Chicago Bulls take Denzel Valentine
It's been a long road for the Lansing-native, but Denzel Valentine has finally reached the world's foremost basketball league. From the Lansing Sexton Big Reds to the Michigan State Spartans, Denzel Valentine will now slip on a Chicago Bulls jersey for the foreseeable future in the NBA.
"I was getting nervous there. You know, pick after pick, and you're just sitting there wondering," Valentine said in a post-pick interview with ESPN's Lisa Salters. "But I'm just so glad I'm going to the Bulls. I'm going to give them my all."
Valentine was one of a select class of players invited to the green room to witness the draft in person along with his family and close friends. Upon hearing his name called with the 14th pick, Valentine gave a passionate, guttural scream and fist bump. He proceeded hugged his father Carlton, his brother Drew, his mother Kathy, and his now-former teammate and table neighbor Deyonta Davis before being handed a Bulls hat to place onto the crown of his head.
Valentine was a four-year senior at Michigan State University, capping off his college career with a historic season in which he averaged 19.2 points per game, 7.8 assists per game, and 7.5 rebounds per game.
His performance merited Valentine winning a trophy case of accolades, with the 2015-2016 AP Player of the Year, the 2015-2016 NABC Player of the Year, the 2015-2016 Big Ten Player of the Year, and, most recently, the 2015-2016 Big Ten Male Athlete of the Year.
Valentine will immediately play a big role with the Bulls. Although his position is unclear, Valentine was considered one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft and should promptly help the Bulls recover from the loss of Derrick Rose.
Injury concerns lowered Valentine's draft stock just days before the draft, supposedly resulting in a lower pay grade but a more winning team. However, the Bulls still selected Valentine with the final pick of the lottery (the first 14 picks of the draft), seemingly satisfied with his health.
"I only missed four games in college... I'm healthy now," Valentine said in a response to his health.
Valentine was the first Spartan and Big Ten player drafted this year. Although the suspense ended there for him, teammate Deyonta Davis had to wait until the second round for his selection by the Boston Celtics, while Matt Costello was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Atlanta Hawks. Bryn Forbes is yet to sign a contract.