Former Oregon Ducks Chris Duarte was the talk of the pre-draft process.
His name was being linked as sleeper teams could trade up for and being discussed as a possible steal. One team constantly linked to him was the Warriors, but the Pacers snagged him before they could at No. 13.
“I’m a coachable guy,” he said on Friday. “I’m a great guy on and off the court. I’m a guy that takes care of his business. I'm a guy that can shoot the ball, put the ball on the floor and make plays for my teammates. I’m a great defender. That's what the Pacers are getting. I’m just happy and excited to be there and be with the group and be in a winning culture.”
At 24-years-old, just getting to that point of an NBA player seemed dim. He’s an immigrant from the Dominican Republic who “got bored with baseball” at the age of 13 and switched to basketball.
He took the risk of switching to a sport that’s very popular in his country and takes up 10% of the MLB. A risk he was willing to take in search of finding something he’d enjoy.
The switch worked as he was able to become a JUCO prospect and then transfer to Oregon and become a standout there. Entering a foreign country without his family and coming from limited access to money and food has made his journey worthwhile.
“Now I’m able to support my family,” he said. “I know they depend on me. Being able to support your family and take care of them. It feels great. A lot was going through my mind.”
Hearing his name called by commissioner Adam Silver presented the culmination of a lifeline goal. For him, he’s a professional doing a job he enjoys and at the same time becomes just the 10th Dominican to make it to the NBA.
Defying the odds is what he’s done, and being selected into a very exclusive job created excitement around his family.
“Their reaction was amazing,” Duarte said of his family. “They were jumping around, they were crying. I know my mom and dad are crying right now. It’s a special night for those who support me.”
Duarte now enters a situation on Rick Carlisle's team that could see him receive a fair opportunity. Carlisle is all about effort, defense, and three-point shooting. All qualities shared by Duarte, and he’s older than the average rookie.
It’s become custom for Duarte to make the most of an opportunity, and it shouldn’t be any different with the Pacers.