2019 NBA draft

Strong basketball bloodline runs through Sixers' second-round pick Marial Shayok

Strong basketball bloodline runs through Sixers' second-round pick Marial Shayok

For Marial Shayok, basketball is in his blood. His 6-foot-9 father, Makor, was a fierce rebounder at Dayton University before playing overseas. His older sister Yar, who is 6-1, carried on the tradition with a solid career at the University of Detroit Mercy before playing overseas herself. His older brother Shayok, who also stands 6-9, played at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

“I was born into it,” Shayok said to NBC Sports Philadelphia Friday. “Even the neighborhood that I was raised in was a basketball neighborhood, with the rise of Vince Carter when I was a young kid, and having a bunch of stars in the NBA really emerge, like rockstars. So basketball was always the main thing in my life and the dream.”

Marial is now the first Shayok, and Ottawa native, to reach the NBA.

“I was able to be the first one out of my family, out of my city of Ottawa, to be drafted to the NBA and I’m so happy and grateful to be in this position,” Shayok said.

“Everyone (in my family) had a part in this accomplishment and so we were all obviously very emotional.”

One of the oldest players in the draft at 23 years old, Shayok knew there were no guarantees on draft night. Shayok had worked out for the Sixers early in the draft process, but he had also worked out with 14 other teams, in addition to showcasing his skills at the Portsmouth Invitational, Combine and G-League Elite camp.

He knew he had a solid season as a redshirt senior at Iowa State, as the only player nationally to average 18.5 points while shooting at least 49 percent from the field, 38 percent behind the arc, and 87 percent at the free throw line.

But, he also knew his offensive abilities weren’t on display for the first three years of his collegiate career at the University of Virginia.

“Just trying to stay positive,” Shayock said about the uncertainty on draft night. “I think I did pretty well in the draft process. … and I really just left it in God’s hands, kept my faith and I’m just glad and grateful that I’m here.”

Sixers general manager Elton Brand is glad, too.

“We studied him for awhile,” Brand said Thursday night after the draft concluded. “Started for three years at Virginia, where he was more of a defensive player and then he transferred and became an offensive player, averaging over 18 points per game, great three-point shooter. Tough, gritty. Young talent and he can play.”

The Sixers have already made their impression on Shayock.

“The organization is obviously one of the best in the league, one of the best teams in the league with the talent they have, with two of the biggest stars in the NBA," he said. "Me, being the player that I am, hopefully I can just come in and be confident and help win games.

“It’s surreal, a dream come true, still hard to believe. I don’t even think it’s sunk in yet. But it’s reality and I’m just definitely grateful and glad that I’m here.”

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While you may not like Sixers' draft strategy, Matisse Thybulle looks like perfect fit

While you may not like Sixers' draft strategy, Matisse Thybulle looks like perfect fit

CAMDEN, N.J. — It’s fair to question the Sixers’ draft strategy — whether you’re unhappy with the trade up or the selling of second-round picks. 

It did appear that Danny Ainge and the Celtics got the better of Elton Brand, causing the Sixers to surrender a second-round pick in order to move up and get their man. Just another feather in Ainge’s cap when it comes to dealing with the Sixers and draft picks from the University of Washington, right?

But before we go too far off the rails with that thought process, let’s consider the fact that Matisse Thybulle may be the perfect young player to come in and help the Sixers.

At pick No. 24, the Sixers were unlikely to draft a star nor did they need to. They have at least two of those already. They need players to fill in the gaps and play a role. Thybulle, a 22-year-old, four-year college player, seems like an ideal fit in that regard.

While Thybulle took a backseat offensively during his senior season at Washington, he stepped his defensive game up even more, earning the Lefty Driesell Award as the top defensive player in the country. He put up super gaudy steal and block numbers while wreaking havoc in the Huskies’ zone. Let's not forget that defense is pretty damn important, as our NBC Sports national NBA insider Tom Haberstroh wrote.

Unlike some young players that may want to come in and do things outside their abilities, Thybulle understands who he is and what he brings.

"Knowing your role is a huge thing, in college and in the league,” Thybulle said Friday. “I think that just preparing myself in college to know my role and be the best I can be at that role is going to set myself up well to be here."

Thybulle spoke to reporters at the team’s practice facility in Camden after a whirlwind 24 hours. He came across just as Brand had portrayed. He’s mature, smart and thoughtful. There’s a confidence there, but not cockiness. He has a belief in himself but is self-aware and understands his strengths and weaknesses.

