MSU guard Denzel Valentine goes No. 14 overall to Chicago. Matt Charboneau, Detroit News
New York — Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine held his arm around his mother, Cathy, on Thursday night at the Barclays Center as NBA commissioner Adam Silver came to the podium.
The Chicago Bulls were on the clock at the NBA Draft with the No. 14 pick, and when Silver announced Valentine was headed to Chicago, Valentine jumped and let out a yell before embracing his mother. He then moved on to brother, Drew, and then Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. His father, Carlton, got the biggest hug before Valentine headed to the stage.
“I’m just very excited to be part of the Chicago Bulls organization and go get started,” Valentine said. “I know they’ve got a lot of good players there, but I’m ready to go in and contribute the best I can and get as many wins for the organization.”
Valentine is the first Michigan State player to go in the first round since Adreian Payne and Gary Harris went in the first round in 2014. Teammate Deyonta Davis is also expected to be taken.
As a senior, Valentine averaged 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists in becoming the only player in NCAA history to average 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists since the assist became an official statistic in 1983-84. He is the first player to lead the Big Ten in overall scoring and assists since Iowa's Andre Woolridge in 1997.
A consensus first-team All-American, Valentine was named National Player of the Year by the Associated Press, National Association of Basketball Coaches, Basketball Times, Sports Illustrated, USA TODAY Sports and NBC Sports. He was the recipient of both the Julius Erving Small Forward of the Year Award as presented by the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame and the Senior CLASS Award.
A four-year player, Valentine was one of four seniors taken in the first 15 picks of the draft. While some might think taking a senior is a risk, Valentine dismissed that, as well as any questions about his knees.
“I just get better every year so why stop now?” Valentine said. “I feel like when I get to the next level I’ll keep on getting better. Those guys with ‘more potential’ than me are supposed to keep getting better, so I will keep getting better.”
Valentine became the eighth Spartan to be named Big Ten Player of the Year, and was a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten selection. He led the Spartans to the 2016 Big Ten Tournament Championship and was named Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament after averaging 17.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and nine assists in the three games.
He credited Izzo for helping him become a first-round draft choice.
“Just being passionate and having that goal every single day you come to practice or every single day you wake up,” Valentine said of what he took from Izzo. “Just having that one goal in mind and letting nothing get in the way of it, and that’s how I’m going to be and that’s how I was raised. So that’s how I’m going to be for the rest of my life.”
Valentine became the ninth player to play for Izzo that was drafted in the first round.