A year ago, D.J. Wilson was coming off a wildly disappointing season at Michigan.
On Thursday night, he was a first-round pick in the NBA Draft, selected 17th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks.
"I love the perseverance that D.J. showed throughout his three years at Michigan," coach John Beilein said in a statement Thursday night. "He worked so hard as a redshirt freshman and then again as a role player in his sophomore year. He spent countless hours those first two seasons getting stronger and working with our coaches to improve.
"All that work paid off this season as D.J. had a tremendous year. He was committed to proving he could play and we saw him elevate his game time and time again.
Wilson had a big junior season for the Wolverines, showing the promise Beilein first saw in the lanky, short-shorts-wearing kid from Sacramento, averaging 11 points and 5.3 rebounds. He was especially special during Michigan's postseason run to a Big Ten tournament championship, and into the NCAA Tournament.
“He fits the DNA of the Bucks, being able to play multiple positions,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said about Wilson. “We can talk about today’s NBA — there is no position. He fits what we’re trying to do here.”
Wilson marks the sixth first-round pick from Michigan in the last five years, and he was the first Big Ten player selected this year.
"Milwaukee is getting ridiculous length to add to their ridiculous length," analyst Jay Bilas said on the broadcast, adding Wilson is a "pick-and-pop" guy. "His shot-blocking, I think, will really improve as he gets stronger. He's got a chance to be an outstanding player. He's really good."
Wilson declined media interviews until he is made available by the Bucks, presumably Friday.
Wilson, 21, whose middle name is Jaylen — inspired by former Fab Five member Jalen Rose — suffered a bad knee injury as a freshman and battled injuries and inconsistency and frustration as a sophomore.
But three games into the 2016-17 season, after a 14-rebound game against IUPUI, he left the bench to take Duncan Robinson's starting spot, and took off. He had highs of 28 points (Iowa) and 14 rebounds (twice), and scored in double-figures in six of the team's last seven games of the season, all in the postseason.
At 6-foot-10 and 234 pounds, Wilson gives the Bucks "an excellent finisher around the basket," Bilas said.
Overall, Wilson is the 26th first-round pick for the Wolverines. At No. 17, he's the earliest pick since Nik Stauskus went No. 8 overall to the Sacramento Kings in 2014. Wilson is scheduled to receive a contract worth more than $6 million over three years.
Wilson was not at the draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but rather watching with family back home in California. He was the first pick of the 2017 NBA Draft who wasn't on site.
"We are thrilled for D.J., and his mother, Taniya," Beilein said. "They have both sacrificed and worked so hard to achieve this success.
"I know D.J. will bring that same work ethic to the NBA. The best is yet to come."
Wilson and Moritz Wagner, who just finished his sophomore season, both entered the NBA Draft early, but Wager decided to return to school, while Wilson decided to pursue his lifelong dream.
More local draftees
Other players with local ties drafted in the first round: Kansas' Josh Jackson (Detroit Consortium; No. 4 overall to the Phoenix Suns); Utah's Kyle Kuzma (Flint; No. 27 overall to the Brooklyn Nets, and traded to the Los Angeles Lakers); Iowa State's Monte Morris (Flint Beecher; No. 51 overall to the Denver Nuggets); and Xavier's Edmond Sumner (Detroit Country Day; No. 52 overall to the New Orleans Pelicans, and traded to the Indiana Pacers).
Wilson was one of three Michigan players eligible for the NBA Draft, along with Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin. They went undrafted, as did Central Michigan's Marcus Keene, who led Division I in scoring at 30 points a game before declaring after his junior season.