SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Sports) - This week Weber State standout All-American Damian Lillard will realize his lifelong dream when he hears his name announced by NBA Commissioner David Stern. Lillard is expected to be a top-10 pick in this year’s NBA Draft and is getting lots of attention for himself and Weber State as the draft nears.
After his four seasons with the Wildcats Lillard’s name is all over the history books but this week he will make more history and become the first player from Weber State to be drafted in the first round of the NBA Draft. While he will make more history for Weber State, he won’t be the first Wildcat to hear his name called in the draft.
Weber State has had 14 players selected in the history of the NBA Draft but has never had a first round selection. Lillard will make 15 Wildcats drafted, which will tie for the most of any school in the Big Sky Conference.
The first Wildcat selected in the draft came in 1966 and over the next seven years Weber State had seven draft picks. In 1966 Jerry Trice became the first Wildcat selected and was drafted in the 18th round by the Baltimore Bullets. The ‘Cats actually had two players picked in that year’s draft as Gene Visscher, who went on to become a head coach at Weber State, was selected in the 19th round in 1966 also be Baltimore.
Two years later another Wildcat, Dan Sparks, was taken in the fourth round (41st overall) by the Cincinnati Royals. The following year, 1969, Weber State had two more selections. Larry Bergh was taken in the 11th round (146th overall) by the Chicago Bulls and Justus Thigpen was taken with the next pick by the San Diego Rockets.
In 1971, one of the greatest players in Weber State history Willie Sojourner was the highest selection to that point of any Wildcat. Sojourner was taken in the second round (20th overall) by the Chicago Bulls. However, he never played in the NBA but did play four seasons in the ABA with the Virginia Squires and the New York Nets. He was traded to the Nets along with Julius “Dr. J.” Erving. To this day Sojourner ranks as Weber State’s career leading rebounder and is second in Big Sky history with 1,143 career rebounds in 81 career games. He is fifth in WSU history in career scoring. Sojourner passed away in Oct. 2005 in a car accident in Italy where he played professionally and was the head coach of the club team in Rieti.
The highest selection ever for the Wildcats in the NBA Draft came in 1972 when Bob Davis was taken in the second round with the 14th overall pick by the Portland Trailblazers.
In 1976 Al Dewitt was taken in the seventh round (109th overall) also by Portland. The following year Stan Mayhew was taken in the third round (51st overall) by the Indiana Pacers.
History was made in 1980 as three Weber State players were taken in that year’s draft. Bruce Collins was selected in the second round with the 33rd overall selection by the Portland Trailblazers. Collins still remains Weber State’s all-time leading scorer with 2,019 career points which also ranks third in Big Sky history. He also ranks third in Weber State history in career rebounding. This year Collins, a native of Rock Springs Wyoming, was inducted into the Wyoming Sports Hall of Fame.
David Johnson was taken in the fourth round (80th overall) of the 1980 draft by the Dallas Mavericks, just the fourth ever selection in the history of the Mavericks franchise. In the seventh round of the same draft (159th overall) Richard Smith was selected by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Tom Heywood was taken in the sixth round (123rd overall) of the 1983 draft by the Golden State Warriors. The last Weber State player selected in the NBA Draft was Shawn Campbell who was picked in the fifth round of the 1985 draft by the Phoenix Suns.
Lillard will also join elite company and become just the third player from the Big Sky Conference ever drafted in the first round. The highest Big Sky player ever drafted was Montana's Michael Ray Richardson who was selected fourth overall in the 1978 draft by the New York Knicks. The only other player from the Big Sky picked in the first round was Rodney Stuckey who was taken 15th overall in 2007 by the Detroit Pistons.