It was June 28, 2005, and the city of Seattle was preparing to invade Madison Square Garden. Among the first 21 picks in that evening’s NBA draft would be three young men who honed their games in the parks and high schools of the Emerald City.
Marvin Williams was the first Seattle resident, and second player overall, to shake hands with commissioner David Stern just months after helping lead North Carolina to a national championship as a freshman.
Four picks later, Martell Webster became one of the final preps-to-pros lottery picks ever when he reneged on a commitment to the University of Washington and was drafted sixth overall. Even 5-foot-9 Nate Robinson forced his way into the party, getting picked 21st overall after leading Washington to a No. 1 seed.
With such an abundance of talent, it’s no wonder that Seattle has become a hot spot for Pac-10 recruiting. Five of the top 25 and three of the top seven scorers in the conference hail from the Seattle area, including leading scorer Aaron Brooks of Oregon.
“Everyone comes to Seattle recruiting the players that are here,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “I think that’s a good thing.”
The state of Washington has been shut out of just one of the last 10 NBA drafts. Eight of the dozen-or-so Washingtonians selected in that time hailed from the Seattle area.
Statistically, the state and the city are ahead of the curve.
Washington is the 14th most populous state with about 6.4 million people, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates. A state of that size should contribute no more than eight players to the NBA’s U.S.-born player pool.
However, there are currently 11 NBA players who attended high schools in the state of Washington, including seven from Seattle.
By comparison, Arizona has 6.2 million people to rank as the 16th most populous state and has placed just three current players in the NBA.
Figures for metropolitan areas are inconsistent because such areas are hard to define, but the Seattle and Phoenix areas are often listed right next to each other in population rankings.
It didn’t take long for Arizona State coach Herb Sendek to find the Pac-10’s hidden hot spot. He took advantage of the talent in the area by signing 6-foot-2 point guard Jamelle McMillan of Seattle O’Dea High. He is the son of former NBA player and current Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan.
“He has the disposition to be a great teammate, floor general,” Sendek said. “Not all coach’s sons have those. I was a coach’s son and my floor game wasn’t too good. But in this case, Coach McMillan has done a tremendous job in imparting his excellence.”
No program has benefited from the talent in Seattle as much as Washington. Gonzaga has snared a couple of players — most notably Dan Dickau and Adam Morrison — from elsewhere in the state, but no one has dominated Romar’s turf like Romar.
The 24th-ranked Huskies, whom the Sun Devils visit tonight, have six players from the Seattle area on their roster, including starters Spencer Hawes, Jon Brockman and Ryan Appleby.
Romar probably wouldn’t mind a starting five of Brooks, Hawes, Brockman, Marcus Williams of Arizona and Lodrick Stewart of Southern California. That all-Seattle lineup would hold its own against any in the conference.
“Over the last five years it really has been incredible,” Romar said of the talent in his backyard. “It’s certainly helped elevate our program.”
Arizona State at No. 24 Washington
When: 6 p.m. today
Where: Bank of America Arena, Seattle
TV: FSN Arizona