OAKLAND — After waiting nearly four hours and watching players from 10 foreign countries selected ahead of him, Cal sophomore Leon Powe finally heard his name called Wednesday night in the NBA draft.

Then, 10 minutes after the Denver Nuggets selected him with the 49th pick, they traded his rights to the Boston Celtics.

"I was going crazy," Powe said of the draft-night experience. "It wasn't fun at all ... waiting and waiting and waiting. I got kind of frustrated. But I'm happy. Boston called, and said they were happy to have me."

Projected as possibly a late first-round selection or more likely an early second-round pick, the Oakland Tech High grad slipped below those predictions, perhaps because teams still are worried about his twice surgically repaired left knee.

The 6-foot-7 forward got a clean bill of health from his surgeon after Cal's season, but apparently not everyone was convinced.

"Everywhere he went, he performed well,"said Aaron Goodwin, Powe's Oakland-based agent. "I think it became a concern with the knee. Some teams formulated their opinion of Leon early on. We were fighting an uphill battle."

"I think all of a sudden they started worrying about my knee again," said Powe, who led the Pac-10 Conference in scoring (20.5 ppg) and rebounding (10.1 rpg) this season and worked out for 10 NBA clubs the past month. "I had to show them either way. I thought I did. I guess I'm going to have to show them in Boston."

Players from Italy, Senegal, Switzerland, Ukraine, Spain, Serbia, Brazil, Israel, Belarus and England — the latter a 6-foot-10 grocery store bagger — were chosen before Powe.

Two similar, undersized power forwards went sooner — Craig Smith to Minnesota at No.36 and Paul Millsap to Utah at No.47.

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas questioned Powe's decision to enter the draft with two years of college eligibility remaining.

"He is a specimen — he's really strong," said Bilas, speculating that Powe's health history was the issue. "He needed to stay in school a little bit longer. I'm not sure you leave school this early to be picked at this point. He does rebound at a high rate."

Powe said he's not complaining, even though he's unlikely to get a guaranteed contract as a second-round pick. Stanford's three seniors — Chris Hernandez, Matt Haryasz and Dan Grunfeld — all went undrafted.

A crowd of family members, close friends and teammates erupted in cheers when the announcement was made on ESPN.

Goodwin said Celtics general manager Chris Wallace was impressed after watching Powe play in the Pac-10 tournament, where he had 41 points against Oregon and grabbed 20 rebounds against USC.

"Absolutely, I have a sense that Boston does want him, that he will play for Boston and play well," Goodwin said. "I think it's a good oportunity."

This won't be the first challenge Powe has faced. His father left home when Powe was 2 years old and his mother, Connie Landry, died at the age of 40 of complications from heart disease, four days before Powe played in the state high school championship game as a junior in 2002.

In between, he lived in as many as 20 different places, including foster homes, as his family battled poverty.

He tore the ACL in his left knee for the first time in the spring after his junior season at Tech. Two years later he was Pac-10 Freshman of the Year at Cal despite playing on a knee that had suffered the same injury. Powe sat out the 2004-05 campaign, then returned to lead Cal into the NCAA tournament last season.

Powe leaves for Boston on Sunday, then will play with the Celtics entry in the Las Vegas summer league in July. He said he will be motivated by wanting to deliver payback to the teams that overlooked him Wednesday night.

"I got to a team that seems like they really want me," he said. "It's going to be good. I'm going to make it work."