Utah State forward Justin Bean says Clippers’ offer on NBA draft night was a ‘no-brainer’

Bean went undrafted in Thursday’s NBA draft, but will still have a chance to earn a two-way contract

(John Locher | AP) Utah State's Justin Bean (34) plays against UNLV in an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, in Las Vegas. This season, Bean ranks in the top 10 nationally in both scoring and rebounding.

Justin Bean and his wife, Claire, walked into another room of his Oklahoma home when he got the call. It was late Thursday night, and the NBA draft had just finished going through all 60 picks three minutes prior to his phone ringing.

Bean and his wife put the call on speaker and listened. The call ended quickly. As they walked back into the living room, they waited a beat or two as their loved ones stared intensely, waiting with bated breath for any news.

Then Bean told them: He’s heading to the NBA.

Bean signed an Exhibit 10 contract with the Los Angeles Clippers. He will appear on their Summer League team and go to training camp, giving him the opportunity to vie for a two-way contract. If that doesn’t happen, he will be a member of the team’s G-League affiliate, the Agua Caliente Clippers.

“I know a lot of people just kind of glorify the chance of getting drafted,” Bean told The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday morning. “But I know a lot of people don’t even get the chance to compete in Summer League and to have a chance to earn a two-way. … It just feels really, really good.”

Bean said that he knew it was unlikely he’d be one of the 60 names called on draft night. Still, he had heard from several teams throughout the evening. When he heard what the Clippers were offering, it was a “no-brainer” for him.

Bean played for the Utah State Aggies, where he went from a walk-on his freshman year to the team’s leading scorer and rebounder in the 2021-22 season. He averaged 17.4 points and 9.9 rebounds per game in 35.4 minutes.

“It’s definitely no secret that my story’s a lot different than probably 90% of the guys that are in this draft — maybe 95,” Bean said. “But just a lot of hard work to get me to where I am, self-reliance, believing in myself no matter what the odds were.”

Bean is the third Aggies player to head to the NBA in the last few years. Sam Merrill was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks as the last pick in the 2020 draft, while the Sacramento Kings picked Neemias Queta 39th overall in 2021.

Bean said both Merrill and Queta reached out and congratulated him when the Clippers news hit. He also received calls from former USU coach Craig Smith, and current USU coach Ryan Odom, he said.

Bean, an Oklahoma native, grew up supporting the Thunder and players like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who now play for different teams. But he has some affinity for the Clippers, who currently employ Paul George and Kawhi Leonard — two players who, while in college, played for Mountain West Conference teams.

“I just feel like we have to keep those Mountain West guys together in Paul George and Kawhi and myself,” Bean said. “It’ll be fun to kind of see how everything unfolds.”

Lucas Williamson of Loyola and Michael Devoe of Georgia Tech also reportedly signed Exhibit 10 contracts with the Clippers. Bean may be flying under the radar once Summer League starts, but he’s used to that.

“I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder from the moment I picked up the basketball, being maybe undersized or under-evaluated or under-recruited,” Bean said. “So to see it kind of play out in this moment, I still know there’s a lot left to prove and I’m excited to do just that. My road to the NBA is going to look a lot different than a lot of people’s, but I know I’m going to get there.”

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