At first it was rumored Isaiah Whitehead would only stay in the NBA Draft if guaranteed he would be a first-round pick.
That did not happen, but the former Lincoln High School and Seton Hall star was picked up in the second round Thursday night. The Utah Jazz traded away the rights to the 42nd-overall pick to the Brooklyn Nets, who added the Coney Island-based Whitehead with their selection.
A star on the court since he was a teenager, Whitehead will now have to prove himself worthy of a roster spot as a second-rounder.
“[Getting left out of the first round] is definitely motivation,” Whitehead said. “I mean, I always dreamed about being a first-round pick. It didn’t happen, so you’ve got to move on and just keep working and try to prove everyone wrong.”
After the first round, Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard and some of Whitehead’s old Pirates teammates called him and told him to keep his head up. Willard said afterward he was excited to see his former player realize his dream.
“We are so excited for Isaiah and so proud of him as his hard work each and every day has led to his dream coming true,” he said in a press release. “It has been an honor to coach him and be a part of his development, and we cannot wait to watch him continue to grow as he starts his exciting new journey in the NBA.”
After leaving South Orange and a strong roster behind, Whitehead does not look back at his decision to go pro after two collegiate seasons.
“Once you make a decision like that, there’s no going back,” Whitehead said. “You can’t go back and say I should have did this, I should have did that. It’s done. There’s no reason to try to reflect on it and try to think about anything else because I can’t take it back even if I wanted to.”
Instead of second-guessing himself, Whitehead was excited to find out he will be playing in his home borough of Brooklyn.
“I mean, that’s everything,” Whitehead said. “Just to be able to wear that Brooklyn uniform across my chest, it would be an amazing accomplishment, and I can’t wait for it.”
With the pick, Whitehead became the first Net player to be born in Brooklyn since the franchise moved from New Jersey.
“It’s a blessing, man,” he said. “It’s definitely one in the books.”
Whitehead knows what he needs to do as an underdog to make the roster.
“Probably ball handling,” the guard said when asked where he needs to improve. “Sharpen that up a bit. I definitely can shoot better. Just decision making, and after that, I feel like I’ll be a good player.”
Whitehead added that he is ready to fill in on a young Nets team wherever he is needed.
“If they need me to be on the bench cheering, then that’s what I’ve got to do,” Whitehead said. “If they need me to play and produce, that’s what I’ve got to do. It’s a job now, so you’ve got to go to work every day and take care of business.”
Whitehead is ready to work. He has said before that his dream was to play in the NBA. Now, to be drafted to his home town of Brooklyn, two dreams are coming true.
“Since Brooklyn got here, I always wanted to play for them,” the former Pirate said. “It’s definitely a dream come true.”
Elizabeth Swinton can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @eswint22.