Five years ago, when Erick Green first burst onto the Washington area AAU scene with Team Takeover, he and Coach Keith Stevens were already convinced the NBA could be in his future.
But only in the past 12 months, during a journey that began at a summer camp hosted by NBA star Chris Paul, and neared its conclusion Monday when Green completed his final pre-draft workout with new Brooklyn Nets Coach Jason Kidd, did they realize the former two-time All-Met from Millbrook and then Paul VI Catholic could make history Thursday night.
After closing out his college career by surprising even his most ardent supporters, becoming the first player from a power conference in 19 yearsto lead the country in scoring this past season (25 points per game), Green has his sights set on being the first Virginia Tech player selected in the first round of the NBA draft since Dell Curry in 1986.
“I think about it all the time,” Green said this week. “One of my goals before I left Virginia Tech, I wanted to be remembered, like I wanted to be a legend there. Going first round, I think I could add to my resume of hopefully one day hanging my jersey up.”
This time last year, though, Green didn’t expect his selection to be such a certainty, despite developing a relentless work ethic during his time at Virginia Tech. Stevens figured a solid senior season would give his former pupil a chance to play professionally, whether in the NBA or overseas.
But Green’s confidence reached new levels when he outperformed many of the country’s top point guards at last summer’s CP3 Elite Guard Camp in Winston-Salem, N.C. And while Virginia Tech suffered through a last-place season on the court this past winter, Green was more efficient than ever even as he became the focus of opponents’ scouting reports.
With that success in mind, Green’s agent, Alex Saratsis, and Stevens formulated a pre-draft plan to take advantage of Green’s ready-made NBA skills over promoting his potential ceiling.
During daily workouts in Bowie this spring alongside Indiana star Victor Oladipo, who will join Green as the first players from Stevens’s Team Takeover AAU program to be drafted into the NBA this year, the 6-foot-3 Green focused on ballhandling, reading the pick-and-roll, and strength and conditioning.
“It was how to out-skill your man and out-think him rather than just be more athletic,” Stevens said.
Saratsis, meanwhile, scheduled workouts with 17 NBA teams — more than for any player he has represented previously — that held draft picks between the No. 20 and No. 40 selections. Unlike former Hokies standout Malcolm Delaney, who went undrafted in 2011 and plays professionally in Europe, Green’s spectacular senior season also earned him an invite to the NBA pre-draft scouting combine in Chicago last month.
“He didn’t have a lot of people going to Blacksburg to see his games . . . and there were teams that really didn’t like him, thought he was too skinny,” Saratsis said. “He’s got an NBA midrange game already, so my thought was the more people that saw him, the better. You put him against the [top] guys and they see the kid is just as competitive.”
Green said some teams still question his ability to play point guard at the next level, and he grows frustrated at the notion that “everyone just sees me as a scorer.” He led the Hokies in assists the past two years.
But when Green takes a moment to consider what could be in store Thursday night, when he’ll be watching the draft at a family barbecue back home in Winchester, he simply can’t believe how much of a difference one year can make.
“I always thought my name might just get called or it might not at all,” he said. “But it’s crazy to see now it’s, ‘Am I a first-rounder?’ It’s great to see how far I’ve come.”