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.”
Latest NBA coverage:
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.”
Ntilikina has embraced the idea of running the triangle for Jackson’s Knicks. At 6-5 with ability to play off the ball, too, Ntilikina is the kind of guard Jackson likes for the triangle.
“I know that this is the system that brings him a lot of championships, definitely,” Ntilikina said. “I think the system that I played back in France with my team is quite similar with it, and we talk about it together, and I think I can definitely fit with this system.”
Ntilikina ended his press conference, had to fulfill a few more draft-night responsibilities for the NBA and then took off for the airport.
“This week is one of the craziest weeks I’ve been through in my whole life, trying to get the championship tomorrow,” he said. “So, definitely great.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.