Intriguing Exum Remains Big Mystery In Draft
ANDREW SELIGMAN, AP Sports Writer
CHICAGO (AP) — The clips that show Dante Exum exploding toward the rim, finishing with a thunderous dunk or contorting his body as he flips in a layup, sure are impressive.
That much is clear. But the 6-foot-6 point guard from Australia is one of the biggest mysteries heading into next month’s NBA draft.
Fans in the U.S. haven’t seen much of him, unlike Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid or Duke’s Jabari Parker, but they’ll be getting a good look soon enough.
Exum arrived Wednesday in Chicago for the draft combine and had already met with Phoenix, Philadelphia and Detroit as of Thursday afternoon. He had four more meetings scheduled, too.
“I guess they all have an idea of what I’m about,” Exum said. “They’ve seen some of the college players play 40-game seasons, and they haven’t seen me a lot. I guess when they’re trying to look at tape, they can’t see a lot of tape of me.”
Exum, who turns 19 this summer, is from Melbourne. His father Cecil played professionally Down Under after teaming with Michael Jordan and James Worthy on North Carolina’s 1982 championship team.
Now, the younger Exum is ready to step onto the stage. Maybe he can nudge his way into the top three, knocking out Parker, Wiggins and Embiid — three players who skipped the festivities this week. Or maybe Julius Randle will be up there after helping lead Kentucky to the NCAA championship game in his lone season.
“I think there’s only upside for me, it’s good for me to be here interacting with teams and establish that relationship with them,” said Randle, projected as one of the top picks after helping lead Kentucky to the NCAA championship game in his lone season there. “I wanted to be here.”
Randle is a known commodity. Exum is a bit of a question mark.
He sees similarities in his game to Russell Westbrook and Manu Ginobili with the way they finish in the lane, but it remains to be seen how his game will translate to the NBA. The few glimpses he has provided are promising. His individual workouts will be important.
Exum boosted his stock with a terrific showing at the Nike Hoop Summit last spring and gave it another jolt with a big showing at the FIBA U-19 championships, averaging about 18 points and four assists. He returned to Australia and led Lake Ginninderra to a national championship. He had 20 points and 15 assists in the title game.
This time last year, Exum was planning to go to play college ball. He visited Indiana, striking up a friendship with Victor Oladipo in the process, and also considered Oregon, Michigan, Kentucky and North Carolina.
But in January, Exum announced he’s turning pro. Soon, he’ll be stepping into the spotlight.
He has been working out in Los Angeles since February, boosting his strength and conditioning and fine-tuning his skills.
Exum attended several Lakers games this season and got to meet Kobe Bryant, but he downplayed a report that he would prefer to play for them. He insists he’s most concerned about the fit when it comes to who drafts him.
“Obviously the Lakers are a great organization,” he said. “But I’m in this draft to go to a place I feel best at, that is a good fit for me.”
Another possibility could be Philadelphia, a team with a coach in Brett Brown who knows the Australian game quite well. Brown has extensive experience coaching professionally Down Under and even had Cecil Exum as a player.
He also invited a 15-year-old Dante Exum to practice with the Australian national team when Brown was the head coach.
“I’ve known Brett,” Exum said. “It would be a cool position to put myself into. It’s got to work out. … I guess we’ll see what happens.”
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