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SMU’s Semi Ojeleye among three second-round picks for Celtics

Semi Ojeleye helped lead SMU to the NCAA Tournament last season.Sue Ogrocki/AP

About 5,000 people filled the TD Garden’s first section of seats and ground level for the 2016 NBA Draft, but the court area was empty and dark this year. Instead of a draft party, there was more of a gathering held in an executive suite at the Legends restaurant.

A contingent of around 250 people, comprised of season-ticket holders and company partners, clapped and cheered when former Duke small forward Jayson Tatum was selected with the No. 3 overall pick. Fans trickled out of the Garden as the marathon draft progressed into the late first round.

By the second round’s start, only a few, who were fixed on their phones, remained.


However that’s when the Celtics drafted former SMU small forward Semi Ojeleye with the No. 37 pick. Ojeleye, a Duke transfer, has exceptional jumping ability — his 40.5-inch vertical jump ranked fifth at the NBA Draft combine.

“We needed a guy like him,” Ainge said. “Some times when we didn’t have a guy like Jae Crowder, it got thin at those positions. (Ojeleye) gives us more depth and a 245-pound body that can make threes.”

Ojeleye drained 42.4 percent of his 172 attempts from beyond the arc, the sixth-best by a player at least 6 feet 7 inches with 150 or more tries. His exceptional junior season included the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year award.

The Celtics’ third and fourth picks featured two of the most experienced players in the draft, both of whom played in the Pac 12. The Celtics took former Arizona guard Kadeem Allen with the No. 53 pick.

The guard averaged less than 10 points, but nonetheless heard his name called on draft night. Allen’s gritty defensive mindset made him appealing, and he was named to the Pac 12 All-Defensive team last season. He attempted only 75 three-pointers, but made 42.7 percent.


The Celtics selected California’s Jabari Bird with their final selection of the night at pick No. 56. Bird’s attributes include the ability to catch and shoot in spot-up scenarios and running off screens. The 6-6 guard gives Boston another long, athletic scorer to add to the Celtics suddenly extensive core of them.

Trade drama

Much of the drama surrounding the Celtics on draft night stemmed from the unknowns. There had been reports the Celtics had expressed serious interest in acquiring Knicks power forward Kristaps Porzingis, but Ainge quickly put the rumor to rest.

“I don’t comment on trade rumors,” Ainge said. “I will say this: it was a little blown out of proportion. I will just leave it at that. A lot more talk by you guys.” Ainge said he would continue to survey the player market in the coming weeks, calling July the busiest night of the year.

He also cleared up the situation regarding former Kansas small forward Josh Jackson’s apparent disinterest in joining the Celtics. Many surmised the Celtics were deciding between Tatum and Jackson with the No. 3 pick. Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens recently flew to Sacramento to meet with Jackson, but he cancelled his workout.

“There was something that he didn’t want to play for the Celtics.”

Ainge likes versatility

Danny Ainge’s picks Thursday showed an emphasis on versatility. The Celtics’ small forwards are athletic and deep, with Jae Crowder and Jaylen Brown now joined by Jayson Tatum, Ojeleye, and Bird.


“We are all seeing how the game has evolved, and you really can’t have too many versatile players that can play multiple defensive positions,” Ainge said.