Shooting hoops in the backyard or down the street at a local park -- no matter where someone grows up throwing up shots and dreaming of one day being drafted in the NBA, that dream is one of the most difficult ones to achieve.
With fewer than two percent of all NCAA student athletes eventually going pro that’s still a dream that floods a vast majority of young players’ minds.
With the 2020 NBA Draft quickly approaching, Trail Blazers forward Nassir Little has been reminiscing about the night NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called his name as Portland’s 25thoverall pick.
It was June 20, 2019. But Little remembers it like it was yesterday.
With this year’s draft going virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trail Blazers forward realizes that it won’t be the same for the 2020 draft class, yet, he believes they will still get their special moment.
“Unfortunately guys can’t experience that exact feeling this year, but regardless of whether you’re there or you get a phone call, it’s still probably the same.” Little said. “That moment is something that I wish I could relive again.”
It’s a good thing Little will always have a recording of that night, but no matter what, Little realized the importance of quickly shifting his mindset from feeling overjoyed to knowing it’s time to make the most of this rare opportunity.
“Short after – it’s time to get to work after you get drafted.”
As a rookie, under coach Terry Stotts, it’s about earning his trust.
Many Trail Blazers rookies see the floor in sporadic minutes throughout the season.
That was the case for Little.
The now 20-year-old averaged 11.9 minutes per game with 3.6 points and 2.3 rebounds during the 2019-20 season.
As he looks to year two, he’s ready to step it up on the defensive end and knows that’s how he can earn more minutes.
But what he has realized now, being more than a year removed from draft night, is that no matter where a team selected him or any other young player that doesn’t predetermine the player’s fate.
If Little could go back to June 20, 2019 he would have this piece of advice to give himself:
“I’d tell myself, something I already knew -- it doesn’t matter where you get drafted necessarily, and this just doesn’t apply to myself -- where you get drafted doesn’t necessarily dictate your future. Whether you’re the number one pick that doesn’t dictate surefire success or you went undrafted that doesn’t mean you don’t have a chance to be a great player in this league.”
The North Carolina product proved to Rip City in his limited time on the floor last season that his athleticism and work ethic are two qualities Portland fans are excited to see more of this year.
Little reiterated that it’s all about what a player does after he gets his name called.
"I would just tell myself no matter what happens tonight, just be ready to get to work once you get your opportunity."