BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Four seasons and the Brooklyn Nets FINALLY have their first player from the borough. The Nets introduced Isaiah Whitehead at a press conference outside of the Nets Shop in Coney Island, Tuesday, in front of friends, family and even spectators just walking by the famed Nathans. It couldn't get any more 'Brooklyn' than that.
Whitehead, 21, is the first Brooklyn native to play for the Nets and comes from Lincoln High School -- the same school that Brooklynnites Stephon Marbury, Sebastian Telfair and Lance Stephenson played for. He will wear Vince Carter's famed number 15. Whitehead noted that he talks to Telfair and Stephenson "every day. Just about what to do, what not to do. They help me out a lot."
For the Nets -- and Whitehead -- it's a big deal to have somebody finally represent Brooklyn Grit (trademark!). And holding the press conference at Coney Island showed the Nets plan to push the connection hard. There were Whitehead jerseys everywhere at the Nets Shop and a number of them went quickly to locals. Even Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Boro President, was on hand.
"There's no words for it," Whitehead said about growing up in Brooklyn and playing for his hometown team. "To actually have a press conference where they introduce me in my backyard it's amazing. I really can't put it into words."
His coach who's also a New York native (Long Island to be exact) understands how special New York basketball is and what it means for Isaiah to play for city.
"Isaiah [Whitehead] represents everything we're looking for in a player; high character, great integrity and a great competitor," Head Coach Kenny Atkinson said. "For him to be in his hometown, there's nothing more special then that, and for the Brooklyn Nets, there's nothing more special for us to draft a young, promising and talented local guy. He'll be able to play in front of family and friends and it's really a dream."
Questions loom, though. First off, is he a point guard, shooting guard or both? There are plenty of contradicting reports. A source close to Whitehead said he is "absolutely a one in this league."
However, Marks and Atkinson might have different things in mind. "I think he's versatile," Marks told reporters after the draft. "I think we put it that way. If you wanna use 'combo guard'. We like what he brings to the table. We like his fire, his energy and his passion he has. You know, that's even away from the court not even just what he does on the court."
Regardless, something to take from Whitehead and the Nets' situation is that they seem to really like who he is on AND off the court. Last year, sources say the Nets were concerned about bringing a certain player from Brooklyn to the Nets due to off the court issues.
But that doesn't seem to be the case with Whitehead. The Nets, whom keep preaching the new culture and character of the organization, believe Whitehead is a perfect fit.
"We've seen him play and being a local guy; we were really familiar with him, his background, and the person, the character he has, and he fits with our group," Marks said after selecting Whitehead 42nd overall. "He fits what we want to be, what we embody, his tenacity, his professionalism. For us, he embodies what Brooklyn grit is all about."
When asked about posse issues or distractions of playing in his hometown, a source close to Whitehead told NetsDaily that he's got his eyes on the prize. In exact words, "he wants this too much."
It's early, but Whitehead seems to fit the role of a hard working culture under a gritty coach like Kenny Atkinson, whom will be coaching the prospect in the Las Vegas Summer League starting July 8.
"If anything requires work, I'll put the time in, I'll put the effort in to really perfect anything I want to," Whitehead said. "Even when I struggled, I bounced back to become the player I am today. It's really about competing and getting better everyday."
Whitehead explained how he wants to model his game after Portland's C.J. McCollum 'because he can score the ball, he can defend and he does numerous amounts of things on the floor.'
If that becomes a reality... fuhgeddaboudit.
- Isaiah Whitehead’s ornate intro shows what he means to Nets - Zach Braziller - New York Post
- Isaiah Whitehead Could Be the Start of Brooklyn’s Homegrown Renaissance - Alex Raskin - Wall Street Journal
- Nets: Isaiah Whitehead at home in Brooklyn - Andy Vasquez - The Record
- Nets' Isaiah Whitehead brings Brooklyn roots to Barclays Center - Sal Cacciatore - Newsday
- Lincoln legend Whitehead staying home - John Torenli - Brooklyn Daily Eagle