ATHENS — Georgia’s Nic Claxton is ready to get started with the Brooklyn Nets after being selected with the first pick in the second round of the NBA Draft late Thursday night.
“I couldn’t have scripted everything any better, I feel like God has everything planned out for me,” said the 6-foot-11 Claxton, a versatile post noted for his shot-blocking skills and inside-out game.
“To be picked here is a blessing, and I’m ready to get to work here in Brooklyn.”
The NBA Draft took part in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where Claxton will play his home games for his new team.
“I just want to show people I can play,” Claxton said. “A lot of people think I’m a project. I just want to show people that I can play and go out there and contribute in a major way.”
Claxton grew appreciably as a sophomore under first-year UGA coach Tom Crean last season, leading the Bulldogs with 13 points and 8.6 rebounds per game after averaging just 3.9 points and 3.9 rebounds as a freshman.
Some felt Claxton might need another year of seasoning, and indeed, his draft stock likely would have been higher with another year under Crean.
But the Georgia head coach encouraged Claxton to follow his heart and chase his dream.
In fact, Crean was Claxton’s biggest supporter in the days leading up to the draft, putting out factoids on Twitter via his “Nic Nuggets.”
A Nic Nugget: @_claxton33 came to @UGABasketball at 6’10/193 and a 7’1/4 wing span. He left in May at 6’11/220 and a 7’2.5 wingspan. All that and can guard POINT GUARDS and just turned 20. The Rise is Real and Ongoing!! pic.twitter.com/JxqNzzx0QG
— Tom Crean (@TomCrean) June 19, 2019
A Nic Nugget: @_claxton33 increased his Free Throw attempts from two to 6 a game this past year and his % jumped up 12 %points. He attacks the rim and gets rewarded. The next step will be more And 1s. He’s just scratching the surface in ALL AREAS! pic.twitter.com/bgHx978NuZ
— Tom Crean (@TomCrean) June 18, 2019
Crean, who developed top-five NBA Draft picks Dwyane Wade while he was head coach at Marquette, and Victor Oladipo during his tenure leading Indiana, feels Claxton is going to the right team.
“Being drafted by an organization on the upswing like the Brooklyn Nets that is so well run by Sean Marks and well coached by Kenny Atkinson will be tremendous for Nic,” Crean said.
“Personally, I was hopeful he’d go to an organization that was totally committed to player development, and that’s definitely the case with Brooklyn.”
Claxton said he knew he had what it takes to play in the NBA after his 13-point, 13-rebound performance in the Bulldogs’ 70-59 win over Georgia Tech.
“I had a breakout game when we played against Georgia Tech,” Claxton said, asked when he knew he could play in the NBA, “and that’s when I realized I can really do this.”
Claxton is well aware his size is the biggest issue; at 220 pounds he will be challenged against bigger, stronger and more physically mature NBA players.
“That’s something I know that will be really critical for me, making sure I continue to put on good weight and good strength,” Claxton said.
“I’m definitely a high energy guy, and being able to guard multiple positions and I’ll continue to work on stretching my game out with being consistent with my jump shot and continue to add some muscle and I’m going to be a force in the NBA.”
Claxton is the Georgia’s 36th all-time NBA Draft pick, a list that includes his father, former Bulldogs’ great Charles Claxton.
Charles Claxton was a second-round pick of the Phoenix Suns in 1994.
Georgia basketball recently finished off a top 10-ranked signing class, but Crean admits there’s no replacing a player like Claxton.
“We’re in a rebuild situation, but we knew that, we knew that going in,” Crean said. ““We have to figure out a way to play without him. Whether that’s through recruiting, whether that’s through what we have, whether it’s through scheme, whatever it is, because he was a really unique player for us.”
Prior to Claxton, the most recent Georgia basketball player to be drafted was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who the Detroit Pistons took with the No. 8 overall pick in 2013.