One of the first steps of Isaiah Whitehead’s new journey took place in a familiar location.
The Nets, who traded for Whitehead after Utah took him in the second round of last week’s NBA Draft, introduced the Seton Hall product to fans and the media Tuesday at their team shop in Coney Island, not far from where the 21-year-old grew up.
“I grew up in Coney Island and to actually have my press conference where they introduce me as a Net in my backyard, it’s amazing,” said Whitehead, who can become the first player from Brooklyn to play for the Nets since they moved to the borough. “I really can’t put it into words.”
The 6-5, 210-pound guard, who was a unanimous first-team All-Big East player as a sophomore last season, was selected by the Jazz with the 42nd overall pick, before getting traded to the Nets in exchange for the rights to fellow second-rounder Marcus Paige (the 55th overall selection) and cash considerations.
“I was telling my friends it probably won’t sink in until I’m actually on the Barclays floor, looking around and seeing family and friends,” Whitehead said.
New Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said Whitehead will primarily play point guard but also praised his versatility.
“I see him as a ‘one,’ because he passes the ball well and I think he’d make his teammates better,” Atkinson said, adding “I think it’s huge he can definitely slide over and play some ‘two,’ with his size, his ability to guard multiple positions.”
Whitehead averaged 18.2 points and 5.1 assists to finish second and third, respectively, in the Big East last season. He was a high-volume but inefficient shooter in his second and final college season, as he shot just 37.9 percent from the field and 39.0 percent on two-point attempts, and also tied for the most turnovers per game (3.5) in the conference.
He somewhat offset this by making 36.5 percent of his three-point attempts, while also getting to the free-throw line at a high rate, finishing second in the Big East with 4.4 made free throws per game.
“He said, ‘My decision-making can be a little better, I can shoot a little better, I can defend a little better,’ ” Atkinson said. “That’s pretty telling. He didn’t want to tell me how good he was. He wanted to tell me what he was working on. We love that about him.”