Darius Garland

By Ron Wynn

NASHVILLE, TN — It’s rare when two players from the same city or state wind up drafted by the identical team, but that’s exactly what happened in Thursday’s NBA draft. Darius Garland, whose Vanderbilt career was cut short by injury, and Dylan Windler, Belmont’s star and last year’s number two OVC player behind Murray State’s Jah Morant, were both picked by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round. Garland was among the nation’s most heralded signings when Vanderbilt landed him, but he played only five games before a torn meniscus ended his tenure there. Yet he’s the second highest draft pick in Vanderbilt history, and is widely viewed as a potential

All-Star point guard. During his brief Vandy stint, he averaged 16.2 points and displayed enough ability as a passer and ballhandler, plus long-range shooting ability, to still generate widespread NBA interest.

Windler, a two-time All-OVC player, is only Belmont’s second player drafted. He had a banner season this year, averaging 21.3 points and 10.9 rebounds. His ability to score in transition or traffic, his toughness on both the offensive and defensive boards, and his overall court savvy and skill were highly regarded. That these two would end up as teammates is something neither anticipated. Garland was the fifth overall selection and Windler the 26th player selected.

But these weren’t the only area players tabbed in the NBA draft. Lipscomb’s Garrison Mathews, a three-time All-Atlantic Sun Conference performer and Lipscomb’s NCAA Division 1 leading scorer, signed a two-way contract with the Washington Wizards Thursday. Under the contract, Mathews can play 45 days in the league and the remainder of the season in the G League. Mathews is already slated to join the Wizards July 5, and then play in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

Tennessee set a school record with three players being picked, the first time that’s happened in the current draft system of two rounds. They previously had three picked in 1950 and 1977. Leading the way was two-time SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams, who was selected by the Boston Celtics at number 22, in the middle of the first round. Williams averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 rebounds his senior season, earning consensus All-American honors. Admiral Schofield was picked number 42 by the Philadelphia 76ers. but didn’t stay there very long. He was included in a trade that saw him going to the Wizards. He averaged 16.5 points and 6.1 rebounds in a senior season that ended with him being an All-SEC first team selection. Jordan Bone was the third Volunteer drafted. He was selected by the Detroit Pistons, and has already signed a two-way deal with them. Bone, who left after his junior season, departs as the school’s all-time leading assist-to-turnover leader.

Though he didn’t get drafted, former Vanderbilt forward Simi Shittu is also getting an NBA chance. He will play for the Memphis Grizzlies in the Salt Lake City Summer League July 1-3. His stock dropped after an erratic first season that saw him average 10.9 points and 6.7 rebounds. He declared for the draft in August, and turned down opportunities to return to Vanderbilt. Perhaps the biggest news draft wise that didn’t involve a middle Tennessee team was the Memphis Grizzlies drafting OVC Player of the Year Jah Morant of Murray State second in the draft behind Duke’s Zion Williamson. He’s expected to step right into the Grizzlies’ starting lineup, replacing Mike Conley who was traded to Utah two weeks ago.