COLLEGE PARK -- Former Maryland center Diamond Stone was surrounded by friends and family in a College Park apartment building not far from where he played his college basketball as some of the more unexpected selections of the 2016 NBA Draft rolled in.
The international man of mystery, Thon Maker, went No. 10 overall to the Milwaukee Bucks. Taurean Prince, projected by many to go somewhere in the early 20s, at No. 12 to the Jazz. Marquette’s Henry Ellenson slipped. Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere fell nearly out of the first round. Deyonta Davis, whom Stone faced during the conference schedule at Michigan State, ended up in the second round.
International player after international player came off the board, creating a draft-night force that pushed him deeper into the second round. Then shortly before 11:30 p.m. ET the call came, informing Stone that the New Orleans Pelicans would be picking on behalf of the Los Angeles Clippers at No. 39 and No. 40 as part of a trade. He would be taken with that second selection.
With his mother to his left and his father to his right, Stone watched as the pick was officially announced on television. The lack of genuine surprise after already knowing he would be taken explains part of his reaction -- a smile and a slight dropping back of the head -- but there was undoubtedly a tinge of disappointment in his expression as well as the night’s result sunk in.
“As the night went on, it was kind of frustrating at first, just different bigs selected before me but I think that’s making me hungrier,” he told CSN. “So I think around Summer League I’ll be ready to play and play with a chip on my shoulder.
“But I’m blessed and thankful to be picked by the Clippers, thankful for them to give me the opportunity and it’s all in my hands now.”
After averaging 12.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game and being named the Newcomer of the Year in the Big Ten by the Associated Press in his lone season in College Park, Stone signed an agent immediately after declaring for the draft and in the process closed the door on the possibility of returning to Maryland for his sophomore season.
Thursday night, big man after big man came off the board, ranging from college surprises like Pascal Siakim from New Mexico State to Toronto at No. 27 to the slipping Labissiere one pick later to Sacramento to Vanderbilt’s Damian Jones at No. 30 to Louisville’s Chinanu Onuaku at No. 38, plus a host of internationals like Ivica Zubac and Ante Zizic in spots that were previously thought to be possible Stone destinations.
But the Milwaukee native said later that Thursday night’s result did not in any way make him regret his decision to leave Maryland after just his freshman season.
“If I’d do it all over, I still would have went out,” Stone said. “It didn’t play like I wanted it to play, but I’ll just make the best of my decision.
“Anything is possible. I’m 40th, so I’m just going to just make the best of it. But I’m just, again, going to play with a chip on my shoulder and every big ahead of me, I’m coming.”