First Team to First Round: Irving, Knight Ready for NBA Draft

Kyrie Irving and Brandon Knight were wide-eyed high school freshmen back in 2006, when they accepted an invitation to join the iHoops First Team mentorship program.

The two were part of the iHoops family from that point forward, and attended their initial First Team conference in Tampa, Florida the following summer.

Obviously, they've come a long way in five short years. Irving and Knight have finished a fantastic year of college basketball and now are expected to be picked early in the 2011 NBA Draft. Irving could be the No. 1 overall pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Knight, meanwhile, could be a top-5 selection.

Yet for Greg Turner, iHoops' associate director of programs, the two were more than just gifted basketball players.

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Check out images of Kyrie and Brandon as they participaed in the First Team program through the years.

"They were both the epitome of what being a First Team kid is all about," Turner said. "Both well-mannered and both have million-dollar smiles. Kyrie was more outgoing and Brandon was a little more reserved. Both were outstanding students and took the information they received from the conferences very serious."

Irving was mentored by the iHoops First Team staff while attending Montclair (N.J.) Kimberly Academy for two years and St. Patrick's for two years. He went through an exhaustive recruiting process and eventually chose Duke over schools like Georgia Tech and Kentucky.

He averaged 17.5 points per game for the Blue Devils but missed most of his only college season because of a toe injury. Nevertheless, his skills were ready for the ultra-talented NBA, and many analysts feel Irving is the best prospect in the 2011 NBA Draft.

Knight had a similarly successful path to professional basketball. He was two-time Gatorade national player of the year while at Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was heavily recruited by colleges like Kansas and Connecticut, but signed with the University of Kentucky.

After averaging 17.3 points per game and helping the Wildcats to the Final Four, Knight declared for the NBA Draft and could be among the first five picks.

"Brandon is a warrior on and off the court," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "He is as driven as any other player that I've ever coached."

Knight and Irving are expected to join several current NBA players who were also First Team alumni. The list includes Greg Oden and Elliot Williams (Portland Trailblazers), O.J. Mayo and Mike Conley Jr. (Memphis Grizzlies), Eric Gordon (Los Angeles Clippers), Byron Mullens, Daequan Cook and Cole Aldrich (Oklahoma City Thunder), Patrick Patterson (Houston Rockets), Bill Walker (New York Knicks) and Brandan Wright (New Jersey Nets).

The NBA Draft will be held on June 23 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

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