Exum tipped for NBA Draft top 3

The day Dante Exum was born his father walked into the Melbourne hospital with a basketball and placed it in his newborn son’s hands.


Almost 19 years later Exum has the basketball world in his hands.

On Thursday (Friday 10am AEST) at a televised ceremony in Brooklyn, New York that attracts enormous hype, Exum is expected to be announced as a top three pick in the NBA Draft.

Exum, who turns 19 next month, is 198cm tall and has a freakishly big 212cm wingspan for a point guard.

His feet are so fast and his jump so high one US media organisation wondered if he wore a jet pack and in recent months NBA coaches and analysts have compared him to a young Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or Penny Hardaway.

“His athleticism and his length is tailor-made for the NBA,” says Australia’s recently-minted San Antonio Spurs NBA champion point guard Patty Mills, who stands 183cm tall.

“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.”

There is speculation the Cleveland Cavaliers could use their No.1 pick on Exum at the draft.

If not, the Milwaukee Bucks may take him second.

The Philadelphia 76ers, coached by former Australian Boomers head coach Brett Brown, are almost certain to nab Exum third if he is still sitting on the shelf.

Exum can expect to sign a two-year contract worth close to $US9 million.

The corporate world has already bought in.

Exum has signed lucrative contracts with sportswear giant adidas, energy drink company Red Bull and trading card group Panini.

This is not extraordinary for a top three NBA pick on the eve of the draft who has played a year or four with an elite US college team.

But it is extraordinary for an 18-year-old from Australia who has scarcely been sighted in the US.

Exum opted not to play for a US college, so most NBA coaches, executives and scouts have never seen Exum play a game of five-on-five with their own eyes.

They may have seen him via grainy footage or on YouTube in games he played at the Australian Institute of Sport, for junior Australian team squads at world championships or last December when he led Canberra’s Lake Ginninderra College to the national schools championship.

The big test for Exum came the past month when had private workouts with the Bucks, 76ers and owner of the fourth pick, the Orlando Magic.

Instead of Exum’s stock dropping, his standing rocketed.

Not only did his jump shot perform, but he reportedly scored big in intelligence and psychological testing.

When the expected No.1 pick, University of Kansas centre Joel Embiid, fractured his foot, the Cavaliers invited Exum for a visit.

Guiding Exum along the way was his dad Cecil and mother Desiree.

US-born Exum Sr has walked a similar path to his son.

After playing alongside Michael Jordan at the University of North Carolina, he was drafted by the Denver Nuggets in 1984 then was recruited to play in Australia’s NBL for the North Melbourne Giants, Melbourne Tigers and Geelong Supercats.

The Exums fell in love with Australia and decided to raise their three children, Dante, his twin sister Tierra and older brother Jamaar in Melbourne.

It was a decision that will likely give Australia its next sporting superstar.