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Associated Press
Indiana’s Noah Vonleh poses with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being selected ninth overall by Charlotte on Thursday.

Hornets look to IU: Pick Vonleh

– The Charlotte Hornets are becoming a pipeline to the NBA for Hoosiers.

For the second straight year the Hornets used a lottery pick on an Indiana player, taking power forward Noah Vonleh with the ninth overall pick Thursday night in the NBA draft. Last year the team selected Indiana power forward Cody Zeller with the No. 4 pick.

The Hornets made a trade later in the first round to acquire shooting guard P.J. Hairston.

People familiar with the deal told The Associated Press that the Hornets sent Connecticut guard Shabazz Napier to the Miami Heat in exchange for Miami’s 26th and 55th picks and a future second-round pick. The Heat selected Hairston, a former North Carolina Tar Heel who played last year in the NBA D-League, at No. 26 for Charlotte.

The people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the trade had not yet been completed by the NBA.

The 6-foot-10 Vonleh said he was surprised to be drafted by the Hornets because they didn’t work him out. Then again, he said he never expected to fall to No. 9 pick.

“It was a little bit of a shock, but I’m glad they saw something in me,” Vonleh said.

Vonleh gives the Hornets some added height and a potential replacement in case the team is unable to re-sign Josh McRoberts, who opted out of his contract this month.

Second-year coach Steve Clifford emphasized size as a big need for the Hornets this offseason and Vonleh, with his 7-foot-4 wing span and 9-foot standing reach, brings just that to the table.

The 18-year-old Vonleh averaged 11.3 points and nine rebounds and was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year last season. He spent only one season at Indiana but led the Big Ten in rebounds and was eighth in the conference in blocked shots.

He’s expected to compete for playing time with last year’s starter McRoberts – should he be re-signed – and Zeller.

“I’m a hard-working player with a great work ethic,” Vonleh said. “I’m going to play hard from day one and try to work my way into the rotation by bringing energy to the floor.”

The Hornets needed outside shooting but when 6-foot-7 Nik Stauskas from Michigan went at No. 8, they turned to Vonleh.

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