He has the type of high character similar to Luke Schenscher and Chris Bosh that we've had in our program. He's special because of his commitment to winning.
"This was the first season he ever played on the perimeter, and you could really see the development in the last five games before the [NCAA] tournament. He averaged [19.4 points] in those games. If we had played a 50-game season, people would have seen more of what they saw in those five games."
Whatever it was that the Sixers saw, they made a decision to see more. They stayed in close contact in the weeks after Young's workout. By June 18, Young felt comfortable enough to call in himself.
"I gave them a call, let them know they were on my mind," said Young, who will be introduced tomorrow afternoon at 2 at a news conference at the Wachovia Center.
Young's father, Felton Jones, was drafted in the eighth round in 1978 by the Buffalo Braves.
"Thaddeus Young obviously is a big talent," Nets general manager Ed Stefanski said during the predraft process. "Good size, shoots the ball very well, and he's athletic. Those three things bode well for him in the draft . . . He's young, but otherwise he has the entire package."
Young remained in Memphis with his family rather than accept an invitation to be among the prospects at draft headquarters in New York.
"He said he'd rather do that because his family couldn't afford to go to New York, and he wanted them to be together," Carter said.
Not everyone was ecstatic about the selection of Young.
Al Thornton, for one.
The Florida State forward, who went No. 14 to the Los Angeles Clippers, thought he might have been the Sixers' pick.
"I think I have a lot to prove," Thornton said in New York. "A lot of teams passed on me. I started getting worried after the seventh pick. Those teams will see what they missed. I worked out for Philly on Monday. I thought I did great. I was surprised at what they did."
Young, though, couldn't have been happier, even if he twice referred to King as "Mr. Knight." Give him a pass on that one, because he spent a year in college in Atlanta, where Billy Knight is the general manager of the Hawks.
He hadn't envisioned himself going as early as he did, admitting, "It was a big surprise. I thought they'd probably take Julian Wright [Kansas] or Al Thornton."
Wright, who worked out for the Sixers on Tuesday, ended up going No. 13 to New Orleans.
"I heard my name . . . man, I didn't know it was going to be that early," Young said.
He also got a rush from meeting Sixers executive vice president Larry Brown, referring to him as "a legend," even asking Brown to mention some things about his game that might not have been apparent on tape.
"They basically said they loved me as a person, that it wasn't just my basketball ability," he said.
And what, he was asked, did he think he showed them that they had not expected.
"Just my drive, how hard I work, my ability to fight big guys inside and guard guys outside," he said.
And when all was said and done, Young said, "I'm a lottery pick. I'm going to come in and work hard, earn every minute I get." *