SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Tyreke Evans is optimistic he can propel the Sacramento Kings back to a spot among the NBA's better teams, and the Kings got their new guard plenty of help for his quest on a busy draft night.
The Kings began their rebuilding project Thursday night by choosing Evans, the versatile University of Memphis scorer, with the fourth overall pick. Sacramento then chose Israeli forward Omri Casspi with the 23rd pick before swinging a trade with Portland to land point guard Sergio Rodriguez and University of Washington forward Jon Brockman, the 38th overall pick.
Sacramento's biggest score was Evans, judged by top executive Geoff Petrie to be the best in a bumper crop of point guard prospects. The teenager who left Memphis after one outstanding season is eager to begin repairing the club that finished with the NBA's worst record last season.
"Sacramento's a nice place, and I'm excited to be here," the 6-foot-5 Evans said by phone from New York. "I thought they were pretty interested in me. I knew there were a couple of guys they were looking at, and I was one of them. I just wanted to do anything I could to get there."
Evans won't turn 20 until September, but he's already a natural scorer who led the Tigers with 17.1 points per game as a point guard while his team won 27 straight games last season.
"We think he has the chance to become just a great player in this league," Petrie said. "He's been a superlative player from high school on."
Evans, a native of the Philadelphia area, thoroughly impressed the Kings' basketball braintrust during his draft workouts in Sacramento. Several days ago, Evans dominated a workout featuring Stephen Curry and Jonny Flynn, among other high draft picks.
"I thought I had a lot of advantages because of my size, my strength and my length," Evans said. "When they jumped, I was jumping over them. ... I never really talked to (the Kings) about positions. I just knew they were interested in me with my size and my length. I just went out there and showed them what I could do, and I guess I showed them."
Sacramento has been without a strong point guard since trading Mike Bibby to Atlanta in February 2008. Beno Udrih struggled in the role last season while the Kings finished 17-65, the NBA's worst record.
Evans and Udrih also could get help from Rodriguez, the Spaniard who has been a backup point guard for three seasons in Portland.
The Kings chose Evans over Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio, who went to Minnesota with the fifth pick. Sacramento had two recent visits with the 18-year-old Rubio, but preferred Evans' superior strength and physical play to Rubio's flashy playmaking.
Evans' basketball career has been promising since he became a high school varsity starter in the seventh grade, but it could have been derailed by an incident in November 2007, when Evans drove a car from which his cousin, Jamar Evans, shot and killed 19-year-old Marcus Reason.
Jamar Evans pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in January, but Tyreke Evans wasn't charged with a crime. The Kings ran independent background checks on many draft candidates, and emerged from their evaluation confident in Evans' character.
"He was very up-front about that," Petrie said. "He talked about that situation, explained it. He was very candid."
The Kings used their second first-round pick, which originally belonged to Houston, to select Casspi, an athletic 21-year-old forward with a slashing offensive game. He's also the first Israeli player to be drafted in NBA history, which set off a celebration in his native country and touched Casspi's heart.
"I cried like a baby, and that's something I try not to do a lot," said Casspi, who already has served three years in the Israeli army. "We've been waiting a long time to have an Israeli player in the NBA. I'm just excited to come to this team and hopefully make the team better."
Casspi played for Maccabi Tel Aviv last season after withdrawing
from the 2008 NBA draft, but his offensive skills drew the attention of Petrie, who has a history of success with overseas players.
Brockman led the Huskies to the Pac-10 title last year as a canny inside player who averaged 13.8 points and 9.8 rebounds. He's a close friend of Kings center Spencer Hawes, another Washington product and a former AAU teammate.
"We want competitive people, and Brockman was one of the top three rebounders in the draft," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "Nobody has ever kicked sand in his face and said he wasn't tough."