Arizona Basketball

Green, Nnaji go in the first round; Mannion in the second round in the Business of the NBA

Welcome to the National Basketball Association Josh Green, Zeke Nnaji and Nico Mannion.

You found out early it’s a business. For some, it was good business (Josh and Zeke) and a hopeful one for another (Nico).

It’s called the real world when anything can happen and, well, usually does. Reputations mean nothing.

Nico found that out late into the night (about 9:45 pm) while Josh found out about two hours earlier. Heck, by 9:25 p.m. Mannion was trending with so many on Twitter wondering it’s taken so long for some team to take him.

Josh Green dribbles up the court against Oregon (Arizona Athletics photo)

It was one of those nights for Arizona basketball as the eighth and ninth players in the Sean Miller era went in the first round. UA now has 25 first round picks overall.

From Green saying he went through a “star-struck moment” when he was picked in the first round of Wednesday night’s NBA draft as the 18th pick to Nico saying he’ll have “a chip on his shoulder” when camp starts because he fell to 48th (Golden State) it was a sit-and-wait night. Zeke went 22nd to Denver.

“It was something I dreamed of during my whole entire life,” said Green, who went to Dallas. “For it to really happen is amazing. Obviously, it would have been cool to be in person (at the draft), but this will never happen again. So being around my family and my close ones has been amazing for me.”

Nnaji said the same on a night full of emotions for all those drafted. Most spent their time with their families and, of course, were overwhelmed.

“I was an incredible moment,” Nnaji said referring to his name being called. “I’m extremely blessed. I know so many people want to be in this position but for me to be here my family (and him) are extremely grateful. I’ve been working to get to the NBA for so long but it’s just the beginning.”

For some, it was longer than others. For Mannion it likely seemed forever. It took more than four hours for his name to be called. But we’ve seen it before. Heck, we’ve seen it at Arizona a number of times.

Miles Simon going 42nd after seeing Mike Bibby and Michael Dickerson going way before him in 1998. Gilbert Arenas going 31st after Richard Jefferson went 13th in 2001, the last time Arizona had three UA players in an NBA draft. Loren Woods went 46th.  Chase Budinger fell to 44th in 2009. Heck Allonzo Trier wasn’t drafted and neither was Rawley Alkins in 2017 while seeing DeAndre Ayton go No. 1. Drafts of what could have been.

“When those guys got drafted it felt like I got drafted,” Mannion said, handling himself well in the post draft Zoom call. “There’s no hatred, no envy. I’m just as happy for them as I am for myself.”

It happens. You choose to leave a program and, well, you suffer the consequences. For Mannion, who just a few months ago (maybe a little more than a year ago) he was projected to possibly be a lottery pick. Either the prognosticators were totally incorrect, or he didn’t show enough in his one-and-done season and after it.

“It’s not where I wanted to go number-wise,” Nico said of going in the second round. “But at the end of the day I think the fit at Golden State is perfect for me. I think everything happens for a reason. It’s a perfect situation for me. I’m ecstatic.”

Again, stuff happens. Now it’s time to get to work.

“It doesn’t matter where you were drafted,” Nnaji said. “it matters how much work you put it.”

Clearly the Mavericks liked Green with head coach Rick Carlisle saying Green was a “3 and D” player who lots to like.

“I think my biggest thing is just going to be able to bring a hard-working atmosphere, being competitive, working (and) trying to continue to grow as a player,” Green said on a Zoom conference call.

Since we last saw Zeke much has changed. He’s gained 20 pounds of muscle and has improved his jump shot.

“I feel I made a lot of big improvements in this time off,” he said, referring to Covid-19 shutdowns. “I’m going to continue to try to get better.”

As is Mannion. The first thing he thought of when getting drafted by the Warriors was playing alongside Steph Curry.

“I played at Steph’s camp and got to get to know him a little bit,” Mannion said. “I’m excited, man. I have someone I can really learn from. I’m going to be a sponge and learn everything I can.”

The trio is now on the clock.

Be sure to catch Steve Rivera & Jay Gonzales every weekday at 3-4 p.m. on Fox Sports 1450 on Eye on the Ball.

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