Knicks rookie Frank Ntilikina has begun to sample life in New York. He’s been in the city a little more than a month, and on Sunday night, he got his first live taste of major-league baseball.
The first-round pick from France made the scene at batting practice before the Yankees took the field against the Red Sox at the Stadium. Wearing a Yankees jersey and cap, he watched from in front of the first-base dugout.
Whom did he hope to meet? “Aaron Judge,” he said with a smile. As the Yankees came off the field, a number of them met Ntilikina, who indeed got to shake hands with Judge. And although he’s a professional basketball player, the 6-5, 190-pound Nitilkina was dwarfed by the 6-7, 282-pound rightfielder.
“I’ve watched a lot of baseball since I am here. They don’t play that much baseball in France, but since I started watching it, I’ve liked it from the beginning and I am really excited,” said the 19-year-old, who was selected with the No. 8 pick in the NBA Draft in June. “I want to watch at least one game before starting the season and now I’m enjoying this.”
Ntilikina said he is still learning baseball and that the Yankees already are his favorite team. He doesn’t think he could have made it as a baseball player.
“It’s a lot of fun watching. I tried to hit some balls, but I am really bad at it,” he said. “So I am excited to watch the game, meet some players and obviously see a big matchup.”
He has worked out with the Knicks but wasn’t able to play in the NBA Summer League because of an injured knee. He said he has been playing in five-on-five games with Carmelo Anthony, Lance Thomas and some of the other players from the summer league team.
“It’s fantastic and we are all excited for the beginning of the season,” Ntilikina said.
The Knicks will open training camp later this month and preseason games will begin in the first week of October. Ntilikina knows there is going to be a major adjustment for him in terms of the competition and the length of the season.
“It will be an adjustment from the [league] I played. The NBA is different,” he said. “The NBA is the best in the world and 82 games is a long season. So as a rookie, I have to do the work, trust the work and be confident about it. I just have to be prepared.”
Ntilikina hasn’t had enough exposure to be regularly recognized on the street, but he said those people he’s encountered in his short time in New York have been welcoming and wished him good luck.
“[New York] is a big adjustment, but I like it,” he said. “It was my dream to be here and now I am just enjoying it and working hard.”