Australian teenager Dante Exum has achieved a lifelong dream of being drafted to the NBA by the Utah Jazz.
The Australian will sign a two-year contract with the Jazz worth about $A4.87 million ($US4.5 million) each year.
When Exum was born, his father, US-born former NBL forward Cecil Exum, took a basketball to the Melbourne hospital and placed it in his son’s tiny hands.
On Thursday, the 198cm tall point guard, dubbed “The Boy Wonder from Down Under” and “International Man of Mystery” by US media, was selected by the Jazz with the fifth pick.
Exum admitted to nerves ahead of the announcement.
These are the longest 5 minutes! #NBADraft
— Danté Exum (@daanteee) June 26, 2014
Dante Exum (@daanteee) & mom in the Green Room before the draft! Nervous excitement in the air. #NBADraft on @ESPN pic.twitter佛山桑拿网,/52IOdXB5XZ
— NBA Draft (@NBADraft) June 26, 2014
The 18-year-old was considered a wildcard in the draft held in Brooklyn, New York, because he didn’t play US college basketball and most NBA executives, coaches and scouts had never seen him play a game in person.
“I’m just a kid from Melbourne, Australia,” said Exum later, dressed in a grey suit and with a Jazz cap on his head.
“I guess right now I just got drafted so I guess I’m not a mystery anymore.”
Dante Exum says he is excited to play for new coach Quin Snyder pic.twitter佛山桑拿网,/oMCSDBqWjz
— Utah Jazz (@utahjazz) June 27, 2014
The #GameTime crew sat down with Aussie star Dante Exum before being selected at No. 5: 佛山桑拿网,佛山桑拿网,/9YbXoOktyv #Draft pic.twitter佛山桑拿网,/dLu87mM4N5
— NBA佛山桑拿网, (@NBAcom) June 27, 2014
News of Exum’s selection was well-received by the US and Australian basketball communities.
Congratulations to our very own @daanteee, who has just been drafted by the Utah Jazz! Way to go, Dante! #NBADraft pic.twitter佛山桑拿网,/3LIriTaNJY
— Basketball Australia (@BasketballAus) June 27, 2014
Jazz: Dante Exum A:The future of the NBA is in dual combo-guards; he and Burke can play together. They need a gamechanger Exum can be that.
— Matt Moore CBS (@MattMooreCBS) June 27, 2014
Utah Jazz select Dante Exum with No. 5 pick in NBA Draft. #UTAHpick pic.twitter佛山桑拿网,/OiCjuKB5OA
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 27, 2014
Exum was expected to go to the 76ers with the third pick, or possibly No.1 with the Cleveland Cavaliers, but slid down to the Jazz.
The 76ers are mentored by former Australian Olympic coach Brett Brown, but the team went for University of Kansas centre Joel Embiid.
The Orlando Magic also passed on Exum with the fourth pick.
The Cleveland Cavaliers used their No.1 selection on another Kansas player, forward Andrew Wiggins, while the Milwaukee Bucks took Duke forward Jabari Parker second.
Exum has already cashed in with major endorsement deals with companies including adidas and Red Bull.
Like most kids from Melbourne, Exum played Australian rules growing up, but he says his dad steered him to basketball.
Despite having the height and freakish speed and jumping ability, Exum jokes that he wouldn’t have made it to the AFL anyway because he was not able to kick the ball.
Exum joins fellow Aussies Andrew Bogut (Golden State Warriors), Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs), Aron Baynes (Spurs) and Matthew Dellavedova (Cleveland Cavaliers) in the NBA.
Australia will likely have a sixth NBA player later on Friday (AEST), with University of New Mexico power forward Cameron Bairstow expected to be selected in the second round.
Fans who have been following Dante Exum’s career progression have created video tributes.