From a personality standpoint, it’s easy to see why Brand and company fell in love with the kid so early in the process. 

And, oh yeah, he’s pretty good at basketball.

“Actually we’ve been following him for the last four years as staff — me, the last two years,” Brand said. “Got to meet with him in April. Saw his workout. That said it all. Interviewed him. High-character guy and that’s what we need to add to our team. His on-the-court stuff just blew me away — his speed, his agility, his sense of the ball on defense, his offense and where he’s growing as a player. After that workout, I was blown away.”

Theoretically, Thybulle is an excellent fit with the Sixers’ young core. Every team is looking for 3-and-D wings. The Sixers have been since they traded Robert Covington to the Timberwolves in the Jimmy Butler deal. Thybulle has the look of a player that could take on that role.

He shot the ball extremely well in his first three years at Washington, hitting 37.9 percent of this threes and 75 percent of his free throws. It’s a little concerning that Thybulle’s perimeter shooting went down as a senior (30.5 percent from three), but he did shoot a career-high 85.1 percent from the line. That’s an indication that the shot is not broken … repeat, NOT broken.

Brand was targeting Thybulle along — promise or not — and you can see why.

The feeling was mutual.

“I mean, what’s not to like?” Thybulle said. “They’re a great team. Great coaches. Across the board. Just throughout the season, being a basketball junkie, watching basketball, I watched Philly and just keeping track of their success and being like, ‘Wow, it would be incredible to be a part of something that great.’ And then when that became a reality and they made it clear that they were interested … there’s nothing else I’d rather be a part of than this.”

While you may not have been a fan of the trade up or the selling of second-rounders, it’s hard not to like Matisse Thybulle’s fit with the Sixers.

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Can Matisse Thybulle be an immediate contributor for Sixers? 'I don't see why not'

Can Matisse Thybulle be an immediate contributor for Sixers? 'I don't see why not'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Matisse Thybulle was asked the question, in one form or another, several times Thursday night and late Friday morning.

Can he help the Sixers immediately?

The first time he heard it, on a conference call from the draft in Brooklyn with reporters in Camden, he laughed. It seemed to be, from his perspective, a somewhat ludicrous question.

“Yeah,” he said. “I definitely plan on coming in and contributing. I don’t see why not. Defense translates, and for me defense is effort, and I can bring effort day in and day out. Three-point shooting is something that comes naturally to me and I think that will be a big asset with all the talented scorers we have, to surround them with shooters. I don’t think there will be a problem with me stepping in and contributing.”

General manager Elton Brand has the same expectations. He has a clear role in mind for Thybulle as a rookie.

“That was very important,” Brand said early Friday morning of Thybulle’s ability to make an impact right away. “As I’ve been saying all along, we have championship aspirations. A player that can come in right now, help us play defense — we know the wings we’re going to face in the East this year. To get the best defensive wing — he shot [35.8 percent in college] from three, and he can play. He can play. We needed him. We needed that type of toughness, we needed that type of culture. We need that piece that can step in right now.”

Brand is unconcerned with the fact that Thybulle played in a zone defense at Washington the past two seasons, and Thybulle isn’t worried either.

“For me, zone was cool because I got to chase the ball around a little bit,” Thybulle said. “I wasn't stuck on a man. You can be guarding someone and they're just sitting in a corner the whole game and you don't really get to impact the game defensively as much. … With that being said, I played man my whole life except for these past two years, so I'm used to it and know how to be effective in that."

Unlike some of the high-scoring, teenage players who were drafted Thursday night, Thybulle is familiar with not being the star. While he was by far Washington’s best player defensively, swiping an all-time Pac-12 record 331 steals and blocking 185 shots during his four-year career, he wasn’t the Huskies’ primary option on offense — that was sophomore Jaylen Nowell, the No. 43 pick in the draft. Thybulle averaged just 9.1 points per game as a senior on 7.5 field-goal attempts. He discussed making “certain sacrifices” for the benefit of the team.

"Knowing your role is a huge thing, in college and in the league,” he said. “I think that just preparing myself in college to know my role and be the best I can be at that role is going to set myself up well to be here."

The logistics of where Thybulle fits in the Sixers’ rotation should be more apparent once free agency concludes. With Thybulle and No. 54 pick Marial Shayok yet to sign deals, the team has only four players under contract for next season.

As Thybulle said to a scrum of reporters after his introductory press conference Friday, the latest installment in a hectic stretch for himself and the Sixers, “we’re going minute by minute at this point.”

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