Not All NBA Draft Prospect Stories Are Created Equal

NEW YORK – Not all NBA Draft prospect stories are created equal. Some are fresher than you might think.

It may come as a surprise that some of the top prospects in the 2019 Draft never believed that they’d one day be on the brink of achieving their NBA dreams. Heck, some still can’t even believe that the day is almost here.

On the eve of the Draft, which will tip off at 7 p.m. Thursday night on ESPN, 20 of the top prospects met with the media at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Manhattan. These 20 players were invited by the NBA to be guests in the “green room,” a subtle nod from the league that they are very likely to be selected during the first round.

While some young stars like Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett have known for years that their Draft day would come, others from the group just learned of their NBA futures during this past collegiate season.

“I’d probably say at the start of my junior year. That’s probably when I knew (I’d be drafted),” said Brandon Clarke, who just completed his junior season at Gonzaga. He added that “there were times when I had no clue if I was playing here or if I was playing overseas.”

Meanwhile, another top prospect, Tyler Herro, said that talk of his NBA future didn’t begin to develop until a few months ago, during his freshman season at Kentucky.

“Not really in high school,” he said of when he knew he’d make it into the league. “I think midway through my season at Kentucky.”

Believe it or not, there are other top prospects whose paths to the NBA Draft were even less certain.

Rui Hachimura will soon become the first Japanese-born player to be drafted into the NBA. The odds can’t be stacked much more against a prospect than that. Yet at 21 years old, after three seasons of development at Gonzaga, he is about to complete a prophecy that his junior high school coach shockingly stated to him years ago.

“It’s crazy,” Hachimura, a 6-foot-8 forward, told Celtics.com as his mind began to rewind. “I can’t even believe, when I started playing basketball, a coach told me, ‘You’re going to the NBA.’ He pointed at me and said, ‘You’re going to the NBA.’

“At that time – I was stupid, but I believed him. He was for real, too. He was serious about it. And I really believed in him inside. And I’m really here right now. It’s crazy.”

It sure is, until these players’ work ethic is taken into consideration.

These prospects didn’t reach the brink of achieving their dreams by chance. They got here by working their tails off, beginning in high school and continuing through their time in college. As guard Nassir Little acknowledged Wednesday, “In a league like this, workers always climb to the top.” These kids are workers who are ready to make their move in more ways than one.

They’re ready to make their move from amateurism to the professional ranks. They’re ready to move to a brand-new city, wherever their future teams are housed. And they’re ready to put in the work that’s necessary to position them to move up the ladder of NBA players in the years to come.

First thing’s first, though: Draft night.

Being drafted into the world’s premier basketball league is a move many of these prospects never saw coming. Now that moment rising over the horizon, a vision that might just leave these prospects with a level of anxiety that surpasses anything they’ve felt before.

“Oh yeah,” De’Andre Hunter said with a wide smile after being asked if he’s nervous. “I probably won’t sleep tonight.”

Nor should he, or any of these prospects, for that matter. Their dreams are about to come true, no matter how unlikely achieving that feat may have once felt.

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