The Oklahoma Thunder selected Jaylin Williams, a 6’10” power forward from the University of Arkansas, in the second round of the NBA draft Thursday night.
Teams passed on four other Asian players considered to be draft prospects, but they remain available to be invited for tryouts as undrafted free agents.
Williams is of Vietnamese descent. Yahoo Sports reported he held back tears as he addressed fans, family and friends who watched the draft with him from his high school gym in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
“This is just the beginning,” Williams said.
His coach at the University of Arkansas congratulated his former star player.
“He’s going to be a great fit with the Thunder,” said Eric Musselman to the Razerback. “He is a player that should be able to come in right away and contribute due to his high basketball I.Q., his ability to rebound and his play on dribble-handoffs. Our staff is extremely happy for Jaylin and his family.”
Williams earned First Team All-SEC, SEC All-Defensive Team, and a NCAA West Regional All-Tournament Team recognition while only in his sophomore year.
He averaged 10.9 points per game, 9.8 rebounds per game, 2.6 assists and shot 23.9% from the three-point line.
His stats include 10.9 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.6 APG and 23.9% from the three-point line.
According to SB Nation writer Leo Sun, four other Asian basketball players received consideration for the NBA draft and remain available as free agents.
Johnny Juzang is a 6’.5” shooting guard who played at Kentucky before transferring to UCLA for more playing time. He is a Creole-Viatemese American who during his sophomore year helped lead the Bruins to the Final Four. He is now a junior and averaged 15.6 points per game,4.7 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 36% from the three-point line.
Hyunjung Lee, from South Korea, played for Davidson College, where Steph Curry made a name for himself. As a six foot seven inch shooting guard and small forward, Lee was in some second-round mock drafts. However, he suffered an ankle injury which affected his draft stock.
He averaged 15.8 points per game, 6.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists and has a 38.1% 3-point percentage.
Fanbo Zeng is a 6’11” forward who decommitted from Gonzaga to head into the NBA G League. At only 19 years old, Zeng, from China, joined the G League as one of the top youth prospects. Despite this he only saw 13.6 minutes per game averaging 3.8 points per game, 1.4 rebounds, and 0.8 assists.
Kai Sotto is a 7’2” center from Manila, Philippines. At 18-years-old he signed with the NBA G League Ignite team, but because of the pandemic, Sotto turned to Australia’s NBL. While playing with the Adelaide 36ers he played 15.3 minutes per game averaging 7.5 points per game, 0.5 assists, and 0.8 blocks per game.
“I can’t really explain the feeling but it’s not a good feeling. I really worked hard and did my best to get here,” Sotto said in his interview on PlayItRight TV moments after the NBA Draft.
“I can’t really explain the feeling, but its not a good feeling. I really worked hard and did my best to get here,” said Sotto, according to the Inquirer. “God has better plans for me and I won’t stop.”
Basketball in general has become a very popular sport in Asian countries, specifically in China where more than 300 million people play basketball according to the NBA.
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