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Wednesday, September 18, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  UW basketball

Washington stars Matisse Thybulle, Jaylen Nowell taken in NBA draft

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver poses for photographs with Washington's Matisse Thybulle after the Boston Celtics selected him as the 20th pick overall in the NBA basketball draft Thursday, June 20, 2019, in New York. (Julio Cortez / AP)
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver poses for photographs with Washington's Matisse Thybulle after the Boston Celtics selected him as the 20th pick overall in the NBA basketball draft Thursday, June 20, 2019, in New York. (Julio Cortez / AP)
By Adam Jude Seattle Times

Matisse Thybulle soared higher than expected in Thursday’s NBA draft and landed in the top 20 picks while his former Washington Huskies teammate Jaylen Nowell went off the board as several projected in the middle of the second round.

Philadelphia moved up four spots from No. 24 to 20 to select Thybulle in a trade with Boston that cost the 76ers the No. 33 pick in the second round.

Meanwhile, Nowell found a home in Minnesota when the Timberwolves used the No. 43 pick on the Pac-12 player of the year.

It was the third time two Huskies were taken in the same NBA draft in the past seven years. Marquese Chriss (No. 8) and Dejounte Murray (No. 29) were selected in 2016 while Terrence Ross (No. 8) and Tony Wroten Jr. (No. 25) were drafted in 2012.

Thybulle, who sat in the NBA draft green room with his father Greg and sister Chloe, didn’t wait long before commissioner Adam Silver called his name.

“I’m just happy to have this platform, continue my career in basketball, play the game I love and represent my family,” Thybulle said during an ESPN interview. “I try to give back as much as I can, and I feel like the NBA has given me an amazing stage to do that and I can’t wait.”

Thybulle, a 6-foot-5 guard and the Naismith defensive player of the year, led Division I players with 126 steals, which broke the 26-year-old Pac-12 season record.

He also had 83 blocks, which ranked 11th nationally.

Thybulle averaged 9.1 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season as a senior while helping Washington to a Pac-12 regular-season title, a trip to the second round of the NCAA tournament and a 27-9 record.

According to the NBA rookie salary scale, Thybulle is slotted to earn $2.1 million in 2019-20 and is guaranteed $6.8 million in his first three seasons. He could earn as much as $9.4 million in his rookie deal with the Sixers.

It’s the second time in three years Philadelphia picked a UW Husky in the first round. In 2017, the 76ers chose Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 overall pick.

Thybulle joins a young 76ers team that had a 51-31 regular-season record and was knocked out of the Eastern Conference semifinals for a second straight year. The Sixers are led by All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, while Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris and J.J. Redick are free agents.

After walking off the podium, a teary-eyed Thybulle choked up during an emotional interview while talking about his mother Elizabeth, who died four years ago after a bout with leukemia.

“I wish she was here to see it,” he said. “The way she fought for everything, even until the end when she was getting sick she never let anything stop her from doing what she wanted to do. You saw that from when she became a doctor. It was just a trend throughout her whole life. I just try to be like that as much as I can.”

Nowell, a 6-4 combo guard who starred two years at Washington, drew inspiration from his late father Mike who passed away in 2015 after a long fight with cancer.

“A key motivator for me is the fact that my father passed away,” Nowell said recently during an interview with Ballislife. “I don’t really like to use the word motivation because motivation means very temporary. … It’s really not a motivation, but something to remember.

“Every time I want to slack off on anything, I kind of think about what he would say or what he would be doing. … As long as the effort is there, I feel that I’m not failing him.”

Nowell, who averaged 16.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals last season while shooting 50.2% from the field, brings offense to the Timberwolves, who finished 36-26 and missed the postseason for the 14th time in the past 15 years.

“This is just such a blessing and something I’ve worked my whole life for,” said Nowell, who watched the NBA draft from a nearby Brooklyn, N.Y., hotel and celebrated with a gathering that included his mother Lanie and brother Shane. “Now that it’s become a reality, I’m pretty speechless. I get to represent my family, my city and play in the best league in the world. It’s unbelievable.”

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