Leonard goes 11th overall to Blazers

Black and white shirt with a red tie. The colors of Meyers Leonard’s suit, and those of the Portland Trail Blazers.

After watching 10 players go before him in the 2012 NBA Draft, Portland tabbed the Robinson, Ill., native with the 11th pick. Chicago native Anthony Davis led the draft and was followed by Kentucky teammate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Andre Drummond from Connecticut was the next center taken at the No. 9 slot by Detroit, a team Leonard had worked out for.

“I knew around the 10 to 15 (pick) would be my range,” Leonard said. “I thought New Orleans was a possibility at 10, but I couldn’t be more proud to be in the NBA and a part of the Portland Trail Blazers.”

Leonard becomes the first Illini drafted in the first round since Deron Williams and Luther Head were drafted in 2005. Dee Brown was selected in the second round of the 2006 NBA Draft.

He will partner with power forward LaMarcus Aldridge in the Blazers’ frontcourt. Aldridge made his first All-Star team last season.

“Obviously with Portland, they have LaMarcus at the four, and I’m going to have to come in and prove myself first and foremost,” Leonard said. “But knowing that I have an opportunity in front of me to quite possibly start or just even be a factor in games my first year, it’s a great feeling.”

Portland also drafted point guard Damian Lillard from Weber State with the No. 6 overall pick. The two will lead a rookie class on a team that is entering a rebuilding stage, going into the offseason looking for a new head coach.

“Coming in, I feel like we have a pretty good group of guys, with our young talent, that is,” Leonard said. “I believe that we’ll have a chance to compete, and I know from my perspective, I’m going to come out and work as hard as I can and give it my all every single time I’m on the court.”

The Blazers added guard Will Barton from Memphis in the second round.

After winning a state title in high school, Leonard proclaimed his checklist was to win a state title, get a Division I scholarship and get drafted.

Only time will tell what the next empty checkbox will be as his NBA career begins.