It happened before, two years ago to be exact.
Rawle Alkins – a Canarsie native who once attended Christ the King High School in Middle Village, Queens – could be next.
Alkins initially entered the NBA Draft last year after his freshman year with the Arizona Wildcats – the same school that produced Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and where he played with projected overall No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton. He worked out with his hometown Nets. Since then, the 2018 All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention has also worked out with Oklahoma City, Toronto, Indiana, Atlanta, Dallas and the Lakers.
But like Whitehead, he’d welcome the opportunity of staying home.
“I think that would be great,” he told NetsDaily over the phone this past weekend from a Dallas airport right after wrapping up a workout with the Mavericks. “I’d try to bring that winning mentality to the team. Obviously, (the Nets) are a team that’s on the rise; they’re a team that’s rebuilding. They’re just missing a couple of pieces that could get it done.”
Alkins added that he didn’t meet with the Nets this time around, but didn’t rule out squeezing in a Brooklyn workout right before the official selection process. Asked why, it was nothing substantial, just how the pre-draft process worked itself out.
“There’s not really a reason why,” he said. “Right now they’re just focused on the particular range, and they have picks in that range. At the same time, who knows. I’m not telling you that we might not work out with them. There’s still a couple more days before the draft. I’m staying prepared.”
Because he worked out for them last year and because he’s local, there’s already a familiarity. He recalled his time at HSS last year as a great experience, and like any other hopeful applying for a job, he expressed a positive overall view of the Nets’ organization.
“I feel like it would be an honor to play there,” Alkins said, reflecting on his visit to HSS Training Center a year ago. “I feel like, being the hometown guy, going into Brooklyn, that (borough) made me. Brooklyn is a great, great team and a great franchise. I got to see the facility last year. The guys were great people. They’re all about winning and competing, which is my specialty.”
His comments also aren’t uncommon from what others have said throughout the league.
At various points throughout the pre-draft process, Alkins has been mocked to the Nets in both the late first and mid-second round. Though, like many others around the draft, he insists there will be surprises come Thursday. He hinted at going much higher than his projection would indicate.
“Outside of the top-10, it’s like an open draft. There might be a lot of surprises on draft night, a lot of movement,” he offered.
“I feel like there might be a lot of surprises on draft night. When you look at the mocks and it says, ‘Rawle Alkins, 60th pick,’ … I think that you guys are going to see a lot of surprises on draft night.”
By the numbers, Alkins’ made improvements despite breaking his foot last September. He recovered enough to net a career-high 26 points in his second game back at New Mexico on December 16.
For the season, the two-way guard improved to 13.1 points in 31.4 minutes from 10.9 points in 28.0 minutes in his first season, although his field goal percentage took a slight dip from 46.3 to 43.2%. As primarily a spot-up shooter during his freshman season, when he played 37 games (36 starts), Alkins shot 37% from deep. He shot a pretty much identical 36% this season through 23 games (21 starts).
Alkins also averaged 4.9 rebounds 2.2 assists and 1.0 steals (1.3 as a sophomore) in his college career, which evolves into a career 16.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.4 steals per 40 minutes.
Alkins sees the NBA as a better fit for his abilities on the floor, and provides five key attributes the Nets organization absolutely loves: versatility, defense, three-point shooting, size and athleticism.
“I think the NBA is going to be better for me because it’s a faster game and there’s a lot more space on the court,” said Alkins. “Coming in this league I have that defensive mentality going into the draft. Not every rookie is going to have that Donovan Mitchell 20 shots a night … some guys are going to have to prove themselves another way. My way is the defensive end – defense is what gets you on the court.
“I feel like I’m designed to be in the NBA,” he continued. “It’s positionless basketball. That’s how teams view me. It’s always great to see a team view you the way you view yourself.”
Whether his feeling of a personal draft day surprise is a display of educated confidence or blissful optimism remains to be seen. But if he’s right, there will be celebrating in Canarsie.