CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Kirk Haston accepted his new Charlotte Hornets jersey with a bittersweet smile. He'd achieved his goal of making the NBA, but couldn't share the moment with his mother.
Patti Haston died in 1999 when a tornado tore through their tiny Tennessee town. Haston has spent the past two years trying to fulfill their dream of making it into professional basketball to honor her.
Moments after the Hornets selected the 6-foot-10 forward from Indiana with the 16th pick in Wednesday night's draft, Haston rushed to his mother's graveside to share the news.
"As soon as I heard my name I got in the car and drove to the cemetery and spent some time talking to her - I told her that we'd done it," Haston said. "This is a sad day in a way because I'm not able to share it with her."
Haston, introduced by the Hornets on Thursday, spent a good part of his time talking about his mother and the goals the two of them had.
Haston's grandfather, Hoyt Kirk, coached for more than 20 years at Freed Hardman College in Henderson, Tenn., and helped Patti raise Haston on basketball after his parents divorced when he was young.
When all the other kids were getting summer jobs, Patti let Haston spend his days shooting hoops. She didn't complain when she had to drive him two or three hours to AAU games and often told him the time spent was an investment.
"When I was an eighth grade she said 'Maybe you can get a partial scholarship,"' Haston said. "Then it was 'Maybe you can play Division I.' Then it turned into 'Hey, you might be able to make a career out of this."'
So she sent him off to Indiana to tutor under temperamental coach Bobby Knight - despite her father's initial objections. But Kirk came around after a sitdown with the coach revealed they all had the same goals for Haston.
"He was like everybody else and only saw the wrong side of coach Knight," Haston said. "But if you ever want to see an about-face - once he sat down with coach Knight and talked about what he wanted for me, he had a whole new respect."
It turned out to be the best thing for Haston, who had to lean on Knight when he learned of his mother's death. Knight accompanied him back to Tennessee for the funeral and he and his wife, Karen, stepped in as surrogate parents.
Even after Knight was fired at Indiana last fall, Haston still turned to him for advice and listened to him when it came time to decide if he should enter the NBA draft after his junior year.
"I got a lot of support from various places and he and his wife, Ms. Karen, really stepped in," Haston said. "I've always been able to go to him to talk and get advice and I don't think that will ever change."
Haston feels the same way for his grandfather, and because of their close bond, hoped the Hornets would pick him so he could stay close to home.
As a bonus, Haston finds himself in North Carolina, not far from Andy Griffith's hometown of Mount Airy.
When not playing basketball, Haston can be found watching old Andy Griffith reruns with his grandfather. He has accumulated over 60 hours of taped episodes.
Aside from getting a chance to visit the spots Griffith made famous, Haston's next project is cataloging his collection to make sure he has every episode.
"I got tired of relying on the listings to catch an episode, so I taped them so me and (Kirk) can just pop one in and watch it whenever we want to," Haston said. "We'll always do that together."
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