Sunday, August 20, 2017

Knicks No. 8 pick Frank Ntilikina balancing draft night, French league finals

NEW YORK – Point guard Frank Ntilikina played in a top-league French pro basketball finals game on Monday.

Following that game in Strasbourg, France, he traveled to Paris and flew to New York for Thursday’s NBA draft. He wanted to be in New York to hear his name called in person, walk on stage and shake hands with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

The New York Knicks selected Ntilikina eighth overall, and after the draft, he had a flight scheduled back to France to play for Strasbourg in the fifth and final game of the Pro A finals against Chalon.

“More and more the emotion started to come into my head and into my body, and when I heard my name, it was just great,” Ntilikina said. “It was just a blessing. It was actually a lot of motivation to me to go in the gym and work harder. So, I think you can’t even realize how it will be to hear your name.”

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In 45 games with Strasbourg in 2016-17, Ntilikina averaged 5.7 points, two rebounds and 1.6 assists and shot 46.4% from the field. In Strasbourg’s Game 2 victory against Chalon, Ntilikina had 13 points, four rebounds and three assists. The numbers aren’t eye-popping but his potential is attractive.

The Knicks have spent considerable time scouting Ntilikina and were expected to take him if he was available and if the Knicks had not traded the pick.

“We like the size of this young man,” Phil Jackson told reporters. “We like his aptitude for the game, his athleticism and actually the ability to incorporate himself into a winning-type of a situation. I felt he had a really good feel for his team and how to play with guys.”

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