If you’re searching for reasons why Ohio State star and Big Ten Player of the Year Keita Bates-Diop dropped to the 48th pick in last week’s NBA draft, his relatively old age — he’s 22 — might be as good as any.
It’s also why he says he and the Timberwolves team that drafted him are a “perfect fit.”
If Wolves boss Tom Thibodeau likes experience and know-how — and he does — a redshirt junior who plays smart might be as good as it gets.
“I think it’s a big upside for me,” Bates-Diop said. “My maturity, I’ve been in college three, four years, I think I have an edge over some of the younger guys who are still teenagers trying to learn this game. I’ve been through a lot already. It’ll help a lot.”
He missed most of the 2016-17 season because of a leg stress-fracture. That same season, his younger brother, Kai, collapsed during a high school practice in Normal, Ill., and was resuscitated after his heart stopped beating because of an undetected issue that ended his competitive basketball career.
Keita Bates-Diop has played on for both himself and his brother, reaching the NBA after the Wolves considered drafting him with the 20th pick in the first round before nabbing him with their second-round pick when he fell to No. 48.
Many mock drafts projected him as a first-round pick.
“I knew I’d be drafted somewhere,” he said. “The mocks were all over the place. I tried not to listen to all the people talk. I was happy to hear my name called.”
Asked if he thought the Wolves might draft him 20th that night, he said: “A little bit, not big anticipation. There were a lot of surprises in the draft. I wasn’t sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting for that.”
Thibodeau and Wolves GM Scott Layden, to name two, were surprised Bates-Diop was still there at 48. When he was, they took him.
“We trust the process,” Layden said. “We put in a lot of time watching these players, going through all the interviews, all the background information, all the scouting reports over the years. That gives us the confidence to make the selection. We felt good about it that moment.”
• The Wolves didn’t waste any time beginning their work with both Bates-Diop and first-round pick Josh Okogie, who were introduced Tuesday. “We’ll begin tonight,” Thibodeau said Tuesday.
• Asked if he got his 7-3½ wingspan from his father or mother, Bates-Diop said, “A little bit of both. My dad has long arms.”
• Bates-Diop was in the same high-school recruiting class as new teammates Karl Anthony-Towns and Tyus Jones, but didn’t know the other two aside from seeing them at national tournaments.
• Bates-Diop has graduated from the Ohio State University with an economics degree. Asked what he intends to do with it, he said, “Work in an [NBA] front-office position and do what they do.”