It has been 33 years since a Virginia Tech men’s basketball player was chosen in the first round of the NBA Draft.
That dry spell is expected to end Thursday night.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker is waiting to see which team will make him just the second Hokie to ever be taken in the first round of the NBA Draft.
“It’s an exciting time, to really have no clue what’s about to happen and just really have faith that the right team will pick you,” Alexander-Walker said last weekend in a phone interview. “Going into that night, I want it to just all be a big surprise. I left everything I could do on the floor in every workout.
“It should just be really exciting. Hopefully, God willing, I’ll be able to make history.”
The All-ACC third-team guard was one of just 20 prospects who were invited to attend Thursday’s two-round, 60-pick draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The Toronto native will be accompanied in the green room by his mother; his cousin Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Los Angeles Clippers; his uncle; his former AAU coach; and his agent.
“It’s truly a blessing, having that opportunity to possibly have my name called and walk across that stage,” he said. “Watching the draft for as long as I can remember, for as long as I knew about basketball, it’s every player’s dream. To think about how many kids play basketball in the world, especially where I’m from, and how many kids have my dream, and for me to actually get to do that is just a blessing.”
Last year, Alexander-Walker’s cousin wore a suit with a floral print to the draft. Alexander-Walker, who wore an orange-and-maroon jacket to the draft’s media day Wednesday, wouldn’t say last weekend what he will be wearing on Thursday.
“I’m going to start something with this one, following Shai’s lead,” Alexander-Walker said. “I’ve definitely got something crazy going. I don’t want to give out too much detail yet. I just want to surprise everybody. My mom keeps trying to get me to tell her.”
The only Hokie to ever be chosen in the first round of the NBA Draft was Dell Curry, who went to Utah with the 15th overall pick in 1986. Allan Bristow was taken in the first round of the old ABA draft in 1973 but was a second-round pick in the NBA Draft that year.
Alexander-Walker, who averaged 16.2 points as a sophomore, bypassed his final two college seasons to enter the draft. He will become the first Tech nonsenior to ever be taken in the NBA Draft.
The Stadium sports network predicted he will go to Minnesota with the 11th overall selection in the 30-pick first round, while CBS projects him going to Detroit with the 15th pick. ESPN.com and Sports Illustrated have him going to Orlando at No. 16. The Sporting News predicts Indiana will take him at No. 18. In a TV special, ESPN projected he will go to Atlanta at No. 17.
Alexander-Walker was among 77 prospects who were invited to last month’s NBA combine in Chicago, where he was measured at 6-foot-5 ½ with shoes on and where he weighed 204 pounds. He opted not to play in the games at the combine but did meet with NBA teams there.
Seven NBA teams — Indiana, Minnesota, Charlotte, Boston, Detroit, Orlando and Miami — brought Alexander-Walker in for workouts this month.
“It’s been pretty fun,” he said. “Enjoying the moment, trying to learn as much as I can from every team, every city.
“It’s a nice life — I’m not going to complain. Staying in really nice hotels and getting to eat great food, being places that I’ve never been in my life. And to say that I’ve been there because I’m pursing a dream and a goal is really cool.”
The workouts gave those teams the chance to see how Alexander-Walker fared in one-on-one matchups against other prospects.
“You try to be yourself and don’t try to do too much,” he said. “Teams want you because of how you’ve played and who you are, so just continue to be that.
“The talk has always been, ‘Am I strong enough?’ — the physicality. I’m confident in my abilities and I feel like I do well in terms of competing and holding my ground.”
The workouts also gave the teams another chance to interview Alexander-Walker.
“It’s more like them trying to feel you out, to see if you can think the game, if you fit into their culture, what kind of person are they getting potentially,” he said.
Tech has not had a player taken in the NBA Draft since Erick Green was chosen in the second round in 2013.
“If they pick you, then clearly they see something in you. Whatever team that is, I’ll be more than thankful, more than grateful, more than appreciative,” Alexander-Walker said.