Never has there been a better time to be a product of an Oklahoma high school. Just two months after three Oklahoma high schoolers were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, three more are projected to go in the first round of tonight's NBA Draft. Who will go where depends on what draft guru you ask, but everyone agrees that Edmond Santa Fe's Ekpe Udoh, Putnam City's Xavier Henry and Bishop McGuinness's Daniel Orton will all be first-rounders. They will make history in the process. Never before has our state produced three first-round picks in the same NBA Draft. Heck, only once before has Oklahoma had more than one first-rounder in the same year — 1992 with Lee Mayberry and Byron Houston. Tonight, Oklahoma will have more first-rounders than it has had in the past seven years combined. Our fair state has long been known for its football and baseball prowess. Basketball? Not so much. But eat your heart out, America. Oklahoma will be the epicenter of the basketball universe tonight. No other state claims quite the cache that ours does. Oklahoma has produced three of the best young basketball players in the world. Udoh is a self-made man. This is a guy who's never been considered the best player on his team. Not at Edmond Santa Fe where he played second fiddle to Obi Muonelo. Not at Michigan where he began his college career. Not even at Baylor where he finished it. A couple years ago, he was a defensive monster at Michigan but an afterthought to the NBA. He blocked a ton of shots and grabbed a bunch of rebounds, but no one thought of him as a pro prospect because he lacked offensive skill. He took a chance, transferring to Baylor and transforming his game. Udoh is now expected to be a lottery pick. Henry could be, too, though that has been his projection for years. Even as a middle schooler, he was talked about as a future pro. He's always had the long, muscular build and the smooth, dynamic game. Yet this past year brought doubters. First, there was the recruiting rigmarole, the de-commitment from Memphis, the commitment to Kansas, the flirtation with Kentucky. Then, there were the questions about his skills on the pro level after he declared for the draft after only one season as a Jayhawk. His reaction? Henry went out and wowed scouts during the pre-draft process. After the combine and nearly a dozen workouts around the league, he has been called the player who's getting less draft attention that he deserves. Despite the feel-good storylines that Udoh and Henry have authored, neither has anything on Orton's. The big man was one of the nation's best recruits heading into his senior season at McGuinness. Then, he injured his knee and needed surgery. Then, his coach got the boot from Kentucky. But worst of all was losing his mom, who died after a nine-year battle with lupus. Questions abound about Orton. Can a guy who never started in college be any good in the NBA? Is he skilled enough? Is he mature enough? Quick story about Orton: he was a freshman when McGuinness edged Douglass in the 2006 Class 4A state championship game. The post-game scene turned ugly with fans lobbing insults and worse. Orton was standing on the State Fair Arena court when he was hit in the back with a full bottle of PowerAde. He didn't wheel and glare. He didn't even flinch. Not many people would've reacted with such restraint, much less a teenager. Now, I'm not saying Orton is perfect. Ditto for Henry and Udoh. But these guys wouldn't be first-rounders if plenty of other folks didn't see a big upside in all of them. They'll join Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy and Jermaine Gresham as first-round draft picks and bring the state's tally to six this year. By the way, there are only 32 first-round picks in the NFL and 30 in the NBA. That means almost one-tenth of this year's first-round draft picks in two of the world's most popular leagues played high school ball in Oklahoma. That's darn impressive. Add the fact that our population ranks 27th in the Union, and it is even more impressive what our state has done. If you want your chest to swell a little more, consider that the three Oklahomans taken in the first round of the NFL Draft were among the first 21 picks and that the three expected to be taken tonight are projected to be gone as early as No. 13 or as late as No. 21. Even using the NBA Draft gurus' worst-case scenario, there could be six Oklahomans taken in the first 42 picks of the two drafts. Roll that around in your head — six of the top 42 rookies in the NFL and NBA next fall will be from Oklahoma. These guys have risen to the top and done well for themselves. They've done well for Oklahoma, too.
NBA Draft→When: 6 p.m. tonight →Where: Madison Square Garden, New York →TV: ESPN (Cox 29)
On NewsOK→Go to NewsOK.com/sports to take part in an NBA Draft live chat starting at 6 p.m.