With pick number 5, the Utah Jazz selected Australian Dante Exum who becomes the latest Australian to be drafted to the NBA, and the first since 2011.
Exum who was widely projected to be a top five selection in the 2014 NBA Draft was chosen behind some exceptionally talented players. The Cleveland Cavaliers used their first pick on Canadian Andrew Wiggins ahead of the Milwaukee Bucks who chose Jabari Parker. Former Australian Boomers Head Coach Brett Brown and the Philadelphia 76ers picked up Joel Embiid, while the Orlando Magic selected Aaron Gordon with their fourth pick.
After drawing widespread interest following his performances at the 2013 FIBA U19 World Championship and Nike Hoop Summit, Exum chose to bypass college and enter the NBA draft, yet remained somewhat of an enigma. Most scouts and team executives had never seen the 6’6 athletically gifted guard with elite-level speed and ability to get to the rim play live. However the pre-draft hype on the young Australian soared, signed by Adidas, securing a trading card deal, and then starring in his own Foot Locker advertisements on US television.
Despite never having worked out for the Jazz, Exum stated to the Australian media via the first ever NBA Draft Cisco Telepresence that the feeling of being drafted was unbelievable.
“It is just an unbelievable feeling. It still hasn’t sunk in. I think tomorrow I am going to be heading to Utah. I think that is when it will start to sink in. That is where I’ll be playing my basketball for the next couple of years.”
Exum expressed that he did not regret bypassing college. In response to some critics seeing him as being a gamble, he stated;
“In the draft, picking anyone is a gamble. I guess you can call me a gamble. Everyone in the draft is a gamble. You don’t know how it is going to work out and how everyone will translate to the NBA. I think I am ready to make the step and I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t.”
Expressing appreciation for all the support he has received from his family with whom he will be celebrating his selection with tonight, he also had this to say;
“My family has been there since day one. Just to have on the team that has supported me through the draft has been great. I thank them every day for that.”
Already a super talent, Exum went on to express that he wanted to improve his game even more. He stated he wanted to get even quicker, but also stronger and remains dedicated to keep working on his shooting. Thankfully for Australian basketball fans and Head Coach Andrej Lemanis, he also maintained his long-term commitment to the Australian Boomers indicating that he was looking forward to the Boomers camp in preparation for the 2014 FIBA World Cup scheduled for late July.
“I have made the commitment to the Boomers for as long as I am playing basketball. It is something that I always wanted to do and it will be something that I continue to do.”
In now set to play for the Utah Jazz, Exum indicated he was excited to meet and potentially work with the legendary John Stockton and Karl Malone. He will also be aiming to emulate the feats of countrymen Patty Mills and Aron Baynes at San Antonio and stated he could not wait to catch up with them to discuss their success at the Boomers camp.
While it may take some time for Exum to become accustomed to the daily grind of an 82-game regular season, he has the talent and the maturity to make the most of the opportunity.
Fellow Australian Cameron Bairstow, a 6’10 power forward who graduated from the University of New Mexico, was also selected at number 49 by the Chicago Bulls.
The full audio extract from Exum’s NBA Draft Cisco Telepresence conference for the Australian media can be found here (approximately 12 minutes):
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/156250889" params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450" iframe=”true” /]