They know the odds are long for any of them, let alone all of them, to wind up making it in the NBA, but as Jazz second-round picks Justin Wright-Foreman, Miye Oni, and Jarrell Brantley sat in front of the assembled media at the Zions Bank Basketball Campus on Thursday afternoon, there was a tangible collective resolve that they would do everything in their power to make it happen.
“I can speak for all of us here — we just have a chip on our shoulder, and we work like it every day,” Wright-Foreman said. “Every day has been different, but we’ve attacked every day like it’s game day.”
Each was in agreement that playing for non-power conference programs, and subsequently going among the final picks of the 2019 NBA draft (Brantley was selected 50th, Wright-Foreman 53rd, and Oni 58th) had become a bonding point among them and a galvanizing force for them.
And so they vowed to prove everyone wrong and show they belong.
“A lot of us were under-recruited and maybe overlooked,” Oni said. “So we just try to put the most we can into every day.”
Brantley, a 6-foot-7, 250-pound power forward, was among the final players to work out for Utah in the redraft process. As a senior at the College of Charleston, he averaged 19.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game, while shooting 51.7% from the field and 32.8% from deep.
He described himself as a “versatile four” with some playmaking ability and “hopefully” the ability to make open shots when he gets the chance.
Wright-Foreman, meanwhile, was among the earliest players to work out for the Jazz, as part of a loaded group that wound up including four other draftees. As a senior at Hofstra, Wright-Foreman (6-2, 190) finished second in the NCAA by averaging 27.1 ppg, and added 4.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists, while shooting 42.5% from 3-point range.
“I see myself as an electrifying scorer who can also make plays for myself and others,” he said. “I bring energy to the court, I’m very talkative, very vocal. So don’t be surprised if you guys hear my voice a lot.”
Oni (6-6, 210) was the only one of the trio not to work out for the Jazz, but he did interview with the organization at the predraft combine in Chicago. The two-time Ivy League Player of the Year averaged 17.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists as a junior at Yale, and converted 37.1% from beyond the arc.
A bit more subdued than his colleagues, Oni described himself as a “solid all-around player, solid athlete,” but conceded he took pride in things like defending and moving the ball to open teammates.
Brantley and Wright-Foreman knew each other well already, having both played in the Colonial Athletic Association, and having teamed up on the victorious squad in a postseason 3-on-3 tournament. They’d kept tabs on each other since, and winding up on the same team proved a nice bit of serendipity.
“When I got drafted, Justin was the first person who called me — I couldn’t answer it ’cause everybody was surrounding me. And then as soon as he got picked, I may have been one of the first people to call him,” Brantley said. “We got to talk maybe an hour later, and we were extremely excited just because of the chemistry we’ve built over the last months.”
That bond has come to include Oni, as they all view themselves as outsiders looking to break their way in.
That said, getting a glimpse of the inside has impressed them all. Wright-Foreman acknowledged, “This last week has felt like a dream — it’s very unreal, a very unreal feeling.”
When the trio was asked if they’d had a chance yet interact with any Jazz players, Oni positively beamed in announcing, “Mike Conley followed me on Instagram the other day, so that was really cool.”
Jokingly reminded by a team official that the trade to acquire the point guard would not become official until July 6, Oni hurriedly amended, “Oh yeah, he’s not on the team yet. Soooo, that was random.”