Over the past several weeks, the Wizards’ pre-draft workouts have attracted many interested onlookers, with skills development coaches, trainers and coaching and front-office staffers filling the boundaries of the court. But Monday, White and Nassir Little, former teammates at the University of North Carolina, brought out a rare audience: Leonsis watched the workout that could help determine the Wizards’ first-round pick Thursday.
“I’m just excited, man,” said White, a 6-foot-5 guard expected to be drafted early in the first round. “I had a lot of people in there to come to see me. It makes you feel important. I was excited to get out there. It was fun. But I’m definitely ready for June 20 and see where I land.”
If the mock drafts are to be believed, White, who started all 35 games in his one season with the Tar Heels, should be selected before the Wizards make their pick at No. 9. During his freshman season, White averaged 16.1 points and a team-leading 4.1 assists, and his abilities as a lead guard could be tempting for the Phoenix Suns at No. 6 or the Chicago Bulls at No. 7. Since declaring for the draft, White has seen his stock rise, and if the Wizards want him, they may have to move up as well.
Still, the draft order has not dampened the Wizards’ enthusiasm for White. Washington interviewed him last month at the NBA draft combine in Chicago. Then, after White ate dinner with team officials Sunday, the Wizards crowded the practice facility Monday to watch him work out.
As Little went through endurance and vertical leap tests — the two alternated between the stations — White drilled through pick-and-roll and catch-and-shoot scenarios on the court. Every member of the coaching staff — as well as Leonsis and his son, Zach, a senior vice president with Monumental Sports & Entertainment, which owns and operates the Wizards — watched White as he hit three-pointers from the top of the key and stormed down the lane for a dunk.
Little, a 6-6 forward who scored in double figures 18 times off the bench last season, is also expected to be selected in the first round Thursday and has been invited by the NBA to be in the green room during the draft. Even though Little has been projected as far down as the 18th pick, Wizards officials watched his solo work with interest. Leonsis, White and Sheppard stood on the nearest baseline as Little completed full-court sprints to end his workout.
“This is the most heads and representatives for one team,” Little said about the VIP presence at the Wizards’ workout, adding that he felt “blessed” to be there. “The building is pretty full right now. It just kind of shows how interested they are [in] me and Coby, so it’s been pretty great.”
The former teammates supported each other. As White grimaced through his final sprints, Little applauded. Then, as White towered over Sheppard and Leonsis, he returned the favor, cheering for Little when it seemed his friend needed extra motivation to finish the run.
After their quick reunion in Washington, the players will meet again Thursday at Barclays Center in New York, probably as first-round draft picks.
“It’s dope, man. That’s like my brother, one of my best friends in this entire world, so it was cool seeing him here,” Little said of working out with White. “It’s an amazing feeling, seeing how far we came and how far we’re going.”
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