Washington teammates Matisse Thybulle and Jaylen Nowell have taken different paths to Brooklyn, N.Y., and Thursday’s NBA draft.
Since claiming the Naismith defensive player of the year award at the NCAA tournament Final Four, Thybulle has been a virtual ghost the past two months.
The 6-foot-5 senior guard declined an invitation to the draft combine, avoided workouts with NBA teams and rebuffed media requests, which sparked league-wide speculation that he’s received a promise from a team in the first round.
Thybulle has reportedly been linked with teams at the bottom of the first round, including San Antonio, which has picks 19 and 29, Oklahoma City (No. 21), Memphis (No. 23), Philadelphia (No. 24) and Portland (No. 25). But ESPN’s latest mock draft projects the record-setting defensive ace, who led NCAA Division I players with 126 steals, being taken early in the second round.
Thybulle’s draft stock received a boost when he snagged a late invitation to the NBA draft, sources told The Seattle Times.
Hobnobbing with headliners Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and RJ Barrett in the green room – the staging area where players wait to hear their name called by commissioner Adam Silver – is considered a positive sign for any draft hopeful. Although there have been instances when prospects fall into the second round.
Thybulle, who is one of 24 draft invitees, is expected to be joined by family members, his agents and UW assistant Will Conroy.
Meanwhile, Nowell will watch the NBA draft nearby at the Grand Hyatt hotel with a small gathering of family, friends and his agent.
Since leaving Washington and forgoing two years of college eligibility, the 6-5 sophomore star has doggedly pursued a spot in the draft despite uncertainty about his pro prospects. Nowell sought to silence his critics and entice an NBA suitor with a tireless schedule that included 14 workouts over the past seven weeks.
“I wanted to take the aggressive approach,” Nowell said Wednesday during a phone interview. “Coming into the workouts I felt like my draft stock was pretty low, so I wanted to make sure that at all of these workouts the best players were going to be, I wanted to kill each one of those players.
“As I started working out with these teams, they started to fall in love with me and my draft stock started to increase a whole lot.”
Nowell, who averaged 16.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals last season, also learned a lot about himself.
“I learned that I’m stronger mentally than I thought I was,” he said. “Doing a lot of traveling and stuff like that, people were telling me that you’re going to break down and you need rest. But I did it. I kept pushing through.
“Not a lot of guys did 14 workouts. Not a lot of guys did double-digit workouts. To be able to do that and still perform at the same level from the first workout until the last takes a lot of mental toughness.”
Still, few prospects divide opinion like the Pac-12 player of the year who led Washington in scoring the past two seasons.
CBSsports.com projects Nowell will be taken 49th overall by the San Antonio Spurs while NBAdraft.net has him going to the Los Angeles Clippers at No. 56. And a couple of mock drafts do not even include UW star.
“I feel like I’m going to go higher than what everybody thinks,” Nowell said. “A lot of these mock drafts have been putting me pretty low. Honestly, from what I’ve been hearing my draft stock is nowhere near that mock draft (stuff).
“I’ve stopped looking at them. A lot of people try to show me them, but I really don’t care for the mock drafts. They just prove to me that whatever is being said is not really what’s going on. I for sure will go higher than a lot of people will expect.”
The Huskies have had 16 players taken in the NBA draft since 1999.