Cam Whitmore

Whitmore First Likely Lottery Pick to Audition in Indiana

Cam Whitmore has been dreaming of being drafted to the NBA since he was five years old. In less than three weeks, that dream will become a reality.

Where Whitmore ends up is still to be determined, but after his pre-draft workout at the Ascension St. Vincent Center on Thursday, the 18-year-old former Villanova wing took some time to envision what it would be like to don a Pacers uniform, running the break and catching lobs from All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton.

"I definitely can fit in," Whitmore said of his potential fit with the Pacers, who have the seventh overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.

"I'm all about moving the ball up the floor, kicking the ball up the floor, running up the floor, getting transition dunks, getting transition threes, getting offense quickly. I'm all about that."

Whitmore was the first projected lottery pick to visit Indiana for a pre-draft workout. It was also his first workout for an NBA team. He was scheduled to visit Utah (who owns the ninth overall pick) next, but didn't know his schedule beyond that.

It doesn't take long studying Whitmore to see why he is a projected top 10 pick. Though he is one of the youngest players in this year's draft class (he won't turn 19 until July 8), Whitmore is also one of the most developed physically. He measured at 6-6 and 235 pounds at the NBA Draft Combine last month in Chicago and showed off his athleticism with a 40.5-inch vertical, tied for the third-best mark at the combine.

Whitmore thrives at the rim, using his physical gifts to score both in the halfcourt and in transition. He would provide another weapon for Haliburton and Indiana's high-octane offense, which ranked fifth in the NBA in pace last season.

Most players projected to be picked as high as Whitmore elect to take part in one-on-one workouts. It's a different dynamic from the six-player group workouts the Pacers hold at other times during the pre-draft process, but still allows the team to get an up-close look at players and put them through drills to see how they perform in different situations.

Whitmore said Thursday's workout focused heavily on his decision-making in pick-and-rolls and shooting threes in transition. The latter area is Whitmore's biggest focus during the pre-draft process.

He shot a respectable 34.3 percent from 3-point range in his lone season at Villanova, but was inconsistent with his performance from beyond the arc. Whitmore made three or more threes in six games, but also struggled at other times. He went 0-for-8 from long distance over a three-game stretch over Christmas and 5-for-24 over another drought from Feb. 4-21.

"I definitely could have shot the ball a lot better off the bounce," Whitmore said when reflecting on his time in college. "I think I was 27 percent off the dribble. Catch-and-shoot, I was kind of high, I was 40 percent. So off the dribble threes, combo moves to a shot, that's something I've got to improve on."

Whitmore felt he shot the ball well in Thursday's workout. In one clip posted on social media, he knocked down seven straight threes.

Developing consistency with his shot will be key to Whitmore's success at the next level, but he has all the physical tools to thrive in the NBA. The Maryland native was named Big East Freshman of the Year after averaging 12.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game last season. Prior to arriving at Villanova, he helped lead USA Basketball to a gold medal at the FIBA U18 Americas Championship, where he was chosen as Most Outstanding Player from a talented roster that also featured other potential 2023 first-round picks Anthony Black and GG Jackson.

Whitmore said the NBA players he views as having similar games to his includes Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Anthony Edwards, and Miles Bridges.

The Pacers struck gold with another physically gifted wing last year, taking Bennedict Mathurin with the sixth overall pick. You can never have enough talent on the wing, particularly with a player like Haliburton running the point, and the Pacers could double down by drafting someone like Whitmore.

Other than their physical gifts, Whitmore also seems to carry a similar confidence as Mathurin. After Thursday's workout, he was asked about auditioning in front of an audience that included Hall of Famer Larry Bird, who is back with the Pacers as a consultant.

"That's a three-time MVP, (NBA champion)," Whitmore said. "That's the GOAT legend right there. I'm very grateful for him. That's a pleasure for him to come out and watch me. Especially when I'm by myself, too, so it's just him watching me."

As a follow-up, Whitmore was asked if Bird's presence brought out any extra nerves. He smiled when answered.

"I never fold under pressure," he said. "Never."

Whitmore said he was taking the pre-draft process step by step, which is why he didn't know his schedule for the next few weeks beyond his next stop. But he occasionally allows his mind to drift to June 22 and what it will be like to see his dream come true.

"I definitely cannot wait until that night (when) my name gets called and me walking on that stage, have the lights shining down on me and just realizing, 'Yeah, I made it. I'm here,'" he said.

Could he be wearing a Pacers hat when he walks across the Barclays Center stage? Only time will tell.

Indiana Pacers Pre-Draft Workouts: Cam Whitmore One-on-One Interview (June 1, 2023)