Australia’s Dante Exum, the NBA Draft’s Mystery Man, will have a chance to reveal his talents with the Utah Jazz after being taken fifth overall on Thursday.
Exum chose not to enroll in US college, the more common path to the NBA, after leading Canberra’s Lake Ginninderra College to the national schools championship while he was also in attendance at the Australian Institute of Sport.
He then came to California to develop his game and worked out for various NBA teams intrigued by sizzling past performances in the under-19 world championship in Prague and at an exhibition camp more than a year ago.
Even without widespread showcasing, the gifts possessed by the 6-foot-6 (1.98m) quick-footed and sure-handed guard won admiration of NBA talent scouts and Exum is now eager to shine a light on his talents.
“I can’t wait to get to Utah tomorrow and start getting to work,” said Exum.
The 18-year-old Exum joins a team with incumbent point guard Trey Burke, who was taken ninth in last year’s draft.
“I already spoke to him, and he’s excited to have me, and I’m excited to be there,” said Exum. “I know we’re both going to give up something a little so everyone’s happy.”
Exum said the fact that new Jazz coach Quin Snyder was a point guard at Duke University was a positive.
“I think the coach being a point guard, he’s going to know how to utilize me and Trey,” said Exum.
“That’s exciting for me and just to be able to put myself in a situation where I’m able to learn and grow as a player and point guard. I think that’s the most exciting thing.”
Exum’s father, Cecil Exum, was a teammate of Michael Jordan’s on the 1982 national college championship team at North Carolina and was drafted into the NBA but did not catch on before playing professionally in Australia and settling there.
The younger Exum said he was eager to get to work.
“I can’t wait for Summer League and I can’t wait for the season to start.”
Compatriot Patty Mills, a guard on the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, is confident Exum will fit right in.
“His athleticism and his length is tailor-made for the NBA,” Mills said.
“Then when you add in his skill level, combine it with his ball handling and ability to shoot the ball and get to the rim, you know he will do well in the NBA.”