Another Shining Moment: NBA Draft caps unforgettable Wahoo Spring

uva basketball national champsThursday night wasn’t the biggest night in UVA basketball history – that will always be that particular Monday night in April, involving nets being cut down, “One Shining Moment,” the rest.

But the 2019 NBA Draft sure was a nice bookend to the seemingly never-ending Wahoo Spring.

Two Cavaliers, De’Andre Hunter and Ty Jerome, were selected in the first round, and Kyle Guy went late in the second round, one pick after former UVA player Marial Shayok, who played for three years under Tony Bennett before transferring to Iowa State for his senior season, had his name called.

As all that was going on, you were hearing reports about former ‘Hoo Malcolm Brogdon commanding $20 million-plus per season on the free-agent market this summer.

One thing those guys, and three other former Virginia guys in the league, Justin Anderson, Joe Harris and Mike Scott, all have in common: none of them were expected to get anywhere near that far.

Take Hunter, for instance. He was the 91st-ranked recruit in the Class of 2016, which is to say, good player, a four-star, but kids who are 91st in their recruiting class aren’t supposed to go fourth in the first round of the draft.

Also, how many kids who end up going fourth in the first round redshirt their first year in college, and that redshirt has nothing to do with injury?

And then, Jerome. His other offers coming out of high school: Columbia, Davidson, Fordham, George Washington.

Not exactly the profile of a first-round pick.

Guy might have been the one kid with pedigree – a McDonald’s All-American, offers from Indiana, Butler, Cal.

The one thing going against him: his size, at 6’2”. Nine of the 60 players drafted are 6’4” or smaller: eight of those are point guards.

Odds, stacked against you, there, if you’re Guy.

Shayok, who we’re counting here because, he played three years at UVA, got his foundation there, only left because he was going to lose playing time to Hunter, after Hunter’s redshirt year, also had to come a long way.

How long? Shayok was the 166th-best player in the Class of 2014. How many guys ranked 166th who transfer out after their junior season end up in the NBA?

Aside: I’m also still counting Shayok because of that one time, at the Raising Cane’s in Charlottesville, when he was waiting in line for the bathroom, and he let my wife cut in front of him.

Such a polite young man.

Even back to Brogdon, a second-round pick in 2016 who went on to be named Rookie of the Year, and is now among the most sought after free agents in 2019, he was ranked 98th in the Class of 2011, and had narrowed his college choices to UVA and Harvard.

Harris, the 2019 NBA three-point shootout champ, was a three-star recruit in 2010, 132nd in his class.

Scott was ranked 115th in the Class of 2007, had to do a year of postgrad ball, then a medical-redshirt year late in his time at UVA, before earning his way into the NBA.

Anderson might have been the surest bet of any of them, as a top-50 national recruit in the Class of 2012, but his road had its bits of rockiness, first, him decommitting from Maryland after Gary Williams retired, then having to work his way into the starting lineup, which he wasn’t able to do until his junior season, which was marred a bit by a broken pinky and late-season appendectomy.

I give you that history, in excruciating detail, just to ground you a bit.

It’s one thing to have access to three of the top five players in a particular year’s recruiting class and then land those three in the top 10 of the draft.

The toughest thing for those kids is making sure they get enough shots to showcase their skills to the NBA scouts at the press table, and to maybe cut back on the pizza and burgers at the student union.

Our UVA kids had to work a little harder, and if it didn’t work out for them, if the hard work from everybody dating back to Mike Scott all the way through to the guys who heard their names called last night didn’t end up resulting in a national title, and pro careers, well, nobody would have even noticed, because none of that was expected of them.

That’s why last night, and that one particular Monday night in April, it’s all so special.

It’s gratifying to feel like you’re part of something that involves hard work, grit, determination, and seeing it through to the end, and then seeing the results.

Wahoowa.

Column by Chris Graham



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