Wayne Ellington first had to watch Episcopal Academy co-star Gerald Henderson and a pair of North Carolina teammates, Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson, learn of their respective NBA destinations.

The grueling wait also included Ellington, a standout wing guard for three seasons at North Carolina, standing in nervous anticipation before his hometown 76ers took a pass on him at pick No. 17 and instead selected UCLA freshman guard Jrue Holiday.

Ellington's dream of playing in the NBA finally came true at 10:11 p.m., when he was plucked by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the No. 28 choice in the first round. That announcement drew heavy applause from family members and friends who had joined the 21-year-old at Vino Restaurant and Lounge, in the Northern Liberties section, last night to watch the NBA draft unfold.

"I feel happy, excited, relieved," said a tearful Ellington. "I'm going to make the most of the opportunity."

Some mock drafts had Ellington going in the middle of the first round. "That's OK," he said. "It's going to make me work harder to get where I want to be and to prove wrong the teams that didn't take me."

Ellington said he worked out twice for Minnesota, most recently on Tuesday. "They have a great group of guys, a lot of young guys," he said. "I think I'll have the chance to go in there and make an immediate impact."

Of being passed on by the 76ers, Ellington said: "My girlfriend [19-year-old Amanda Altschuler] goes to Drexel, so she wanted me to stay local, as did my family. I'm not upset at all, though. This is a blessing."

For the national champion Tar Heels last season, the 6-foot-5, 190-pound Ellington averaged 15.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Ellington was named outstanding player of the NCAA tournament's Final Four after North Carolina topped Michigan State, 89-72, in the final. In his career, he scored in double figures in 95 of 115 games.

Cunningham to Portland. Dante Cunningham, the leading scorer and rebounder on last season's Villanova team that advanced to the Final Four, was selected in the second round, 33d overall by the Portland Trail Blazers.

A four-year player, the 6-8 Cunningham jumped onto the NBA radar with a breakout senior season that culminated in being named the Big East's most improved player.

Nivins to Dallas. St. Joe's product Ahmad Nivins was selected in the second round, 56th overall, by the Dallas Mavericks. The 6-9 forward averaged a double-double (19.2 points and 11.8 rebounds) in his senior season and was named the 2009 Atlantic Ten player of the year.

"I don't really think I can even put it into words," Nivins said. "It feels like this isn't even happening. It's a wonderful blessing."

Temple's Dionte Christmas and Philadelphia native Stefon Jackson of UTEP were not drafted.

Contact staff writer Rick O'Brien at 610-313-8019