Surrounded by Jr. NBA campers at Basketball City Wednesday afternoon, Buddy Hield seemed happier and looser than anyone.
He slid down part of the banister from the second floor to court level. He pointed and smiled at fans calling his name. He even launched a 30-footer and — even though he is an Oklahoma superstar and the Naismith player of the year — he airballed it. But because he is Buddy Hield, he shrugged off the miss with a laugh.
“I’m just staying focused and not letting everything get to me,” said Hield, a projected lottery pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft at Barclays Center. “I’m just being myself and staying positive.”
In a draft headlined by freshmen Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, Hield stands alongside Providence’s Kris Dunn, Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine and Baylor’s Taurean Prince as upperclassmen who improved enough over four years to earn an invitation to attend the draft, an honor typically reserved for potential lottery picks.
“It shows the work we put in, and it shows our character, too,” said Hield, a 6-4 guard who averaged 25 points and shot 45.7 percent from three-point range as a senior. “To be one of the top guys drafted, it would be cool for us and our families and our universities.”
It is unlikely any of them will surprise the basketball world as the No. 1 pick, like UNLV’s Anthony Bennett did when Cleveland drafted him first in 2013. Multiple reports have said the 76ers informed Simmons he will be their selection to start the draft.
To that end, Simmons said he is relaxed. He is most concerned how he will look in his Brioni suit and shoes when he poses on stage with commissioner Adam Silver.
“I’m more stressed about my suit than anything,” said Simmons, a 6-10 forward who averaged 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.0 steals for an LSU team that went 19-14. “This is the hardest part of the draft, I swear.”
But Hield and Dunn said they are at peace with everything — from what they’ll wear to where they’ll go. They thanked their growth over four years in college for that.
“Right now I’m in a great space,” said Dunn, the draft’s top-rated point guard who had returned to Providence for his redshirt junior season despite being projected as a lottery pick in 2015. “It was good, just being another college kid for one more year before I get into this hectic lifestyle of the NBA.”