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Second-round pick Issuf Sanon will play in Summer League but return to develop in Slovenia

Issuf Sanon, right, plays for Ukraine in a game against Italy at the 2017 FIBA U18 European Championship Division A. (
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Although Issuf Sanon had a busy Friday with an individual workout with his head coach, he was awake and alert well before 6 a.m. to witness a dream come true.

The Washington Wizards drafted Sanon, an 18-year-old guard who lives and plays in Ljubljana, Slovenia, with the 44th pick in the second round. Since Sanon was six hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, the life-changing news became official early in the morning hours before he trained with his current professional team.

“I was feeling good,” Sanon told reporters via a FaceTime call. “This is like a new chapter in my life. Now I’m feeling like maybe a little bit like I’m [in] the NBA.”

Wizards add to a position of strength with versatile Troy Brown Jr. at No. 15

In July, Sanon will get his first taste of the NBA when he joins the Wizards’ Summer League team in Las Vegas, along with the 15th pick, Troy Brown Jr. However, after the experience, Sanon will return to Slovenia to continue playing overseas. The Wizards plan to develop him similarly to Tomas Satoransky, a second-round draft pick in 2012 who remained with his European team for several seasons before coming to the NBA.

“He’s playing for Olimpija Ljubljana next year. He’s under contract with them. He’s going to be playing over there, developing game, getting minutes. He’s playing in a very tough league over there,” Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said. “We hope to have him developed in a few years. He’s only 18 years old, but very athletic, very talented. [He] makes plays, he has a nice shot and he’s playing very tough competition.”

Last season during his second year as a professional, Sanon started in his home country, Ukraine, then transferred to Olimpija in Slovenia. In 17 games against Slovenian League competition, Sanon averaged 6.0 points, 1.4 assists and 2.6 rebounds. Sanon lacked a consistent jump shot (13 for 46 from the three-point arc for a .283 percentage) and did not get to the line often (only 10 free throw attempts) but as one of the youngest players taken in the 2018 draft, the Wizards will be patient with his progress.

“We have a European scout who has seen him a lot. We just had the Euro Camp, which we had a chance to see him,” Grunfeld said, in sharing the team’s assessment on Sanon. “He’s very athletic, he gets up and down the floor, he has a nice-looking shot, good feel for the game, very competitive. We think he has big upside. He’s 6-4 already, he’s only 18, he may get a little bit taller. He’s a good ballhandler, very competitive and a lot like Tomas. We drafted Tomas at an earlier age, he went overseas, he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA.”

Read more on the NBA draft:

Winners and losers from the 2018 NBA draft

In Trae Young and Kevin Huerter, the Hawks hope they’ve found their Curry-Thompson

Brewer: Wizards adhere to the belief that you can never have too many wings

Adrian Wojnarowski gets around ESPN edict, drops plenty of ‘Woj bombs’ during NBA draft

NBA draft surprises: A Trae Young-Luka Doncic trade, and a long tumble for Michael Porter Jr.