I've always been the underdog, high school, college, being overlooked. And to finally see that my body of work, how hard I worked to get in this position has paid off, and other people see it, it's just a good feeling. —Damian Lillard
Read more:2012 NBA Draft Selections
Damian Lillard claimed he didn't know he was going to be drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers Thursday night even though he wore a mostly black sportcoat with red socks and a red pocket handkerchief to NBA Draft proceedings in Newark, New Jersey.
Portland's colors just happen to be black and red.
Lillard was thrilled to be chosen No. 6 overall by the Trail Blazers, becoming the first first-round draft choice in Weber State basketball history.
"I'm very excited to be on the West Coast because most of my family is there," said Lillard, who is a native of Oakland, California. "I'm excited for this opportunity."
It wasn't a big surprise for Lillard to be taken at No. 6. A lot of draft experts pegged Lillard going to either Portland or Golden State at No. 7. The 6-3, 189-pound guard was a two-time Big Sky Player of the Year, who impressed scouts in his postseason workouts and at the NBA combine in Chicago earlier this month.
"First of all, I want to say I'm blessed to be in this position," said Lillard, who was one of 14 players invited to attend the draft in New Jersey. "I would be lying if I said I expected to be here last year. But I'm honored just to be drafted that high coming from where I come from, the school that I come from, and just so thankful to be in this situation."
Lillard was the first point guard taken in the draft, ahead of players such as Austin Rivers of Duke and Kendall Marshall of North Carolina.
"It means a lot," Lillard said about being the first point guard taken. "Coming where I came from, it just shows that I have won people over, and I've always been the underdog, high school, college, being overlooked. And to finally see that my body of work, how hard I worked to get in this position has paid off, and other people see it, it's just a good feeling."
Lillard's coach Randy Rahe was thrilled for his star player, but not surprised. He said several teams had shown strong interest in Lillard in the days leading up to the draft, including Sacramento at No. 5, Golden State at No. 7 and Toronto at No. 8.
Some college coaches, such as Kansas' Roy Williams were on hand at the draft along with their players in New Jersey. Rahe said he told Lillard earlier this month that he should take his family members among the five people each of the top prospects were allowed to bring.
Rahe stayed in Ogden and celebrated with Weber State fans at a draft party. He called it "an amazing night for Damian and his family," and said there's "no one more deserving."
"We're proud of him and happy for him and his family," Rahe said.
In becoming the highest-drafted player in Weber State history, Lillard joins such local standouts such as Andrew Bogut, Keith Van Horn, Shawn Bradley and Jimmer Fredette, who were taken as lottery picks in recent years.
Utah's Bogut was taken No. 1 in 2005 by the Milwaukee Bucks, Van Horn was chosen No. 2 by Philadelphia (and traded to New Jersey) in 1997, Bradley was chosen No. 2 by Philadelphia in 1993 and Fredette was drafted No. 10 by Milwaukee last year (and traded to Sacramento).
Other local lottery picks in the past two decades were BYU's Rafael Araujo No. 8 by Toronto in 2004, Utah's Andre Miller No. 8 by Cleveland in 1999 and Utah's Michael Doleac No. 12 by Orlando in 1998.
Lillard is just the third Big Sky player ever selected in the first round, joining Montana's Micheal Ray Richardson, who was taken fourth by New York in 1978 and Eastern Washington's Rodney Stuckey, who was selected 15th by Detroit in 2007.
Lillard will be joining a Portland team that was plagued by injuries last year and finished out of the playoffs at 28-38. Besides Lillard, the Blazers also selected 11th in the first round and opted for a big man in Illinois' 7-1 center Meyers Leonard.
Damian Lillard bio
Guard, 6-3, 195
Hometown: Oakland, Calif.
Born: July 15, 1990
College: Weber State
Honors: 2012 AP third-team All-American
FG 3PG FT REB
Season G M-A M-A M-A O-T AST BLK STL PTS AVG
08-09 31 119-274 49-131 69-82 9-120 89 6 33 356 11.5
09-10 31 185-429 84-214 163-191 11-125 112 4 35 617 19.9
10-11 9 49-112 19-55 60-70 6-38 33 2 14 177 19.7
11-12 32 231-495 94-230 228-257 17-161 128 7 47 784 24.5
Total 103 584-1310 246-630 520-600 43-444 362 19 129 1934 18.8