Keita Bates-Diop is finally off the board.
The former Ohio State star and reigning Big Ten Player of the Year had to wait longer than expected, but finally heard his name called in the second round of Thursday's 2018 NBA Draft when the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Bates-Diop with the No. 48 overall pick.
Bates-Diop, who was projected to be selected as early as the middle of the first round of Thursday's draft, will now likely have to compete to earn a spot on the Timberwolves' regular-season roster. Nonetheless, Bates-Diop will get his opportunity to play at the next level after becoming Ohio State's first NBA draft pick since the Los Angeles Lakers selected D'Angelo Russell with the No. 2 overall pick in 2015.
Bates-Diop is the first Buckeye ever drafted by the Timberwolves.
While Bates-Diop wasn't officially invited to sit in the green room for Thursday night's draft, the former Buckeye still made the trip to Brooklyn – as did his former Ohio State coach, Chris Holtmann – so he could walk across the stage at the Barclays Center.
Looking forward to a great night for KBD and family. Big time Scarlet and Grey ensemble by #33. pic.twitter.com/57xXXDxK3M— Chris Holtmann (@ChrisHoltmann) June 21, 2018
“We are really excited for Keita and his family,” Holtmann said Thursday night in a release. “This is a day he has certainly earned. He is a tremendous talent and an outstanding teammate. The Timberwolves are adding a pro in every sense of the word. Congratulations to Keita, his parents Richard and Wilma and his brother Kai on this exciting day and accomplishment.”
A member of Ohio State's 2014 recruiting class alongside Russell, Bates-Diop exploded onto the scene as a fourth-year junior – after missing most of the 2016-17 season with a leg injury – leading the Buckeyes in points per game (19.8) and rebounds per game (8.7) last season.
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In the process of helping Ohio State to a second-place regular-season finish in the Big Ten and its first NCAA Tournament appearance since the 2015 season, Bates-Diop emerged as a second-team All-American and an NBA prospect, leading to his decision to go pro with one remaining season of collegiate eligibility.
Now, Bates-Diop joins a group of former Buckeyes in the NBA that also includes Russell (Brooklyn Nets), Mike Conley (Memphis Grizzlies), Evan Turner (Portland Trail Blazers) and Kosta Koufos (Sacramento Kings).
While the Timberwolves already have one of the NBA's top wing players in Jimmy Butler, and another of the league's top young talents on the wing in Andrew Wiggins, they entered the draft with a need for depth behind them. After they selected Georgia Tech shooting guard Josh Okogie in the first round, Bates-Diop factors in as a potential backup at both the small forward and power forward positions, where the Timberwolves' backups from last season – Nemanja Bjelica, Amile Jefferson and Marcus Georges-Hunt – are all restricted free agents.
"With the Timberwolves desperate for cheap wing help, a ready-to-play junior on a rookie scale contract is a match made in basketball heaven," Jake Paynting wrote in April for the Timberwolves fan site Dunking With Wolves.
Bates-Diop was the only Ohio State player selected in Thursday night's draft. Jae'Sean Tate, who went undrafted, has reportedly agreed to join the Milwaukee Bucks for the NBA Summer League, while Kam Williams is also looking to earn an opportunity to play professionally as an undrafted free agent.