C's Second-Rounders Aim to Make Summer Impact
WALTHAM, Mass. – By now, Celtics fans know all about No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum. But what about Boston’s other three selections from the 2017 NBA Draft? Celtics.com caught up with No. 37 pick Semi Ojeleye, No. 53 pick Kadeem Allen and No. 58 pick Jabari Bird Saturday afternoon before they take off for Summer League in Salt Lake City. Here’s what they hope to bring to the C’s this summer and beyond…
Semi Ojeleye (Southern Methodist) – No. 37 Overall Pick
Semi Ojeleye was considered by many to be a second-round steal by the Celtics. The 6-foot-7, 241-pound forward is fresh off of a stellar redshirt junior season at Southern Methodist University, where he averaged 18.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, all while earning AAC Player of the Year honors.
The 22-year-old has exceptional bounce, which he displayed at the Draft Combine where he notched a 40-inch vertical, good for fifth place among all participants.
Ojeleye was a dunking machine in college, which helped earn him the nickname “The Terminator.” However, he’s more than just an athletic freak; he’s also a standout 3-point shooter (42.4 percent on 172 3-point attempts last season) and is a strong, versatile defender.
Celtics assistant coach Jerome Allen, is beyond impressed with Ojeleye’s game through the first few days of Summer League mini-camp.
“I think he has the potential to be a significant player in this league for a long time,” said Allen, who will act as head coach for the Summer C’s in Salt Lake City. “A lot of things have to go his way in terms of health and in terms of overall opportunity and makeup of the team, but after four practices I’m glad that he has a Celtics uniform on.”
Ojeleye has experience in multiple uniforms over the last few years. He spent his first two collegiate seasons at Duke under coach Mike Krzyzewski, before transferring to SMU to play for Larry Brown.
Ojeleye says that playing under two of the most legendary basketball coaches of all time has benefitted him greatly. He explained Saturday that they taught him to be disciplined and patient, especially during the college-to-pro transition process.
“Be sharp when you get your reps, because when you’re a younger guy you’re not going to get all the reps,” said Ojeleye, referring to what he learned from Krzyzewski and Brown. “Just stay sharp, stay focused at all times, and keep your head down because they expect perfection (in the NBA). At this level you need that to win.”
Kadeem Allen (Arizona) – No. 53 Overall Pick
Kadeem Allen was the defensive cornerstone for the University of Arizona this past season, and that’s exactly what he hopes to be for the Summer C’s.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound guard just wrapped up his redshirt senior season with the Wildcats, during which he averaged 9.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and a team-leading 1.6 steals per game, all while being named to the All-Pac-12 Second team and the All-Pac-12 Defensive team. He previously played for Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, where he was named 2014 National Junior College Player of the Year.
Allen will be tested right off the bat during Summer League, as his first matchup Monday will be against No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz of the Philadelphia 76ers.
“It’s just another challenge,” said 24-year-old Allen of his upcoming test against Fultz. “It’s an exciting thing to play in the Summer League and I feel it doesn’t matter who I go up against; I’m going to always do what I do, and that’s just play defense.”
Fortunately, Allen is quite familiar with Fultz, considering the fact that they were Pac-12 rivals this past season. During their lone matchup on Jan. 29, Allen helped limit Fultz to his fourth-lowest scoring total of the season – 16 points on 8-of-23 shooting – while tallying 14 points, six rebounds and five assists of his own, en route to a 77-66 win over the Washington Huskies.
After playing in the environment of a prestigious collegiate program, Allen is confident that he’ll be able to compete at the NBA level.
“The skill is a lot different, but I feel like the place I was at for college, the practice and the competitiveness is still the same,” Allen said on the transition from Arizona to NBA Summer League. “We’re all still out here playing hard, and everyone is just trying to get a job.”
Jabari Bird (California) – No. 58 Overall Pick
“Bird for 3,” is a phrase that Celtics fans haven’t heard in quite some time. Get used to it over the next few weeks, because Jabari Bird should be hitting plenty of triples for the Summer Celtics.
The 6-foot-6, 198-pound guard played four years at Cal-Berkeley, where he was a stud from beyond the arc. He was the Golden Bears’ leading scorer this past season, as he averaged 14.3 PPG while hitting a team-best 2.4 3-pointers per game on 6.6 attempts.
Bird has been taken under the wing of former Cal teammate Jaylen Brown during mini-camp. Bird was a junior while Brown was a freshman, but now the pair have swapped veteran roles.
J"aylen is a second-year guy so he’s kind of showing me the ropes a little bit,” said Bird, who will turn 23 Monday during his Summer League debut. “It’s been cool having somebody I know that I’m familiar with to kind of teach me the game a little while I’m out here.
“The main thing he told me is just to come out here every day and work hard, compete and just have a consistent work ethic. Don’t ever take any days off and just be a professional with everything that you do.”
Abiding by that philosophy will be critical for Boston’s second-round picks – along with the rest of the Summer League squad – over the next few weeks as they attempt to prove why they belong at the NBA level.