CHICAGO (AP) — Scoot Henderson tried to make the case that he should be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, and Brandon Miller hoped to convince teams that he learned a lesson after a decision he made played a role in a shooting death in January.
The top two prospects not named Victor Wembanyama got their moments in the spotlight at the draft combine on Wednesday.
“For sure,” said Henderson, the NBA G League star. “I think I have a possibility of going No. 1 and I believe in myself as any competitor should.”
Henderson probably won’t need to look for homes in San Antonio.
Wembanyama seems poised to follow in the footsteps of Hall of Famers David Robinson and Tim Duncan after the Spurs won the lottery for the third time on Tuesday and landed the No. 1 pick.
Henderson and Miller appear headed to Charlotte or Portland with the second and third selections. But Henderson apparently was still holding out hope that he can convince the Spurs to take him, even if his odds appear as slim as, well, winning the lottery.
“As a competitor, I want to go No. 1,” Henderson said. “I want to build that fanbase in San Antonio.”
Miller, the All-American forward from Alabama, wants teams to be sure there won’t be a repeat after his lone college season was tarnished following revelations that he was at the the scene of a fatal shooting near campus in January. He was described by law enforcement as a cooperating witness and never charged with a crime.
“You just always have to be aware of your surroundings and what you’re surrounded by,” he said. “I feel like the night could have changed my career in less than a heartbeat. So just always be aware of your surroundings.”
A highly touted recruit, Miller delivered the most productive season ever by an Alabama freshman.
He led the Crimson Tide to their first No. 1 ranking in 20 years and first No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed, averaging 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds while shooting 38% from 3-point range. Alabama finished with a 31-6 record and won the SEC regular-season and tournament championships.
As a competitor, I want to go No. 1. I want to build that fanbase in San Antonio.”
— Scoot Henderson
But there was a cloud over Miller and the Tide after former player Darius Miles and another man were charged with capital murder in the shooting of 23-year-old Jamea Harris.
Police testified that Miller brought Miles his gun. Miller’s attorney said the star forward was on his way to pick up Miles when Miles texted asking him to bring the gun, but Miller never handled the weapon or knew any criminal activity was intended.
Miller said he has told teams “just what I’ve learned about the situation.”
Asked what he would have done differently that night, he said: “Like I said, just be more aware of my surroundings and what I’m surrounded by.”
Has he made changes since then?
“Definitely,” he said. “Always check my surroundings. Surround myself with guys that are just pro guys, the guys that I want to be around.”
Like Darius Garland, for example.
Miller said he had just gotten off the phone with fellow Nashville product Darius Garland, a first-round pick by Cleveland in 2019.
“My big brother,” Miller said. “Talk to him every day. Sometimes we just have moments and just chill at his house. It’s important to just have guys like that to sit down and talk to you like that. Everybody in the world should have a mentor like that.”
Miller said he would be a good fit for Charlotte or Portland. So did Henderson, though he was still holding out hope for San Antonio.
“I control what I can control and the rest is God’s work,” he said. “Whether it’s 1, 2 or 3, my main goal is working on me.”
If the Hornets draft him, Henderson knows whom to ask for restaurant recommendations. Stephen Curry grew up in Charlotte, and the Warriors star has formed a partnership with the prized prospect and his family, helping build his business model and providing access to shooting coaches and his conditioning team.
“His advice is just to enjoy the moment,” Henderson said. “You can see that in Steph. You can see how he enjoys the moment, how he smiles through the games. His mentorship is really a relationship that we’re building. He’s opening doors for me. I’m hoping I’m opening doors for him as well.”