For the first time since 1974, three Vanderbilt players were taken in the NBA draft.
The Atlanta Hawks took John Jenkins with the 23rd pick in the first round on Thursday night. Festus Ezeli ended the opening round by going 30th to the Golden State Warriors. With the very next selection — the first of the second round — the Charlotte Bobcats picked Jeffery Taylor.
“It’s a historic night for Vanderbilt basketball,” Vanderbilt head coach Kevin Stallings said. “For our program to have three players drafted – it’s an awesome thing for those three young men. I thought Jeff would go higher, but for him and Festus to go back to back is a neat thing in itself. Nevertheless, I think they are all in good situations that are favorable to their futures. I’m proud of how hard they’ve worked, what they’ve done and how they’ve represented the university."
Jenkins, a 6-foot-4 guard from Hendersonville, was the first Vanderbilt player taken in the first round since the Chicago Bulls took Will Perdue 11th overall in 1988. Jenkins, who skipped his senior season to enter the draft, worked out with the Hawks twice over the last month, most recently on Wednesday.
"He is a guy that he can make shots," Hawks coach Larry Drew said. "You put him out on the floor you have to guard him at all times. You can see he has a passion about playing. Just watching this kid play he is a guy you can certainly get in the rotation right away. He is a hard worker and a great kid. Great kid."
A two-time All-SEC First Team selection, Jenkins averaged 19.9 points as a junior and was named a third-team All-American by the Associated Press. He led the country in 3-pointers per game (3.83) as the Commodores won the SEC Tournament championship and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
"So blessed to be a part of the Hawks organization," Jenkins wrote on his Twitter account. "Hard work does pay off!!"
The 6-foot-11 Ezeli, who moved to Sacramento from Nigeria in 2004, left Vanderbilt as the all-time blocks leader with 204. Having not played organized basketball until 2007 he became one of the country’s most improved big men. He averaged 13 points and 6.3 rebounds to go along with a single-season school-record 87 blocks in 2010-11.
Taylor, a 6-foot-7 forward from Sweden who played high school in New Mexico, averaged 16.1 points as a senior and shot 42.3 percent from 3-point range. His father, Jeff, was taken by the Houston Rockets in the second round of the 1982 draft.
It marked the first time three Commodores were taken in the first two rounds of the same draft. In 1974, Jan van Breda Kolff, Terry Compton and Bill Ligon were taken in the first 10 rounds of the draft.
Shan Foster was the last Commodore drafted, in 2008 when the Dallas Mavericks took him in the second round.