Johnathan Motley arrived at Baylor four years ago with little fanfare but developed into a second-team All-America forward.
On Thursday night, Motley hopes his work ethic, versatility and athleticism will make him the eighth Baylor player chosen in the NBA draft during the Scott Drew era.
The draft will begin at 6 p.m. at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and will be televised on ESPN.
The 6-9, 255-pound Motley is projected to be picked early in the second round by most mock drafts. But he hopes to go higher following a highly productive junior year in which he averaged 17.3 points and led the Big 12 with 9.9 rebounds per game.
“I’m real excited and can’t wait to see where I end up,” Motley said. “It’s been hectic for sure but I’m ready for it.”
Motley has worked out for 13 NBA teams in recent weeks including Miami, Toronto, Indiana, Atlanta, Utah, Phoenix, the Los Angeles Lakers and several others.
He said he’s 100 percent healthy after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus following Baylor’s basketball season that ended with a 70-50 loss to South Carolina in the Sweet 16 at Madison Square Garden on March 24.
Motley said he’ll watch the draft in his hometown in Houston and can’t wait to see how his mother, Willie Motley, reacts. Willie was a big supporter for Baylor basketball in recent years and often led the cheering section.
“I’m pretty sure she’ll be crying and thinking about all the work I put into it,” Motley said. “She’ll go through all the emotions.”
Willie Motley always stressed the importance of education to her son, and he graduated from Baylor in May with a degree in kinesiology.
After an outstanding senior year at Houston North Shore, Motley redshirted his first college season in 2013-14 after the Baylor coaches asked him to consider the option. The Bears were stacked in the frontcourt with players like Cory Jefferson, Isaiah Austin and Rico Gathers.
“I didn’t really want to hear that,” Motley said. “I was ready to play and come in and help the team. But I met with some people like my mom and I thought it would be a better thing for me to do. Just adding weight and going against guys like Cory Jefferson, Rico Gathers and Isaiah Austin every day prepared me for where I am now. Looking back on it I’m thankful I did it. I don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t done it.”
Motley improved every season at Baylor. After averaging 7.7 points and 4.2 rebounds as a redshirt freshman, his numbers jumped to 11.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game as a sophomore.
As a junior, Motley not only led the Bears in scoring and rebounding but also shot 52.1 percent from the field and showed his defensive prowess by averaging 1.1 blocks. Motley earned the Karl Malone Award as the nation’s top power forward.
Motley said there are several areas he needs to work on as he enters the NBA, including his 3-point shooting, ballhandling and lateral quickness.
Motley has stayed in touch with former Baylor teammate Taurean Prince, who was the 12th overall pick in the first round of last year’s NBA draft by the Atlanta Hawks. Prince became a more productive player for the Hawks as the season progressed and enjoyed a solid rookie year.
“He’s an inspiration for me,” Motley said. “He’s my brother. He told me you never know what’s going to happen during the draft and that I need to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Since 2010, the Bears have had three players selected in the first round and four taken in the second round.
Besides Prince going in the first round last season, Ekpe Udoh was selected by the Golden State Warriors with the sixth overall pick in 2010 while Perry Jones was taken by the Oklahoma City Thunder with the 28th pick in 2012.
Baylor’s second-round picks during the Drew era include Quincy Acy by Toronto and Quincy Miller by Denver in 2012, Pierre Jackson by Philadelphia in 2013 and Cory Jefferson by San Antonio in 2014.