Gonzaga could add as many as four players in Thursday’s draft to its growing roster of NBA players.
Jalen Suggs will probably be selected in the top four. Corey Kispert is a possible lottery pick (top 14). Joel Ayayi and Filip Petrusev, the latter one year removed from GU, will likely hear their names called at some point.
Former Zags Adam Morrison, Zach Collins and Dan Dickau have walked in those same Nikes, from intense pre-draft workouts to the emotional hugs with loved ones after hearing their names called.
Suggs will join Collins, who is rehabbing from a third surgery on his ankle, as GU’s second one-and-done freshman. Suggs is expected to become the highest Zag drafted since Morrison went third to Charlotte in 2006. Kispert, like Dickau, is a sharpshooter that played four collegiate seasons, something of a rarity these days. Ayayi and Morrison exited Gonzaga after their junior seasons.
Here’s how the draft experience unfolded for Morrison, Collins and Dickau, with some advice at the end for the next edition of Gonzaga pros.
Morrison had five 40-point games in his junior season, including 43-point explosions against Michigan State and Washington. It’s often a no-brainer for projected top picks like Suggs and Morrison, or lottery picks like Collins, whose dad astutely said, “You go when the league wants you to go.”
When did you know you were turning pro?
Morrison: “Probably halfway through the season, like, ‘We’re going to head out.’ Going into my junior year, I had no intentions of leaving early. I thought I could be a pro eventually so I was just focused on that. And everything fell into place.”
Collins: “You see your name continue to rise up draft boards all year. I felt like I was playing well all season, but with Gonzaga there’s always that stigma with strength of schedule and all that. I felt like that played into me not fully getting that respect in terms of who we played and how well we played.
“In the tourney, those are the best guys, and once I started playing well in that tourney setting it kept getting to be more and more of a possibility. Even then I wasn’t thinking it about it, I was just thinking about winning.”
Dickau: “I had a couple people reach out to me after my junior year to gauge my interest about leaving early. I didn’t pay it any attention really. It was, ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool.’ Five minutes later, I was thinking about what I needed to do better to get ready for the next season.”
After announcing their intention to enter the draft, players often spend a few months at a pre-draft workout facility with several other prospects. As luck would have it, Collins was based in Chicago along with South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell. Collins stung the Gamecocks with 14 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks in GU’s national semifinal win. “He was cool,” Collins said of Thornwell.
Morrison worked out for just three teams while Dickau worked out for at least 17. Morrison was greeted by Trail Blazers fans holding a ‘Draft the Stache’ rally near Portland’s practice facility. What was the best part of pre-draft workouts?
Dickau: “I had a workout in Detroit and I didn’t think I was very good. After the workout, I remember sitting with Joe Dumars. We were just talking and he said, ‘I don’t know which direction we’re going to go, guard or wing, but I do know this: I think you’re going to have a nice pro career.’
“I finished my workout in Memphis, still sweating and had a 10-minute conversation with Jerry West. I remember Indiana, I think Isiah (Thomas) was in Indiana, you just come across so many people that you grew up watching. We shot half-courters.”
Morrison: “You’re just going for job interviews basically. There’s some anxiety because you have to be able to perform. If you do a workout by yourself it can be different. If you go against somebody and get (beat), your stock can get dropped.
“A radio station had that (rally), there were some fans there. I remember signing autographs. That was different. In Charlotte, Michael (Jordan) was a minority owner so it was just the GM and coach (Bernie) Bickerstaff and his staff (at Morrison’s workout).”
Collins: “The best part is it got me out of my comfort zone a little bit. The workouts were just more intense. Everything was much more serious and you started to learn how to become more of a professional and having big boy conversations. The gear was great and getting free stuff from companies was cool. For lack of a better word, just being in the show and getting paid for this.”
Stylists, expensive suits, accessories … draft-day fashion has become a big deal. It wasn’t quite the same back in the day for Morrison or Dickau, who watched the draft with friends and family at his parents’ house in Vancouver. How did you dress for the big day and did you have help? How often had you worn a suit?
Morrison: “My agent had somebody come in and measure me for a standard suit. I think the suit went to a (sports) card company and they made cards out of it, little pieces of it. Obviously I was still in college and didn’t wear (suits) a lot, but it didn’t feel foreign in one.”
Collins: “I wanted a black suit, but it was actually camo if you look closely. I worked with a stylist through my agency, she’s still my stylist to this day. She handled all that, measurements, glasses, shoes, accessories. It was fun. I was into fashion, but I’m so tall, to get nice stuff is so expensive. She makes my life easier when it comes to that stuff.
“I wore a couple tuxedos for dances in high school, but it was under five (suits) for sure (before the draft).”
Dickau: “I was wearing shorts and a button-up. I did have a couple suits leading up to the draft, just in case I got invited to the green room, but I knew that was a long shot.
“At the press conference in Atlanta a few days later, I wore one of those suits. Really an odd thing, if you look closely at my rookie card, it’s all photo-shopped together from a photo at the press conference. My redshirt year at Gonzaga, I would wear a suit to sit on the bench. I grew up watching Michael Jordan wearing suits to and from games.”
