The state of Minnesota, as expected, was notably represented in Thursday’s NBA draft.
The University of Minnesota, however, only continued its draft drought with a pair of Gophers prospects — forwards Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams — going undrafted, even as their fellow Minnesotans, St. Cloud’s Nate Wolters (South Dakota State) and Roseville’s Mike Muscala (Bucknell) took the leap to the next level. Colton Iverson, a South Dakota native who transferred to Colorado State after playing for the Gophers, also was chosen.
Wolters was plucked from the draft board first, chosen by Washington with the 38th overall pick before being traded first to Philadelphia, then Milwaukee. Wolters, a versatile athlete, gained a reputation for his quickness and prolific scoring ability at South Dakota State. Last season, the 6-4, 190-pound guard was fourth in the country in scoring, averaging 22.3 points a game.
“I was just happy to get drafted,” Wolters told the Argus (S.D.) Leader. “I didn’t really care where, but when I got the call from Milwaukee I was really glad it was them. It’s the perfect fit really.”
Muscala landed at No. 44 overall and was traded from Dallas to Atlanta, which had long pined for the 6-11, 239-pound center.
“It means a lot to know that they trust me and have faith in my ability as a player,” said Muscala, whom Hawks general manager Danny Ferry had visited at Bucknell, the only GM to do so. “I’m excited to go and prove to them that I’m a good player and a great teammate and I’m excited for it to start.”
Muscala wasn’t heavily recruited by the Gophers, but he thrived at Bucknell, averaging 18.7 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 2.3 assists per game last season and was the only player in team and league history that finished with at least 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. He is one of just three players ever to be drafted from the school. Neither Al Leslie (Indiana Pacers, 1981) or Jaye Andrews (Philadelphia 76ers, 1985) ever played in an NBA game, however.
“I told him I’m no longer proud of him, I’m jealous,” Muscala’s dad, Bob, said with a chuckle. “Because at age 21, he’s already more talented, more confident in a variety of ways and more accomplished than I am at my age. And I just think, ‘wow.’ So it’s not really an issue of pride, it’s an issue of just being in awe and … jealous.”
The Gophers haven’t had a player drafted since 2004, when Kris Humphries was taken by Utah at No. 14 overall. It looked as though Mbakwe could be the first in nine years after the sixth-year senior and Minneapolis native impressed through a slew of NBA workouts. Mbakwe was predicted late in the second round by several mock drafts, but his name was not called.