“Neither one of us expected it,” Whitaker said.
He expressed his feelings on Twitter: “Very emotional moment right now!!! But just want to Thank Everyone for all the Support. SA has been great to me and will never forget it!!”
In Leonard, the Pacers would have had a 6-foot-7 forward who averaged 15.5 points and 10.6 rebounds last season. He was a second-team All-American who helped the Aztecs win a school-record 34 games.
Pacers president Larry Bird had talked about with scoring guards heading into the draft, saying he was impressed with BYU’s Jimmer Fredette and Providence’s Marshon Brooks. Fredette was gone, but Brooks was available at No. 15.
Danny Granger, at age 28, is the elder statesman among the starters. Center Roy Hibbert just finished his third year, point guard Darren Collison and power forward Tyler Hansbrough were second-year players, and Paul George was a rookie. All five are under contract for next season.
Of those starters, Hibbert, Hansbrough and George have been first-round selections the past three years. Hibbert was acquired in a trade in 2008, Hansbrough was picked in 2009 and George was selected last year.
Though the Pacers are adding players, they have yet to name a head coach. Interim coach Frank Vogel took over for Jim O’Brien at the middle of last season, and the 38-year-old guided the team to a 20-18 record and a spot in the postseason. The team got off to a 7-3 start under him before the All-Star break, hit a skid, then closed the regular season strong to reach the playoffs.
Vogel has been named the frontrunner for the head coaching position, and he was involved in draft preparation. The team also has talked to former Pacers assistant Brian Shaw about the vacancies on the staff.
The Pacers also had the No. 42 pick.
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