Former Illinois center Meyers Leonard (pictured to the left with David Stern) invited the new Kansas State coach to the draft, and sat with him and four other close friends and relatives in the “Green Room” until the Portland Trail Blazers took him with the No. 11 pick.
Sharing the joy of becoming a lottery pick with a former player was a thrill.
“I was obviously excited for our player and his family,” Weber said. “As a coach, it’s a nice moment. It’s a proud moment. His story makes it even better. He was a kid who grew very late, and came from a small town. He was not a highly touted player, now he is a lottery pick. You hope you had something to do with that in his development as a player and a person.”
It was fun to be in the middle of all the action, too.
Unlike 2006, when Weber watched two Illinois players get selected in the first round, he was in attendance. Back then, Deron Williams went with the third overall pick. Later, Luther Head went 24th. It was a great night for Weber. But because he knew multiple Illinois players were going to be selected, he stayed home and invited his returning players to watch the draft with him at his house.
That was a lot of fun. This was special.
“Just being there and seeing what’s going on was a neat experience,” Weber said. “This is what kids dream about. To have that opportunity to get drafted, and to be a part of it … You’re happy for everyone, especially the kids you coached and the other guys you got to know over time or recruited at one point.”
Weber hopes he can return to the draft in the near future with a K-State player. The Wildcats produced a lottery pick in 2008, when Michael Beasley was chosen second. Bill Walker was also selected in the second round of that draft, but no K-State player has been drafted since.
K-State players were certainly paying attention to the draft on Thursday, though. Weber got a kick out of all the text messages he received from them when Leonard was drafted.
Before leaving for the draft, Weber got plenty of questions about what it takes to become a lottery pick.
“I talked to them about it the other day,” Weber said. “Just obviously this is their dream and we talked a little bit about Meyers and his story. I stressed how important it is to work at it and put the time in. If you really want it, you can get it. But it doesn’t come on its own. It’s not a magical thing. You have to work really hard.”