Jan 11, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Tyrese Haliburton (22) celebrates their win against the Oklahoma Sooners at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones beat the Sooners 81 to 68. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Tyrese Haliburton was never worried.
Chicago took Florida State’s Patrick Williams at No. 4. Cleveland took Auburn’s Isaac Okoro at No. 5. USC’s Onyeka Okowgwu went to Atlanta at six. Killian Hayes went to Detroit and Obi Toppin to New York.
Slowly, the picks where Haliburton, the former Cyclone star, were projected to be selected in Wednesday night’s NBA Draft rolled by and his name remained on the board, right at the top of ESPN’s list as the best available player.
People on the outside wondered where Haliburton’s professional future would begin. Haliburton, though, never was concerned.
He knew his time was coming — and soon.
It did when the Sacramento Kings took the Oshkosh, Wis. native No. 12 overall, making him Iowa State’s first lottery pick since Marcus Fizer went No. 4 overall to the Chicago Bulls in 2000.
“No, I wasn’t (nervous), to be honest with you,” Haliburton told local media on a virtual call late Wednesday night. “I felt like Sacramento was very much a possibility, a very real possibility if I was available there. Obviously, some teams went in different directions and I’m glad they did because I fell to the perfect spot. I love my fit in Sacramento. I’m really just ready to get to the city, meet my teammates, meet the front office, create long lasting relationships and really excel as a basketball player and a person.”
Haliburton, the former three-star recruit in the Cyclones’ highly-touted 2018 recruiting class, landed in a favorable spot where he will join a young core and a backcourt alongside former Kentucky star and fourth-year point guard De’Aaron Fox, who ranked eighth and ninth in the league in assists and steals per game last season.
The fit between the two lead guards will be a fun one with Fox firmly sitting as one of the league’s most exciting and athletic young guards to go along with Haliburton’s playmaking and basketball IQ, which most draft prognosticators considered the best in this class.
“I love it. I think I’m a perfect fit with him. I think I excel best with other great guards,” Haliburton said. “Obviously, a quicker guard, a freak athlete in De’Aaron. I think he’s kind of the perfect guy for me in terms of what I lack, he has. So I think we’re gonna be perfect together. I can’t wait to get started.”
As it currently stands, the Kings have only three players signed to their 2020-21 roster with five or more years of NBA experience, one of them being former Ames High School and North Carolina standout Harrison Barnes, who will begin his ninth NBA season next month.
Haliburton and Fox will be joined in the backcourt by Buddy Hield, the former Oklahoma All-American, as he enters his fifth season in the league. The front court will be anchored by Marvin Bagley III, who enters his third-season, two years removed from being a first-team All-Rookie selection in 2018-19.
All told, the Kings will be among the league’s youngest squads in 2020-21 with sky-high potential for the future.
“I can’t wait. Honestly, I think all young blood is good blood,” Haliburton said. “So, I feel like being able to come there with other young guys who also want to grow, also want to compete, guys that are ready to get after it, I can’t wait. I think it’s gonna be great for the start of my career and as my career continues on so I’m really excited about it.”
It would have been difficult to find a better landing spot for Haliburton within the draft’s first 14 picks. In Sacramento, he should be given an opportunity to play, learn and grow alongside a core of players that will play an up-tempo style, which best fits Haliburton’s game.
It only took a few seconds for the folks analyzing the draft on ESPN to call the Kings one of the night’s early winners.
The rest of us may have been worried for Haliburton, but he was never nervous — and his reward is ending at least this night a winner.
Who will be the losers?
Well, let’s just say it seems likely Haliburton won’t forget the 11 teams that passed on him and the 11 names that went before him.
“Obviously I gotta find stuff to get me going. I think there’s, obviously, some stuff that happened tonight that I’m not gonna forget anytime soon,” Haliburton said. “I’m excited to kind of attack those things. Like I said though, those teams that picked other guys, that’s what they wanted for their organization. It’s a business and I’m not gonna complain, man. I’m in a perfect spot for me. I’m on cloud nine, man. I’m good.”