Draft day is long with twists and turns and countless media interviews. What do you remember about draft day?
Dickau: “I played golf the morning of the draft. There were a couple of Spokane TV stations that came down and a couple from Portland. In the 13-14-15 range I started paying closer attention. A few more (picks) went by, couple of surprises. At 22, 23, all of a sudden you start getting concerned because I was thinking that’s the range I’d be in. My agent called and said Atlanta is trying to trade with anybody to get a first-round pick for you. I said, ‘Atlanta? I never worked out for Atlanta.’ He told me they had me at No. 20 on their board and they weren’t going to bring me in without a first-round pick. Sacramento (at No. 28) ended up picking me for Atlanta.”
Collins: “Definitely walking up on stage and shaking (commissioner) Adam Silver’s hand. That’s a moment you’ve watched on TV. Whenever you watch your favorite player’s highlights on YouTube, the montage usually started with them walking on stage and shaking the commissioner’s hand. I couldn’t believe it was happening. Very, very surreal.
“After you get drafted, you go into this room with a bunch of stations and a guy tells you where to go and you try to hit as many (interviews) as you can. It’s like guys coming in on a conveyor belt.”
Morrison: “It was kind of a blur, to be honest. It is a long day, a lot of media and you have to hammer through that. And you have family there and you want to make sure they’re taken care of and obviously the NBA does that. You sit there and wait, but afterward is when it gets really crazy. You get whisked away and start answering all the questions.
“I don’t remember what I said (in live TV interview) but I do remember it was with Stuart Scott, which was cool.”
Did you get emotional on draft night?
Collins: “Yeah, a little bit. I think I hugged my parents. I was just so appreciative of all the time they put into make me better, something as simple as driving me to practice or tournaments, spending weekends in the gym with me. It was a special moment to realize that and how much it took to get there.”
Morrison: “A little bit afterwards when the dust settles because your life has changed, your financial situation has changed. Probably 99.9% of the guys have their parents doing a lot for them so that aspect is cool.”
Dickau: “Yeah a little. I was maybe a little frustrated, maybe a little disappointed (waiting for name to be called) so I went out in the backyard and was just shooting a little bit. I remember my agent calling and saying it was done, literally about 3 minutes before it happened on TV. My wife (fiancée at the time) was standing 10 feet away and I just mouthed, ‘We’re going to Atlanta.’ Obviously tears of joy.”
First-round picks promptly fly for an introductory press conference with their new team. Atlanta’s trainer phoned Dickau to ask what number he wanted to wear. Dickau told him 21, his number at Gonzaga, but quickly knew that wasn’t going to happen. “We’d like to do that,” the trainer said, “but we had a pretty good player in Dominique Wilkins that wore 21.”
The next item of business was their first NBA contract. Dickau’s first deal was for $2.08 million over three seasons. Morrison made $6.25 million in his first two years. Collins collected $16.3 million in his first four seasons.
Morrison: “It’s pretty exciting obviously. I think I bought a car right away, a Range Rover. That was my big spend. I almost put 100,000 miles on it, so I was happy about that. I don’t think my agent was with me. It’s a standard scaled contract so you sign it and here we go.”
Collins: “It’s a how-did-I-get-here moment. The first thing that went through my mind is you better not blow this. In my head, I was, ‘I have to save all this money and take care of my family,’ all the cliche stuff. I bought a (Ford) Raptor, I always wanted one. But the cool thing about having all this money is not buying all the big, extravagant things, it’s going out to dinner, having a great meal and not having to worry about it as much. I can do all those little things I always wanted to do.”
Dickau: “I just remember, ‘Wow, this is cool, getting paid to play basketball.’ I still would have played pick-up basketball the next day whether I had a contract like that or not.
“I knew I wanted to get an SUV, and Denali and Escalade were the two at the time. Gee GMC let me borrow a Denali for a day or two, and I got pulled over twice on Division by two separate cops that thought I’d stolen the car because I was a 22-, 23-year-old kid driving a brand new SUV. I was like, ‘No, no, no.’ I ordered the car, but you don’t get paid in the NBA until Nov. 15. So I couldn’t order it until then.”
Morrison and Dickau both stressed the importance of being in the right situation for Suggs, Kispert and Ayayi. Suggs will face sizable expectations and has to “understand things aren’t going to come as quickly as maybe it did at the college level because he’s playing against grown men, pros, and they’re dang good in their own right,” Dickau said. “If he trusts his instincts, passion and competitive spirit and works on what needs refining, he has a chance to be a very good player.”
Morrison: “I’ve heard Toronto might want Suggs since (Kyle) Lowry is older (and a free agent). That might be a good spot for him. You just want to go to the right situation, that’s all that matters and hopefully that’s what happens. Hopefully Corey goes to a more established team.”
Dickau: “Something I didn’t do as good a job as I could have, the skill Corey brings is his ability to shoot it from deep. You can’t lose sight of his biggest strength to go out and hunt shots. I think Joel is going to have a nice career. If a team drafts him or signs him as a free agent, understand he’s not your prototypical player. He does so many things well, but it might take a little time.
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