Virginia Tech star Nickeil Alexander-Walker was chosen by Brooklyn on behalf of New Orleans with the 17th overall pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday night.
He became just the second Hokie to ever be taken in the first round of the NBA Draft. The only other Hokie to ever be chosen in the first round of the NBA Draft was Dell Curry, who went to Utah with the 15th overall pick in 1986.
The Pelicans got the rights to the No. 17 pick in a trade Thursday.
Alexander-Walker, who led Virginia Tech in scoring and assists as a sophomore last season, became the first Tech nonsenior to ever be selected in the NBA Draft.
Alexander-Walker’s cousin Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round last year.
“To do what Shai got to do and what I dreamt of and all we talked about when we were kids,” Alexander-Walker marveled in an ESPN interview after getting picked. “[From] the first time I touched a basketball, that’s all I wanted to do. I used to cry when my mom told me that this could possibly never happen. And for God to make it happen, it’s a blessing.”
The Toronto native was one of the prospects who were invited to attend the draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. His mother and uncle accompanied him when he was introduced before the draft. Gilgeous-Alexander joined them at Alexander-Walker’s table.
“We worked for it our whole life,” Gilgeous-Alexander said to ESPN after his cousin was drafted. “We knew as early as I can remember that we’d both make it, and we’re here today. We still have more to prove. It doesn’t stop here for us, and we’re ready for the challenge.”
Alexander-Walker will join the No. 1 overall pick, Duke star Zion Williamson, in New Orleans. Duke ended Virginia Tech’s season in the Sweet 16.
Brooklyn had sent the rights to the No. 17 pick to Atlanta as part of a trade earlier this month. But on Thursday, New Orleans sent the No. 4 overall choice to Atlanta in exchange for the No. 8, No. 17 and No. 35 picks, along with a protected first-round pick from Cleveland in 2020 that belonged to Atlanta. The Hawks also got the No. 57 selection, a future second-round pick and forward Solomon Hill. The trades cannot become official until July 6 under NBA rules.
New Orleans used the No. 8 pick on Texas center Jaxson Hayes.
Alexander-Walker became the first Virginia Tech player to be taken in the NBA Draft since Erick Green was chosen in the second round in 2013.
Alexander-Walker was among the prospects who were invited to last month’s NBA combine in Chicago.
New Orleans was not one of the seven NBA teams who brought Alexander-Walker in for workouts this month.
The 6-foot-5, 204-pound off-guard made the All-ACC third team last season, when he ranked 10th in the ACC in scoring (16.2 points). He helped the Hokies win a school-record 26 games.
Alexander-Walker also dished out 135 assists last season. He became the team’s primary ball-handler during the 12 games that point guard Justin Robinson missed with a foot injury.
Former Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams, who is now the coach at Texas A&M, attended the draft Thursday night.