Australian teenage basketball sensation Dante Exum says the upcoming World Cup in Spain will help make his giant leap into the NBA just that little bit easier.
Exum went from mystery man to millionaire last month when he was snatched up by the Utah Jazz as the fifth overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
The 19-year-old point guard’s first shot in the limelight received mixed reviews, however, with observers stating he struggled to compete against the bigger framed men during the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas last week.
“It was tough getting back on the court because I hadn’t been there in a while,” he said.
But Exum, whose 196cm frame weighs in at 88kg, is confident that by the time the NBA season rolls around in October, he’ll have had a lot more experience playing against grown men.
That’s because San Antonio Spurs’ point-guard Patty Mills underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, meaning Exum will have to step up alongside fellow NBA point guard Matthew Dellavedova (Cleveland Cavaliers) for Australia at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup this August-September.
The duo have returned to Australia to train with their Boomers teammates at Canberra’s AIS.
“The way I look at it the Summer League was kind of the pro-amateur thing, then the next step is the World Championship, then I get to step into the NBA season,” Exum said.
“It’s just taking one step at a time.
“It’s going to be a huge jump, but playing at the World Cup is going to make that jump a little bit easier.”
Exum said while it was unfortunate that Mills would miss the World Cup, he’d grab this opportunity at the Boomers with both hands.
“Patty is obviously a huge deal to this team and it’s going to be tough losing him. But hopefully that gives me a bigger chance to step up and have a bigger role,” he said.
He added that watching Mills’ third-quarter blitz in the Spurs’ NBA championship-winning game against the Miami Heat last month had given him extra confidence that he too could match it with the sport’s best.
“A lot of people were saying that what changed for Patty was his fitness. I think it was that he just got his chance,” Exum said.
“I want to get on the court and play. I want to get as much time as I can and push for a starting spot on the NBA roster.”