Richardson Is Timberwolves’ First Draft Choice

June 27, 1989 — The Timberwolves made UCLA point guard Jerome "Pooh" Richardson their first selection in the NBA Draft. Richardson (6-1, 180) was the 10th player taken overall.

Richardson, 23, had an outstanding career at UCLA, where he was a three-time All-Pac-10 First Team selection. He established a conference career assist record with 833 (12th-best in NCAA history), along with setting UCLA records for steals (182) and minutes played (4,297). Richardson enhanced his stock in this year's draft with a strong senior season, averaging 15.2 points and 7.6 assists per game. He also shot 55 percent from the field and 49 percent from three-point range.

"We felt he was the best three-point shooter and the only pure point guard in the draft," said Timberwolves head coach Bill Musselman.

Richardson became a standout early in his college career, being named Co-Freshman of the Year for 1986, when he scored 10.6 ppg and led the conference in assists with 6.2 per contest. He averaged 10.5 ppg/6.5 apg as a sophomore and improved to 11.6 ppg/7.0 apg as a junior. Along with his collegiate prowess, Richardson was a member of the U.S. squad that won a silver medal in the 1986 Pan American Games.

"He complements the expansion draft roster players we have and will fit in well with the team's offensive philosophy," said director of player personnel Billy McKinney.

The Philadelphia native was considered by many to be the finest point guard in the nation as a senior at Ben Franklin High School, where he earned several First Team All-America honors. Richardson was also a three-time Pennsylvania all-state selection.

"In what has been considered the year of the point guard, we felt Pooh Richardson was the best player available," said Timberwolves president Bob Stein. "Richardson represents another solid piece in the formula we have developed. He is a court general, a solid person and a leader who has the potential to play a long time in this league."

Richardson joins David Rivers, Mark Davis and Maurice Martin, all selected in the NBA Expansion Draft, as guards on the Timberwolves roster.

"I'm glad to be here," said Richardson. "I visited the Twin Cities last week and didn't want to leave. I really like this area, and I like my situation. I'm very thankful for what has happened to me."

Missouri's Leonard, Villanova's West Selected in Second Round

The Timberwolves went with size, shooting and experience by selecting Missouri center Gary Leonard and Villanova shooting guard Doug West with the 34th and 38th overall selections in the 1989 NBA Draft.

Leonard (7-1, 240) emerged as one of the leading centers available in the draft with a strong senior season after starting all 37 games and posting career highs in points (10.4 ppg) and rebounds (5.5 rpg). His .593 shooting from the field and 42 blocked shots helped Missouri advance to the "Sweet 16" of the NCAA Tournament.

West (6-6, 200) was a solid four-year performer at Villanova, where he became the Wildcats' third all-time leading scorer with 2,037 points (14.8 ppg). As a senior, West scored a career-high 18.4 ppg and was selected as the team's MVP.

Timberwolves director of player personnel Billy McKinney believes both players will fit into the team's long-range plans.

"Leonard had his ups and downs at Missouri this year, but he has the ability to be a good backup center in the NBA. Our job will be to work with him and make him a better player in the future.

"We got a very smart player (in West) who played in one of the toughest leagues (Big East) in the country. He's a big guard who is used to playing under pressure."

Leonard, the only Missouri player to start every game in 1988-89, was a part-time starter during his first three years. His .628 field goal percentage as a junior was among the nation's leaders in 1987-88. "He (Leonard) has some skills and good reaction for a big man," said Timberwolves head coach Bill Musselman. "We were fortunate he was still there in the draft when we selected."

West was named to the Big East All-Freshman team in 1985-86, when he averaged 10.2 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. He improved to 15.2 ppg and 4.9 rpg as a sophomore and boosted his scoring to 15.8 ppg as a junior, when he was an All-Big East Second Team pick. His defense, including 127 steals, was another reason West was an attractive selection for the Timberwolves. "He is as good an athlete as there is in the draft," Musselman said. "He has a good, quick first step and will become a much better player in the pros."

Leonard, 22, hails from Belleville, Ill., where he was an all-state and All-America selection as a senior at Belleville East High School. West, 22, is a native of Altoona, Pa. He was an all-state selection at Altoona High School and was MVP of the Pennsylvania All-Stars at the Dapper Dan Roundball Classic in 1985. West and Richardson were teammates in summer league competition as youths.

Leonard and West each earned bachelor's degrees in communications at Missouri and Villanova, respectively.