There was a time, not that long ago, when basketball players weren’t drafted by the NBA until after they had played for four years in college. The notion sounds so old-school these days, with players barely sticking around long enough to find their way around campus before they jump to the NBA.
But on this day in 1983, three seniors (yes, seniors) from NC State’s national championship team were selected in the NBA draft.
Thurl Bailey was chosen by the Utah Jazz with the seventh pick in the first round. Sidney Lowe was chosen by the Chicago Bulls with the first pick of the second round. And Dereck Whittenburg was chosen by the Phoenix Suns in the third round.
Frank Layden, then the head coach and general manager of the Jazz, said Bailey’s basketball talent was only part of the reason the team drafted him so high.
“When we chose Thurl we felt like there were probably some players available with more talent,” Layden said in a story about Bailey in the March 1985 issue of NC State alumni magazine. “But we talked to Jim Valvano who told us, ‘Don’t look at Thurl as just a player. As a person, he’ll make your team better.’ When we checked with Dean Smith and other coaches in the ACC, they all said the same thing.”
Another ACC star, Virginia’s Ralph Sampson, was chosen by the Houston Rockets with the first overall pick of the draft.