Bouknight ready to play the lottery at NBA Draft

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Jul. 29—When his dream-come-true moment arrives Thursday night, James Bouknight will reflect on the people in his corner throughout his life.

There's his family, including father, John, from whom he learned the value of hard work.

Friends, former teammates and coaches will come to mind, including UConn coach Dan Hurley, who Bouknight says taught him how to be "a real man" — be disciplined, goal-oriented and accountable for his actions.

"The biggest thing to remember are the people in your circle, the people that helped you get to where you are," Bouknight said. "I think that's definitely the biggest thing to remember. That's something you can't ever forget."

The 2021 NBA Draft will be a night to remember for Bouknight and his circle. Festivities begin at 8 p.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

Bouknight, who left UConn after two seasons, will be celebrating draft night about four miles from his Brooklyn home. Stephon Marbury, picked fourth overall in the 1996 NBA Draft, is the last player from Brooklyn to be chosen in the top 14.

"Man, it's crazy," Bouknight said. "I think there's a stat like I'm going to be the first person since Stephon to get drafted in the lottery, or something crazy, from Brooklyn. It is a dream come true."

Bouknight, a 6-foot-5 guard, would be the first lottery pick out of UConn since Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb went ninth and 12th, respectively, in 2012. He will be in the "green room" with other projected top picks.

Hurley and associate head coach Kimani Young, who first saw Bouknight play in 2017 while on a recruiting trip as an assistant coach at Minnesota, will also be in attendance.

It will be a warm and fuzzy moment for Hurley as well.

"It will be one of my proudest moments as a coach," Hurley said on Tuesday. "It's right up there (with) winning championships at Rhode Island, graduating players, seeing them succeed professionally. Understanding what this potentially means for James and his family and future generations of James' family, the impact that this has on so many people. It's humbling ... definitely going to be emotional."

So where will Bouknight land?

Several mock drafts project that Bouknight, 20, will be selected in the six to 13 range, with Oklahoma City at No. 6 being chosen as the most likely destination.

Bouknight worked out for Oklahoma City, Orlando, Golden State, New Orleans and Charlotte. Oklahoma City is coached by Mark Daigneault, who spent four years as a student manager on Jim Calhoun's staff at UConn.

"I've been talking to OKC a lot," Bouknight said. "I went and visited with them, had a great workout. I went to dinner with (general manager) Sam (Presti) and other guys in the front office. They're also great people. They have a great organization, and they have a young team. I can see myself fitting in with them."

He believes he'd also be a great fit with Orlando, which has former AAU teammate Cole Anthony on the roster, and Golden State, where he had a great workout. Orlando has the No. 8 pick, one spot ahead of Golden State at No. 7.

But it really doesn't matter to Bouknight.

"I feel like I can play with any players with any coach in any system," he said.

When asked about what the ideal situation for Bouknight would be, Hurley basically described the culture at UConn where the guard blossomed into a star.

"James wants to be coached," Hurley said. "James wants to be in a very professional culture. He wants to play with other players that have tremendous passion for basketball, that are very, very competitive and want to compete for a championship.

"I just hope James gets drafted by an organization that isn't afraid to coach their players and that just has a strong accountability in their culture in terms of professionalism."

g.keefe@theday.com

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