Sacramento Kings

‘Greatest night of my life:’ New draft picks describe what it’s like to be Kings

Virginia’s Kyle Guy celebrates after defeating Texas Tech 85-77 in the overtime in the championship of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament. He was selected in the second round of the NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings on Thursday.
Virginia’s Kyle Guy celebrates after defeating Texas Tech 85-77 in the overtime in the championship of the Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament. He was selected in the second round of the NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings on Thursday. AP

It has not taken long for the people of Sacramento to make Justin James and Kyle Guy feel welcome after the Kings selected them in the second round of last week’s NBA Draft.

They saw photos of themselves on a digital billboard along Interstate 5 shortly after arriving in Sacramento on Monday and have been warmly greeted everywhere they go.

“I went out to get some pizza yesterday and I had to stop and take probably like 20 pictures with all different people just because they recognized my face from the draft board,” James said, adding he was impressed with “how welcoming this area is and how excited they are to have me.”

The Kings made James and Guy available to the media for the first time Thursday at Golden 1 Center. Both players discussed their respective journeys to the NBA and the moment they heard their names called during the draft.

“It was the greatest night of my life, honestly,” James said. “There was so much buildup that whole night. I pretty much knew I was going in the second round, so me and my family were all sitting round the TV. Once I finally heard my name, we were all super excited. … I jumped to the ceiling. … Me and my family just had the time of our lives that night. It was hard to go to sleep after that, but it was just a great night.”

The Kings selected James with the 40th pick, Guy with the 55th pick and Vanja Marinkovic with the 60th pick. A team source said Marinkovic, a native of Serbia, will continue to develop overseas for the foreseeable future, but James and Guy will participate in next week’s California Classic, which will be held Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at Golden 1 Center.

The Kings will play three games in three days against the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat. Prized young big men Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles III are also expected to play, but it’s unclear if they’ll participate in all three games. The Kings will hold a three-day minicamp Friday, Saturday and Sunday in preparation for the event.

“I’m really excited to play in front of the fans,” Guy said. “… Our jerseys are in the locker room right now because we’re about to take pictures, and just looking at them was like, ‘Wow, pretty awesome.’ That moment right there it kind of sinks in a little bit. I’m super excited. I couldn’t be happier with where I landed, so I’m very thankful that the Kings believed in me.”

James, 22, is a 6-foot-7 shooting guard. He averaged 22.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.5 steals as a senior at Wyoming last season, shooting 40.9 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from 3-point range. Wyoming didn’t have much around James in terms of talent, so defenses were able to focus on him That might have contributed to some of his shooting struggles, but James saw it as a positive.

“I feel like it definitely improved my overall ability, just being able to continue to see the floor,” he said. “Most of the time when I was coming off ball screens and stuff like that, I was seeing two people off the ball and I always had a hand in my face. So, yeah, that just shows you how excited I am to play with other pros. Sometimes they’ll probably be leaving me to go trap De’Aaron (Fox) or something like that. It’s exciting to play with four other pros on the court.”

Guy, 21, is a 6-2 combo guard who helped Virginia capture the NCAA championship in April, averaging 15.4 points per game while shooting 42.6 percent from 3-point range. Kings general manager Vlade Divac called Guy one of the best shooters in the draft. Many analysts believed the Kings might target Guy with the 40th pick, but he slid to No. 55 on draft night.

“It was starting to get really somber,” Guy said. “It was quiet. It was such a long night. It started at 7:30 and I got drafted at like 12:15 or something, but all my family and close friends were there and it was a great night.

“I could sit here and say that 54 picks, they all made a mistake or whatever, but I was drafted where I was drafted. I’m just very thankful to be drafted. Not a lot of people can say that … but there’s definitely some motivation. There’s always fuel in the fire. People are saying what they say and I actually like to read that stuff so I can prove them wrong without saying anything.”

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