The Hornets didn’t expect James Bouknight to be on the board when their pick, the 11th-overall selection, came around in Thursday’s NBA draft. Bouknight presumed he would have found a new home by then, too.
But with the Hornets on the clock, UConn’s superstar guard, a Crown Heights, Brooklyn native, found himself in his stageside seat on the floor of Barclays Center still waiting for his name to be called. Just like that, Charlotte’s backcourt — already boasting the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year in LaMelo Ball — transformed from dynamic to dynamite.
“I think we’re both young players that play with a lot of flair, have a lot of swag in their game,” Bouknight said of his new teammate. “We’re going to be box office, for sure.”
At Connecticut, the 6-foot-5 Bouknight dazzled on offense, averaging 18.7 points per game and earning first team All-Big East honors last year during his sophomore season. Now, he brings his scoring knack to Charlotte as a key part of a tantalizing nucleus of young players.
“I have high expectations for myself, never try to sell myself short,” Bouknight said. “I think we’re gonna be one of the better young teams in the league. We’re gonna be fun to watch. Playing with a lot of flair, a lot of excitement.”
Pre-draft speculation indicated Bouknight could go as high as sixth overall. Yet as the first 10 picks passed, Bouknight’s name had yet to be called.
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It’s a familiar tune for Bouknight, whose rise to college stardom and an NBA lottery pick was largely subdued. He grew up playing baseball, dreaming of being an MLB shortstop, and didn’t play organized basketball until high school. Elbow and meniscus injuries nearly derailed his college recruitment.
All of that goes to say: a little extra waiting on Thursday night was nothing new.
“Every pick, I was just sitting there like, man, I got a chip on my shoulder again,” Bouknight said. “When my name was called, all the sadness went away. It was just joy.
“My whole life I’ve been slept on and Charlotte took this chance, and I’m not gonna let them down.”
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