Earning your first NBA workout is nerve-racking enough. Having to also perform in front of Magic Johnson, one of the best players in NBA, takes it to another level.
Former Niagara basketball star Kahlil Dukes said he took it in style.
"Magic is somebody that I've always looked up to, watched highlights of him, documentaries of him," Dukes said. "The impact that he's had on basketball and myself, it's huge. It was even cooler to get to play in front of him and for me to hear positive feedback from him on my own personal game."
The pair took a photo afterward, with Johnson, the Los Angeles Lakers' president of basketball operations, flashing his trademark smile.
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Dukes, the co-Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year, said he worked out twice with the Lakers, who own the 25th and 47th picks in Thursday night's NBA Draft (7 p.m., ESPN). Los Angeles reportedly acquired a third pick, 39th overall, on Wednesday night according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
A 6-foot guard, Dukes is one of three Big 4 players to earn pre-draft workouts, joining St. Bonaventure guards Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley.
"They had me do competitive drills, a lot of shooting drills," Dukes said. "It's definitely been a challenging experience so far, but as far as the workouts, I felt comfortable. I felt confident throughout."
The Lakers were the only team that brought him in for a workout, but he said he's also received interest from the New Orleans Pelicans, Oklahoma City Thunder and Phoenix Suns. Dukes said he and his agent, Dean Hadley of Ten Ten Management, are optimistic he'll hear his name called at the Barclays Center.
"My agent still feels like I'll get drafted Thursday night, either late first round or early second round," he said. "The teams that are interested, I'm on their board."
Twenty-four former Purple Eagles have been selected in the NBA Draft, but none since Joe Arlauckas was taken in the fourth round in 1987. Dukes hasn't been mentioned in any of the major publications' mock drafts.
If he isn't selected, Dukes is a likely candidate to hook on with a team for summer league. He said the NBA is the goal, but if he has to go overseas, he'll aim to play in China.
Dukes started his career at the University of Southern California but transferred to Niagara after two seasons with the Trojans. He ranked second in the MAAC in scoring (21.0 ppg) and first in free throw percentage (,909) in his senior year.
He said he'll likely be watching the draft from his home in Connecticut.
"It's been a learning process," Dukes said. "I don't really have nerves. I kinda just work through it, trying to keep myself heading in the right direction and doing the right things off the court."