Despite all predictions that had him going much earlier, the New York Knicks picked forward Cleanthony Early, a senior second-team All-American, with the 34th pick in the 2014 draft. Phil Jackson’s first pick in the draft, Early was a steal in the second round for the Knicks and is the first Wichita State player drafted by the NBA since 1987.
Early, 6-8, 219-pounds, averaged 16.4 points and 5.9 rebounds in 36 games for the Shockers last season. The Middletown, NY native was named to the All-Valley First Team as a junior and senior after being named the NJCAA Division III Player of the Year twice for Sullivan County Community College.
The Bronx-born senior averaged 16.3 points per game in 27 minutes and was a high-energy scorer who led Wichita State to two straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Final Four berth two years ago and an unbeaten regular season in 2013-14. Early played at Pine Bush High in Orange County.
Early moved upstate at age 14 after being raised in The Bronx and has an eerie similarity to Carmelo Anthony in body type and scoring prowess.
“I’m a New York kid,’’ he told The Post’s Steve Serby in March. “I grew up in The Bronx. I’ve been in Brooklyn, I’ve been in Queens, I’ve played basketball a lot of places in New York. It’s pretty much the same, it’s that gritty attitude, that New York City swag.’’
Phil Jackson not waiting to see whether pending free agent Carmelo Anthony returns next season, to begin reshaping the mess of a team he inherited. First move was shipping Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton off to Dallas on Wednesday for four players including point guard upgrade Jose Calderon and two second-round picks in Thursday night’s NBA draft.
The Knicks nabbed three prospects on Draft Night after not having a pick 24 hours before the draft. With their second pick of the draft, the Knicks took defensive specialist swing-man Thanasis Antetokounmpo of Greece, a 21-year-old who played last season in the D-League, the older brother of the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, with the 51st selection. The Knicks also acquired the 57th pick from Indiana in exchange for cash, and took French big man Louis Labeyrie.