LOS ANGELES (AP) — Eager to fill a hole at small forward, the Los Angeles Clippers selected Al-Farouq Aminu of Wake Forest with the eighth pick in the NBA draft on Thursday night.
"You see 100 times people walk across the stage and shake hands, but when it happens to you, it's like unreal," he said in a conference call from New York. "I can't really explain in words how I feel. I just can't wait to get there."
The 6-foot-9 forward from Norcross, Ga., left school after his sophomore season. Aminu led the Demon Deacons in scoring (15.8 points), rebounding (10.7) and blocks (44) last season. He was the first Wake Forest player to lead the ACC in rebounding since Tim Duncan in 1997.
"We wouldn't have taken him if at some point we didn't think he was going to become the starting small forward," general manager Neil Olshey said. "There are ways he can contribute to this roster from day one."
Aminu said he would prefer being at small forward, the position he played as a freshman before switching to power forward as a sophomore.
Aminu worked out for the Clippers on June 1 and he already has leased a place to live in Marina Del Rey, Olshey said.
"We've been one of the poor rebounding teams in the league at the small forward position," Olshey said. "We just added the best rebounder in the ACC."
Aminu was touted for his length and mobility, with an innate ability to snag rebounds.
"He's used to playing with talent and he accepts a role. He comes from a great family, wants to get better and wants to work," Olshey said.
"There's going to be a curve. He's young and a 19-year-old second-year player. We've got the time to develop him. It's a really nice building block."
Aminu's first name means "the chief has arrived." He is descended from a line of Nigerian kings. His older brother, Alade, spent last season playing in the D-League before getting called up by the Miami Heat.
The Clippers finished with a 29-53 record, missing the playoffs for the 15th time in 17 years. They were 8-33 on the road, their worst mark away from home since 1999-2000, when they went 5-36.
None of that seemingly bothers Aminu.
"My agent was telling me there was a possibility I'd end up with the Clippers," he said. "I already kind of liked the idea of it."
The Clippers have been without a coach since firing Kim Hughes, who filled the interim position, on April 15.
Team president Andy Roeser said he expects a coach to be hired by the time free agency begins July 1.
"We've narrowed it down to a short list of candidates and have had discussions," he said.
The Clippers have nine free agents, and Roeser said, "We're going to be very active."
Aminu made his way to the stage at Madison Square Garden in New York wearing a pair of big black-rimmed glasses.
"I like the glasses," Olshey said. "It's a highly intellectual approach. I think it's an homage to Baron Davis."
Aminu added, "It's a fashion thing. They're just a different look."
Besides Davis, Aminu joins a team featuring last year's No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin, who broke his left kneecap in the final preseason game and was sidelined the entire season. Griffin is now back to full strength and is expected to be ready for training camp.