From left, Nets coach Jacque Vaughn, draft picks Jalen Wilson, Dariq...

From left, Nets coach Jacque Vaughn, draft picks Jalen Wilson, Dariq Whitehead, Noah Clowney and GM Sean Marks on Friday, June 23, 2023.  Credit: Errol Anderson

Noah Clowney had yet to check his phone after being drafted Thursday. The Nets’ newest first-round pick had too many messages waiting and even less time to respond.

For Clowney, Dariq Whitehead and Jalen Wilson, it was a week filled with anticipation wondering where they’d get drafted. On Friday, it felt even more real as they held their black Nets jerseys at the team’s practice facility.

Clowney, who played one season for Alabama, was glad to carry on tradition as another player drafted from South Carolina, joining Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and Nic Claxton. He’s also the first person from his high school to get drafted by an NBA team.

“Coming from where we’re from and to get drafted out there, it’s big,” Clowney said. “I mean, the scouts not really coming to South Carolina to watch nobody play, I’ll be honest. So I take pride in that.”

Whitehead, who was drafted one pick after Clowney, took the moment as a homecoming. Growing up in Newark, he watched Nets games when they were still in New Jersey at Prudential Center.

With his mother, Quadira, his uncle, Willie, and other family members present, he relished the idea of playing in front of his family members who couldn’t see him when he moved to Florida for high school or played at Duke last season.

“Being away from home at a young age . . . this is the first time where my family is going to be able to fully watch my play with everybody, friends and family,” Whitehead said. “Like I said, I’m excited and thankful for the opportunity.”

All three players, with Clowney and Whitehead both still 18 years old, will have a chance to be a part of the Nets’ new identity. The timeline isn’t about chasing a championship but rebuilding around Mikal Bridges. That’s an adjustment from the past three seasons as the Nets try to figure out who they are.

General manager Sean Marks emphasized that with a slew of future draft picks, the Nets have a runway to “see where we can build something special here.” How long that takes will be determined in time, but Marks and coach Jacque Vaughn appear comfortable waiting to find out.

“Sometimes you don’t know if your cup is half-full or it’s half- empty, but you got a cup,” Vaughn said. “So if you got a cup, you got a chance, you got an opportunity. That’s all you can ask.”

Whitehead almost embodies that patient approach. He wore a walking boot on his right foot as a reminder that he had a second surgery to properly heal an injury he suffered last summer. He’ll miss Summer League play, and Marks said the team will take its time bringing him along. The performance team managed a similar injury with Caris LeVert in 2018.

Whitehead isn’t worried, either. He found support from another former Duke player in Jayson Tatum for advice; Tatum suffered a similar foot injury in 2016. Tatum’s advice? Wait and trust your body.

It’s advice the Nets also can take as they enter this new era led by Bridges. With three new rookies, that process could be slower, but it’s one the team hopes eventually will pay off.

“At the end of the day, with a new CBA, a new group and some really good returners, let’s let these guys develop,” Marks said. “A new coaching staff, let’s let them put their fingerprints all over this group and see where it goes in the next couple months, then couple years, and go from there.”

Summer League schedule

The NBA released the schedule for its annual Summer League in Las Vegas, and the Nets will open play July 7 against the Cavaliers at 8:30 p.m. on NBA TV.

The Nets will face the Knicks on July 9 (5:30 p.m., NBA TV), the Bucks on July 11 (6 p.m., ESPNU) and the Raptors on July 13 (5 p.m., ESPN2). The first three games are at Cox Pavilion and the fourth game is at Thomas & Mack Center.

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