NEW YORK -- Jersey Boys Wade Baldwin, Malachi Richardson and DeAndre' Bembry all went in the first round of the NBA Draft Thursday night, solidifying the state's reputation for producing some of the world's top basketball talent.
The 6-foot-4 Baldwin out of Vanderbilt went first, at No. 17 to the Memphis Grizzlies.
The 6-5 Bembry out of St. Joe's was taken at No. 21 by the Atlanta Hawks.
And the 6-6 Richardson from Syracuse was taken immediately after at No. 22 by the Charlotte Hornets (who conveyed the pick to the Sacramento Kings).
All three played for New Jersey prep powerhouses: Baldwin at St. Joe's-Metuchen, Bembry at St. Patrick's and Richardson at both Trenton Catholic and Roselle Catholic, while Baldwin and Bembry both played for the New Jersey-based Sports U AAU program.
"I mean, it's special, it just shows the talent that's in Jersey," Karl-Anthony Towns, the No. 1 pick in 2015 out of Kentucky, told SNY.tv at the Draft, where he was doing commentary for ESPN. "Me being the No. 1 pick last year, Wade going to the Memphis Grizzlies, now Malachi going to the Charlotte Hornets just shows that the talent was abundant when we played and it's just still growing in New Jersey. The talent's still coming in, and I expect a lot more picks to be in the NBA Draft, especially in the first round."
Towns has been mentoring Richardson and Baldwin (his former Sports U teammate) recently heading into the Draft.
"I'm happy for them," he said. "This is the day of our lives. They deserve this moment. They put the hard work in and they trusted the program and the process."
Baldwin and Towns lost to Richardson and Roselle Catholic in the 2013 Tournament of Champions final, but came back to win in 2014 against Newark East Side. That St. Joe's team also produced James Ziemba, who was just selected by the Philadelphia Phillies as a left-handed pitcher. All three are now pros.
"I think it allowed us to put egos aside," Baldwin said of playing on that team. "On that team we had such great talent, five Division I guys, and you have to sacrifice who you are and how you want to play. You have to sacrifice points for what's best for the team, and using that, I translated it into college, and now I'm here, and I continue to use that same mentality, that same approach. Whatever team I'm on, it's about sacrifice, and those are the teams that I think do very well."
As for staying in Tennessee for his pro career after going to Vanderbilt, Baldwin was elated.
"Oh, it's awesome, man," Baldwin said. "I picked Tennessee being a great state, good weather. I've been to Memphis before. It has rich history. I couldn't be happier with the place that I'm at."
Bembry was not at the Draft, and instead watched it with his family and St. Joe's coach Phil Martelli at home in New Jersey.
Bembry becomes the 33rd player in St. Joe's history to be chosen in the NBA Draft and the first since 2009 when Ahmad Nivins was a second-round pick of the Dallas Mavericks.
"I am delighted for DeAndre' and his mother Essence," Martelli said. "This has been an extraordinary night! What a great moment for the program and the Saint Joseph's community."
Bembry helped himself this past year by being named the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and the performing well at the Combine.
"I'm a team player," Bembry said after a recent workout with the Sixers. "I can do just about everything a coach wants me to do, whether it's playing defense and being a role player that way or be a leader of the team and score or get others involved. I just like to show them my overall game and my overall personality."
As for Richardson, he had to wait until later than expected to go at No. 22. He had been projected by several mocks to go in the teens.
"It feels like an animal being lifted off my back," he said. "Just waiting and waiting to hear your name called is sort of crazy. But I'm just glad and thankful I was picked by the Sacramento Kings, and I look forward to it."
Richardson never worked out for the Kings, but knows their most famous player a little bit.
"I was able to hang out with DeMarcus Cousins a little bit while I was out in Vegas, but no, I didn't work out with the Kings," he said.
Richardson made himself into a one-and-done player by leading Syracuse to the Final Four and destroying Virginia's Malcolm Brogdon with a bigtime shooting performance along the way.
"I just look forward to going out there and working my tail off," he said, "trying to help that organization."