WALTHAM, Mass. – From Haverhill, Mass. to Boston. That’s the move Noah Vonleh wants to make.
Vonleh was born and raised in nearby Haverhill, just 36 miles up the road from Boston. Now, after spending a year at Indiana University, he is on the verge of being drafted into the NBA – possibly by his hometown Celtics.
The 6-foot-10 big man was in town on Wednesday to participate in Boston’s fourth pre-draft workout. Coincidentally, this was also Vonleh’s fourth pre-Draft workout, but as he said, this one was unique.
Haverhill, Mass. native Noah Vonleh worked out for the Celtics on Wednesday morning.
“All of the workouts were pretty good, but this one has a little bit more meaning to it because it’s my hometown,” Vonleh told the media as he dripped in sweat from the workout. “Not everybody gets the chance to work out for their hometown team, so this was a great opportunity.”
An opportunity that could lead to Vonleh working for the Celtics rather than just working out for them. Vonleh’s performance at the workout clearly left an impression on those who watched it with a close eye. Both Brad Stevens and Austin Ainge raved about him when they spoke to the media following the workout.
“Noah’s got a great, great frame, as you can see,” said Stevens. “He’s strong, he’s long, he’s got really strong legs. He’s a physical guy. He’s probably even more physical than I thought when I saw him in person. He’s obviously a really good player and his reputation speaks for itself as we enter the next couple of weeks heading into the Draft.”
Ainge also discussed Vonleh’s physical presence and style of play but touched on other attributes the power forward brings to the table.
“Noah put up very good rebounding numbers this year and he shot well from the 3-point line with limited attempts and he blocked shots very well, so those are obviously very important things,” said Ainge, who is Boston’s director of player personnel. “And he’s one of the youngest players in the Draft, I want to say third or fourth (youngest). He’s still 18 years old, so there’s a lot of room for growth there.”
Vonleh, too, recognizes that he has plenty of room for growth. To him, there would be no better place to hone his basketball skills than on the parquet at TD Garden.
“It would be a blessing being able to stay home and play in front of my friends and family and just grow as a player right in my backyard,” he said.
That backyard potential isn’t always a positive factor at this level. The NBA has been witness to several promising careers that have been torn apart by hometown ties. However, they do not foresee any issues if Vonleh winds up donning green and white.
“Noah is a great kid, a very nice kid and was never in any trouble around here that we’re aware of, so we wouldn’t be worried about him being close to home,” Ainge said. “Some kids you want them away from home, but not Noah, we don’t have concerns there… that certainly wouldn’t deter us from taking him if we thought he was the best player.”
There is a chance that Vonleh will be viewed as such when the Celtics are on the clock. He’s a versatile big man with an incredible wingspan greater than 7-foot-4. He can shoot from the perimeter, he can take the ball off of the dribble, and he can operate in the post. To boot, he’s also a talented shot blocker at the other end of the court.
Those are attributes that will intrigue every NBA team. The question is, will they intrigue the Celtics enough to make them select the hometown prospect on June 26 if he’s still available?
That’s a question everyone, including Vonleh himself, will have to ponder for the next two weeks. Until then, Vonleh will make the 37-mile trip back to Haverhill and get a couple of nights of sleep in his own bed while scoring some home-cooked meals.
Maybe – just maybe – he’ll be moving that bed down the road and making his own home-cooked means in The Hub in a few weeks’ time.