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Ready for the Next Step

Ready for the Next Step

by Christy Cabrera Chirinos

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – When Kyshawn George arrived on Miami’s campus last summer, Hurricanes head coach Jim Larrañaga knew his program had landed a talented, young player with heaps of potential.

What the veteran coach couldn’t know was that George would very quickly turn himself into a first-round NBA draft pick.

But that’s exactly what happened.

On Wednesday night in Brooklyn, just before 11 p.m., George – a freshman from Monthey, Switzerland – walked across the stage at the Barclays Center, shook the hand of NBA commissioner Adam Silver, smiled and started the next chapter of his basketball career.

Officially, George was selected No. 24 by the New York Knicks, but he’ll be suiting up for the Washington Wizards, who acquired his draft rights in a trade that will bring the 6-foot-8 guard to the nation’s capital.

George became the 26th player in Miami history to be drafted, and the first taken in the first round since Lonnie Walker IV was selected No. 18 by the San Antonio Spurs in 2018.

He also became the third Hurricane drafted over the last two seasons, joining Jordan Miller and Isaiah Wong, both of whom were second-round picks of the Los Angeles Clippers and Indiana Pacers, respectively, last season.

Now, at least one Hurricane has been selected in five of the last eight NBA drafts, a testament Larrañaga said, to Miami’s ability to attract and develop highly skilled players.

“I think the tradition has begun. We’ve laid the foundation of producing not only really good teams, not only really good players, but NBA draft choices,” the coach said. “To have another player be a first-round pick will indicate to all future prospects that Miami is a place that develops its players to the point that there’s a good chance you can get drafted. … Three guys in the last two seasons says a lot about the foundation that we have built.”

George, the latest piece of that foundation, rose quickly on NBA draft boards to earn an invitation to the draft green room earlier this month.

But his size, versatility and work ethic made a quick impression on the Wizards, who, according to Washington general manager Will Dawkins, had been monitoring George’s progress even before he got to Miami.

“Instantly you saw the size, 6-8, think it’s a 6-10 wingspan. He’s a second-side facilitator but when they had some injuries, he played on the ball,” Dawkins said of George to reporters in Washington, D.C. “We’re looking for guys who can create and make plays. At the end of the day, he’s going to wake up every morning and be 6-10, play on the wing and [be a] 40 percent three-point shooter. … That stuff popped quickly. We’ll continue to get him to defend and rebound and play with pace here, add him with some other guys that like basketball and throw him in the mix.”

Said Larrañaga, “One of the things I kept telling NBA scouts just prior to the draft, when they would ask me about his improvement, I said, ‘Well, a good way to see it is … the NBA has a 185-pound bench press test, so we do that regularly. On the first day that Kyshawn was here, he couldn’t do it one time. It was zero. And by the end of the season, it was 12 times.’ He worked his tail off in the weight room and he worked his tail off on the court and he’s just a young guy who a year ago was 6-5. He’s now almost 6-8 and he just keeps getting better and better and I think the Wizards have drafted a young man who will fit in beautifully with that organization.”

For his part, George is eager to get to work with the Wizards.

He joins second overall pick Alex Sarr and No. 14 overall pick Bub Carrington – a former ACC foe at Pittsburgh – as part of Washington’s draft class and says he’s looking forward to showing his new teammates and coaches what he can do.

“I think I’ll fit in great,” George said. “I know it’s a young team, rebuilding and I can’t wait to be able to bring my touch to this team and take it to the next level. … I think [Sarr’s] very versatile. He’s big, has a presence in the paint and I can’t wait to be able to bring my guard skills to pair with his big, versatile skills as well. It’s going to be exciting.”

This season with the Hurricanes, George started 16 of 31 games and averaged 7.6 points and 3.0 rebounds, while shooting a team-leading 40.8 percent from 3-point range.

He scored in double figures 11 times and became the first Hurricanes freshman to score 20-plus points in a game since 2020, when Wong accomplished that feat against Virginia Tech.

Now, he’ll have the opportunity to showcase his skills at the next level.

It’s an opportunity George – who played in France before coming to Miami – said he isn’t taking for granted.

“I’m just super happy, super happy and excited. It’s an unbelievable moment, a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said. “I’m just super excited to start a new journey. … It’s been a blessing. All the work I’ve been putting in for my whole life is paying off. I’m just super grateful I’ve put myself in this situation.”