Dante Exum rising up NBA draft boards
May 21, 2014 § Leave a comment
Crikey, many at the NBA draft combine acted as if Dante Exum is the world’s most interesting man.
The 18-year-old Australian is at least an international man of mystery.
Exum splashed onto the scene last year at Nike Hoop Summit and the U-19 World Championship, where he led Australia to the semifinals. His mix of mystique and physique vaulted him into top-five projections for next month’s draft.
Everyone is craving more information about the 6-6 guard who has been in workout obscurity in Los Angeles since February.
“It’s crazy to think last year I wasn’t even on these mock drafts or anything like that and I was looking to get recruited by colleges,” Exum said. “To be in this moment is just amazing.”
Exum had not thought about reaching the NBA until he was 15 and moved into the Australian Institute of Sport, a national academy program for elite athletes where Andrew Bogut was developed. Exum is the youngest of the three children of Cecil Exum, who played on the 1981-82 North Carolina national-championship team with Michael Jordan, James Worthy and Sam Perkins before moving to Australia to play professionally and then settle.
Exum, who turns 19 on July 13, visited Indiana and planned to see North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan and Oregon before his draft stock put him on a track to get ready for the draft.
International players must be 19 during the draft’s calendar year to be eligible.
He signed with Kobe Bryant’s agent, Rob Pelinka, and set up his training in Los Angeles, fueling links to the Lakers. Milwaukee, Orlando and the Lakers are all teams picking high with a possible fit for Exum.
These are teams he has barely seen growing up. Three NBA games air per week in Australia, coming on at noon.
“You don’t realize how much they play until you’re actually over here,” Exum said.
Exum was thrust into the limelight during two days of interviews with reporters and teams and handled himself like a polished pro, helped by a disarming accent and a cool confidence.
“I’m a get-to-the-rim type of player,” Exum said. “I beat my man off the dribble and try to draw help to find different players. I guess that’s what puts me in good position to be a point guard and also be that kind of vocal leader, to have that voice that tells players what needs to be done and be that voice for the coach.”
He avoids comparisons, although he gets them to Michael Carter-Williams and Shaun Livingston because of his 6-foot-6, 196-pound frame with a wingspan of 6-foot-9½. He likes the explosiveness in Russell Westbrook’s game and the paint maneuvering and finishing of Manu Ginobili.
The NBA still has much to learn about Exum in the next month. Perhaps that is why he was the subject of one absurd question from a team executive.
“Besides marijuana, which drugs do you like?” Exum said he was asked before responding, “Um, none; I don’t use drugs.”