METAIRIE, La. (AP) — When Buddy Hield flew into south Louisiana on Friday to begin his NBA career, among the first things he noticed was how hot it was — and he had no complaints.
"As soon as I came off the plane, it felt hot, it reminded me of home," said Hield, who grew up in the Bahamas. "It's the same feeling, a feeling I'm used to."
The 6-foot-4 Hield also got used to putting up a lot of shots from the perimeter — and making them — when he was leading Oklahoma to the NCAA Final Four last season. He'll be expected do that and more as a pro with the Pelicans, who made Hield the NBA's sixth overall draft pick Thursday night.
"What everybody's trying to do is put him in this label as just a shooter and he's much more than that," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said, emphasizing what he saw as the shooting guard's potential to be a strong defender. "He wants to be a complete player."
Hield, who averaged 25 points last season and made about 46 percent of his 3-pointers, said he figured he'd be a good fit in New Orleans because even the threat of his outside shot would create more space for All-Star forward Anthony Davis on the offensive end. Hield also likes Gentry's up-tempo system that yields a lot of shot attempts during the course of a game. And Hield said he became even more comfortable with the idea of playing for the Pelicans after working out for the club in southern California before the draft.
"The workouts were serious, but after workouts they were just joking around, so it felt like family and I felt comfortable and I felt welcome," Hield recalled. "It was the perfect fit and I'm glad I'm here now."
Hield was joined at Pelicans headquarters Friday night by second-round pick Cheick Diallo, who turned pro after one season at Kansas. Hield had one of his more memorable games against Kansas this past season, scoring 46 points in a triple overtime loss to the Jayhawks.
"I was like, 'Wow, No. 24 is good'" Diallo recalled. "I was like 'Wow, someone needs to stop him' ... He was getting buckets everywhere."
Unlike Hield, the 6-9 Diallo has much to prove after averaging only 3.0 points and 2.5 rebounds during his lone college season. He did, however, demonstrate potential by hitting 57 percent of his shots and blocking 23 shots in 27 games. The Pelicans had scouted him since high school and felt comfortable enough with his potential that they traded up to get him, dealing the 39th and 40th overall picks to the Clippers in exchange for Loss Angeles' 33rd pick.
"A lot of people doubt me and think, 'He wasn't playing at Kansas because he wasn't good enough.' So I have to prove people wrong because I know people don't know who I am," Diallo said. "People don't know what kind of things I do. People say, 'Oh, second-round pick.'
"I'm so happy to be here. I have a lot of opportunities and I want to do anything to get better."
Hield, who turns 23 in December, brings to the Pelicans a game that is more refined after a four-year college career. New Orleans is hoping his maturity and work ethic combine to help him make a smooth and quick transition to the pros.
"I feel like staying four years (at Oklahoma) helped me. I could have left early, but I wanted to be there four years under coach (Lon) Kruger. He's a great coach, great coaching staff," Hield said. "I was really able to learn and watch film and learn from my mistakes each and every year. After my junior year, coming into my senior year, I just attacked all my workouts and was more mentally focused. It was now or never, so I had to make that jump."
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Posted on Mon, June 27, 2016
by BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Writer