PORTLAND — The Maine Red Claws drafted “young and hungry” on Monday night, choosing eight rookies in the NBA Development League draft and nine total picks.

The team’s top choice: 6-foot-11 center Magnum Rolle out of Louisiana Tech.

Rolle was picked No. 3 overall, and was followed by seven guards and a forward expected to battle it out at training camp, which opens Nov. 9.

Maine begins its second season Nov. 19 on the heels of a 27-23 campaign last year in which every game sold out at the Portland Expo.

“This year we really wanted to focus on youth and energy,” said General Manager Jon Jennings. “We wanted quality people. We’ll have a lot of rookies to fight it out at training camp. I feel very good about tonight.”

Jennings made the selections via conference call along with Coach Austin Ainge, Boston Celtics President Danny Ainge, and team personnel at the Red Claws office on Congress Street.

The draft picks following Rolle were: Kenny Hayes, a 6-2 guard from Miami-Ohio; Champ Oguchi, a 6-6 guard from Illinois State; Lawrence Westbrook, a 6-foot guard from Minnesota; Tajuan Porter, a 5-6 guard from Oregon; James Lewis, a 6-4 guard from Fresno Pacific; JaJuan Smith, a 6-3 guard from Tennessee; Eugene Spates a 6-8 forward from Northeastern; and Armon Bassett, a 6-2 guard from Ohio University.

“We feel really good about our list,” said Coach Austin Ainge. “In assembling the team we really went for young and hungry. We have some experienced guys. But a lot are rookies and young energy players.”

Rolle, who was recently released by the Indiana Pacers, requested to come early to Portland this week according to Jennings.

“It seems like they’re a good organization and do everything first class,” said Rolle in a phone interview. “I’ve done some research and am looking forward to getting there.”

Hayes said he looks forward to the competition at guard at training camp.

The team will need to be whittled down to 10 players from 15 by its opener Nov. 19.

“If you’re an athlete you should want to compete,” said Hayes. “I had this gut feeling I was going to be picked by Maine. I’m blessed to have this opportunity.”

Jennings said they weren’t sure if they would get their wish list, but Rolle, in particular, at No. 3 was a score: “Most teams considered Magnum Rolle to have the greatest upside of any player in the entire draft. We were really fortunate.”

A year ago, Paul Harris, the former Syracuse guard, was the first player the Red Claws took in the draft.

He missed last season recovering from an injury.

On Monday he recalled a call from his cousin while he was shooting hoops that the Red Claws had drafted him.

“It brought my confidence back up,” said Harris. “I thought I was going to get drafted (in the NBA) and I didn’t. So when someone else really, really wanted me, it made me feel really good.”

Harris said he was cleared to play on Sunday and cannot wait to get on the court again.

“That was the toughest year of my life. It made me appreciate the game of basketball,” said Harris.

Joining the rookies at training camp will be former Red Claw Mario West, Harris, Stephane Lasme, a 6-8, 220 pound forward from Massachusetts; Keith “Tiny” Gallon, a 6-9, 239 pound forward from Oklahoma; Jamar Smith, a 6-3, 185 pound guard from Southern Indiana; and Lamonte Ulmer, a 6-6 forward from Rhode Island who earned a trip to training camp from a tryout at UMass-Boston in September.

 

Staff Writer Jenn Menendez can be contacted at 791-6426 or at:

jmenendez@pressherald.com