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As he made his way down the escalator in the inside Terminal One at Sacramento International Airport Friday afternoon, his eye-catching smile was happily stretched across his face upon seeing the masses awaiting his arrival into the Capitol City.
That’s right Kings fans, along with the other two draft picks selected this week, the Jimmer has landed!
A couple of hundred of the Kings faithful patiently waited for the slightly delayed flight and they weren’t disappointed when 2011 draft picks Jimmer Fredette, Tyler Honeycutt and Isaiah Thomas made their way through the crowd - high-fiving fans and shaking hands all along the way.
The Kings had to do some wheeling and dealing to land Fredette. A draft day trade that sent Beno Udrih and the seventh pick in the draft to Milwaukee for former King John Salmons and the tenth pick. Moving down allowed the Kings to land the Fredette with the tenth pick where they may have felt they could pick him without looking like they were reaching.
Even though Jimmer had some off-the-chart numbers in his senior season at BYU - 28.9 points per game, 3.4 boards, 4.3 assists and shot almost 40% from beyond the arc - Fredette was slotted to go somewhere between the eleventh and sixteenth pick in the first round. But after Kings executives saw his impressive workout, they moved him up their draft board and happily took him with the tenth overall pick.
Many Kings fans made their way to the airport to greet the college star and Fredette was very happy to see the large welcoming committee.
“I’m really excited to be here,” started Jimmer. “To be a Sacramento King and to see the reception is really exciting for all of us here.”
Moments later he would say what everyone in KingsLand wanted to hear.
“I’m excited to be a King!”, exclaimed Jimmer.
The moment wasn’t lost on Jimmer’s girlfriend as she was seen looking back at the police behind her in awe of the crowd as she and Fredette made their way down the moving staircase.
Fredette, the consensus Player of the Year in college basketball last season, brings a smooth shot, amazing range and a nifty little crossover move to a team that will be looking to run and gun this campaign.
Also arriving were 2nd round picks Tyler Honeycutt (UCLA) and Isaiah Thomas (Washington). With the three new additions, the Kings become more athletic and will have more guys that can create their own shot. This team could become impossible to guard defensively.
The Kings brass were somewhat shocked when they realized the UCLA product was still around come the 35th overall pick.
Honeycutt talked about leaving school early considering he was projected to be a first round pick if he had stayed for his junior year.
“I felt like I had a solid year and I thought it was the right time for me,” said Honeycutt. “I felt parts of my game were ready to go to that next level.”
From what the scouts are saying, Honeycutt has a great basketball IQ, is an excellent passer and can block a lot of shots for his size.
With the last pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Kings selected Isaiah Thomas. He’s only 5’10” but can jump out of the building. With a 39.5-inch vertical leap, it’s easy to see why the Kings thought he has a shot at making the roster.
Thomas, who averaged 16.8 points and 6.1 assists a contest, really improved his passing skills between his sophomore and junior years.
In his second year in the Northwest, he only averaged 3.2 assists, but by the end of his third season with the Huskies, he increased that average substantially.
Thomas was very happy he was able to stay on the West Coast. He was also a little shocked to see how much Kings fans love their basketball.
“I’m very excited,” started Thomas. “I think everything worked out perfectly. I get to stay home in California. As you can see, we got great fans. I don’t know how many other teams this (airport gathering) is happening to!”
Thomas didn’t stop there when declaring how happy he was to be picked by Sacramento.
“It’s a blessing! It’s a great organization. You can already tell the fans are second to none. This is just unbelieveble!”
For those of you that missed the airport arrival, you can catch the three new draftees at the Rookie Rally at the Arden Fair Mall in front of Nordstrom at 2:30 on this Saturday.