Marquese Chriss probably would have laughed six months ago if someone had told him that he’d be at this week’s NBA draft combine.
It’s not that the former Pleasant Grove High School star lacked confidence. It’s just that when he enrolled at Washington, he didn’t think he’d be one-and-done.
“When I went into school, I didn’t plan on leaving after this year,” Chriss said Thursday. “It just kind of happened that way.”
These days, certain college freshmen are in school only because the NBA no longer allows players to enter the draft out of high school. Entering this college basketball season, Chriss was not considered to be among this elite group of one-and-done freshmen.
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But that changed after one season in Seattle. After averaging 13.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks at Washington, Chriss could be a top-10 pick.
“I’m confident in myself, but when I went into school, I was thinking I was going to be there for multiple years to grow and kind of mature and kind of develop some more,” Chriss said. “But toward the end of the season, I had a really good stretch of games, and I think I grew up a lot faster than what was predicted.”
A 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward, Chriss has come a long way after almost being cut from the freshman team at Pleasant Grove. Chriss will meet with the Kings on Friday, hoping to impress his hometown team.
If the Kings were to select Chriss in the first round, that would be fine with him. He’d love a chance to play close to his friends and family. It also would give him an opportunity to play alongside his favorite NBA player.
“I try to play like Rudy Gay,” Chriss said. “I feel like he’s very versatile. He can play from the perimeter, he can post people up, he can put the ball on the ground consistently. I’m working on my ballhandling to get more confident with that.”
The Kings have several needs as they look to rebound from their 10th consecutive losing season. One is more versatility , and Chriss would appear able to play that role as he develops.
He’s athletic and has worked to diversify his skills. Along with his ballhandling skills, Chriss said he is working on shooting from NBA three-point range.
Chriss shot 35.0 percent on three-point tries at Washington.
“I feel like I can play multiple positions,” Chriss said. “I feel like I’m athletic and if I get stronger I can defend fours and fives, and I can guard threes and twos, and I feel I have a good skill set to stretch the floor.”
The biggest question facing the 18-year-old Chriss at the combine is his maturity. He led the NCAA with 138 fouls, fouling out in 15 of 34 games. He also had poor body language when he became frustrated on the court.
But Chriss said he looks forward to meeting with coaches and team representatives to show he has made strides.
“I don’t feel like I’m trying to sell myself at all,” Chriss said. “I feel like I’m an easygoing person, I’m good at talking to people, I enjoy talking to people, and that’s really just what I do. So I don’t do anything out of character.
“I talk, I make jokes, little sly jokes. It’s a fun time. I love it, and I love being in this situation where I have the opportunity to showcase who I am.”
Weight: 225 pounds
School: Pleasant Grove
13.7 PPG; 5.4 RPG