Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Georgia Tech's Gani Lawal is congratulated by friends and family after being the 46th pick by the Phoenix Suns in the NBA draft Thursday.
JOHNS CREEK -- Starting with the 20th pick in Thursday's NBA draft, each appearance by commissioner David Stern on the television screens at the Turnberry Grill at St. Ives Country Club brought the gathering of more than 100 of Gani Lawal's family members and friends to a hush with anticipation.
A nervous murmur then greeted each selection in which the Norcross grad and former Georgia Tech standout remained on the board as the first round turned into the second round and Stern was replaced in announcing picks by deputy commissioner Adam Silver.
But when his name was finally called in the second round with the 46th pick overall pick by the Phoenix Suns, the room erupted in cheers and applause.
"I was confident the whole time," Lawal said shortly after the selection was announced. "I knew I was going to go to a good fit, and I'm blessed to be in a good situation. I'll make the best of it."
Winding up in Phoenix may be a good situation for Lawal, as the Suns are coming off a season in which they advanced to the Western Conference finals before falling to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers.
However, it is a bit of a surprise he wound up in Phoenix considering that the Suns were not one of the 14 NBA teams he worked out for in the weeks leading up to the draft.
That didn't bother the 6-foot-9, 233-pound forward though, as many of the teams he did work out for -- including several with multiple picks -- passed on him, it did add to the anxiety building among some people close to him.
"I was (nervous)," admitted Lawal's father, Gani Lawal Sr. "When those teams he worked out for didn't call, I was a little bit concerned. I knew he was going to be picked somewhere down the line."
That somewhere down the line made Lawal's wait on draft night longer than that of his former high school teammate Al-Farouq Aminu, who was taken with the eighth overall pick in the first round by the Los Angeles Clippers, and a little longer than he had preferred.
But none of that mattered when his cell phone finally rang at around 11:15 p.m.
It didn't lessen any of the excitement of the gathering that not only included his family, but also many friends, plus some of his former coaches, including former Norcross, now Greater Atlanta Christian, coach Eddie Martin and several of his former assistants like current Norcross head coach Jesse McMillan, Parkview's Keenan Temple and Berkmar's Greg Phillips. Several former teammates like fellow Norcross alum Jordan DeMercy, who recently transferred from Florida State to Georgia State, and former Yellow Jacket teammates Lance Storrs, Jeremis Smith and Mo Miller also were at the event.
While the selection was lower than anyone in the room expected, or certainly hoped for, Lawal intends to prove the Suns made a wise decision in choosing him
"This is just the beginning," Lawal said. "I'm excited they wanted me, but this is just the beginning. I'm excited to start my NBA career, and I'm excited to be part of a great organization."
And Martin, for one, is confident Lawal will be successful judging from his own experience coaching him.
"Gani's always been a workhorse, right from the get go," Martin said. "I just love his work ethic. From the first time he was in the gym after he moved over, I saw how hard he was going to work. He made it easy (to coach him)."