For the six players from Duke and UNC that heard their names called at the 2019 NBA Draft, their long-held dreams came true.
Duke’s trio of freshmen made history, giving Duke more No. 1 overall picks and lottery picks than any other program. Zion Williamson became the 10th straight freshman to be picked first when the New Orleans Pelicans selected him, and his teammates, R.J. Barrett (No. 3 to the New York Knicks) and Cam Reddish (No. 10 to the Atlanta Hawks), were also lottery picks.
North Carolina’s draftees made waves, too: With the Portland Trailblazers’ late selection of Nassir Little at No. 25 — a pick that head coach Roy Williams later called “the absolute steal of the draft” after Little lingered in the green room — the Tar Heels now boast 52 first-round picks, an NCAA record. Coby White went No. 7 to the Chicago Bulls, and Cam Johnson, who was drafted much earlier than practically all draft boards projected, was also a lottery pick at No. 11 by to the Phoenix Suns.
By the end of the night, the ACC had broken the record for most lottery picks (6) and became the first conference to have five of the top 10 picks in the modern era of the draft while tying its own record of 10 first-rounders set in 2017.
But even for the players who weren’t singled out in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on Thursday night — their NBA dreams didn’t die. In fact, immediately after the last pick, many players signed with teams or accepted invitations to play in the NBA’s summer league.
Here’s a look at some notable undrafted signees and free agents with connections to the Triangle.
Early Friday morning, former Duke forward Marques Bolden signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers after not being selected in the NBA draft.
In his junior season, the 6-foot-11, 249-pound big man averaged 4.5 rebounds and 5.3 points per game on 57.9 percent from the field. Bolden started 21 of the 35 games he played in. He missed the entire ACC tournament because of a knee injury he suffered in Duke’s second-to-last game of the regular season. He officially decided to forego his senior season, in late May.
Tar Heel alum and Huntersville, N.C., native Luke Maye signed as an undrafted free agent with the Milwaukee Bucks.
In his senior season at UNC, Maye averaged 14.9 points and 10.5 rebounds a game. He shot 28.8 percent from three — a significant dip from his junior campaign when he shot 43.1 percent from beyond the arc. Maye told The News & Observer on Monday that while a lot of people doubt his chances of making it in the league, he simply sees it as another stage where he will be tasked with proving others wrong.
Maye worked out with several other teams prior to this year’s NBA draft, including the Charlotte Hornets.
UNC’s Kenny Williams also signed as an undrafted free agent with the San Antonio Spurs.
As a senior, the guard averaged 8.6 points and 3.5 assists a game. He was dubbed the team’s best perimeter defender by head coach Roy Williams throughout his four-year tenure, known for taking charges and diving for loose balls.
Williams could draw some comparisons to former Tar Heel and Spurs “three and ‘D’” guard Danny Green. Green was a late second-round pick in 2009 by the Cleveland Cavaliers and bounced around the league’s developmental league before he became a sharpshooting defender for the Spurs for several years. Green is now a two-time NBA champion.
Amir Hinton signed with the New York Knicks after an eye-popping season at Shaw University in Raleigh.
In his one year at Shaw, the 6-5 guard from Philadelphia averaged 4.9 rebounds and led the NCAA’s Division II with 29.4 points per game on 49 percent shooting from the floor. Hinton declared for the NBA draft in early March, trying to become the first Division II player drafted since 2005.
Campbell’s Chris Clemons reached an agreement with the Houston Rockets early Friday morning to play for their summer league team. The 5-9, 180-pound guard from Raleigh, N.C., is the third all-time leader in scoring in Division I. In his senior season, Clemons averaged 5.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 30.1 points per game on 44.8 percent shooting.
Clemons worked out for several different teams, including the Boston Celtics and Charlotte Hornets. He entered his name in the 2018 NBA draft, but withdrew it before last year’s deadline. He graduated from Millbrook High in 2015.
Jalen Lecque, a 6-4, 185-pound guard who originally committed to N.C. State, signed on with the Phoenix Suns late last night.
Lecque was a five-star recruit who committed to the Wolfpack in October. Last month, though, the guard announced that he’d forego his scholarship and stay in the draft. He was eligible to go straight to the NBA from high school because he turned 19 this calendar year, and, by virtue of playing five years at his prep school, was more than one year removed from his graduating class.