INDIANAPOLIS – On nearly opposite sides of the country, a pair of NBA dreams officially took flight on Friday afternoon.
It wasn’t their first appearance on the court, but for Gary Harris and Noah Vonleh, it was a sign that their futures in professional basketball had arrived.
The former Indiana Mr. Basketball from Hamilton Southeastern was introduced in Denver as the newest member of the Nuggets joined fellow first round pick Jusuf Nurkic, as each held up their jerseys for the cameras at their introductory news conference.
“I was just happy to be drafted,” said Harris of coming to Denver. “Just to be able to experience that because not everybody gets this opportunity, just to be thankful for it.”
Harris got it after a bit of an interesting night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Thought of as a lottery pick, Harris ended up slipping to 19th in the draft and then was apart of some maneuvering on the part of the Bulls and the Nuggets. Chicago actually was the one who picked Harris with the 19th overall pick, but by then the trade was already all over social media and the arena amongst those waiting to be drafted.
It was made official later in the night as Harris joined Nurkic in Denver while Doug McDermott-who was selected earlier by the Nuggets-was shipped to Chicago.
“It was a relief,” said Harris. “I knew my name was going to get called, just didn’t know where and when. So just to finally be able to hear my name called and be able to walk across the stage with my family there is a feeling that I’m never going to forget.”
Harris will now join former Pacers assistant Brian Shaw as he tries to build the Nuggets into a winner. Last season Denver finished 36-46 having missed the playoffs by 13 games in a very competitive Western Conference, but Harris says he’s ready to take on the challenge of building a team.
“It’s a really good spot,” said Harris. “A good group of guys around me that I can learn from. I really feel like I can grow and become a better player here.”
Vonleh feels the same as he arrived in Charlotte on Friday, introduced with fellow first round draft pick P.J. Hariston. He comes to the Hornets after one season in Bloomington in which he averaged 11.3 points and nine rebounds per game and like Harris joins a team that is in the midst of building.
One of the people he’ll be paired with to do so is former Indiana forward Cody Zeller, who was taken by the Hornets with the fourth overall pick just a season ago. All the more reasons that Vonleh was able to crack a smile a number of times as he posed with his jersey.
“I’m glad they picked me up. I didn’t know if I was going to slide this deep or not but they were one of the teams that though I was going to be a good pick for them,” said Vonleh.
Like Harris, Vonleh was projected to go just a bit earlier-some as high as the fourth pick. But the former Hoosier wasn’t upset about the slight slide, but rather encouraged about what the future may have to offer.
“I can’t wait to come in and work hard and make this a better organization from Day 1,” said Vonleh-as his Day 1 in the NBA came to an end.