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Loyola Maryland’s Santi Aldama picked No. 30 overall by Memphis Grizzlies in first round of 2021 NBA draft

Santi Aldama, who recently wrapped up his sophomore year for the Loyola Maryland men’s basketball program, was selected No. 30 overall by the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the 2021 NBA draft on Thursday night.

According to ESPN, Memphis traded pick No. 40 and two future second-round picks to the Utah Jazz for the selection.

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Aldama, a 6-foot-11, 224-pound forward, became the second Greyhounds player to be selected in the modern era of the NBA draft and the first to be taken in the opening round. Shooting guard Mike Morrison was chosen by the Phoenix Suns in the second round with the 51st pick of the 1989 draft.

Aldama did not attend the draft at the Barclays Center — the home of the Brooklyn Nets — in New York. Instead, he celebrated his new future in the Canary Islands, an autonomous community of Spain’s off the coast of Morocco, with his family, Greyhounds coach Tavaras Hardy and assistant coach Ivo Simovic.

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In 2019, Aldama told The Baltimore Sun that reaching the NBA was a lifelong pursuit of his.

“That’s a dream of mine since I was little,” he said. “Since I started playing basketball, I wanted to play in the NBA. But I’m aware that it’s really difficult and that only the best players in the world get to play in the NBA. So that’s just a motivation for me every day. Every day I go to practice, I just think that’s my goal. I just think I have to work and be patient, and things will come.”

Loyola Maryland's Santi Aldama dribbles up the court during a game against Army in the Patriot League semifinals March 10, 2021.
Loyola Maryland's Santi Aldama dribbles up the court during a game against Army in the Patriot League semifinals March 10, 2021. (Stockton Photo, Inc./Stockton Photo, Inc.)

Aldama, who grew up in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, was a prized recruit for Loyola Maryland in the class of 2019 that included shooting guard Cameron Spencer (Boys’ Latin), fellow countryman and power forward Golden Dike and others.

This past winter, Aldama completed a sophomore season in which he led the Patriot League in rebounds at 10.1 per game and ranked second in points at 21.2, earning first-team status in the conference and the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ All-District XIII. He became the first player in league history — and the only player nationally — to finish a campaign averaging at least 18 points, eight rebounds, two assists and 1.5 blocks and was only the second player in conference history to average 20 points and 10 rebounds after Colgate power forward Adonal Foyle reached those benchmarks in 1995-96 and 1996-97.

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Aldama was one of just two players at the NCAA Division I level to average 20 points and 10 rebounds, joining Austin Peay senior guard/forward Terry Taylor (21.6 points and 11.1 rebounds). He wrapped up the season ranked 12th in the nation in points, 14th in rebounds, fifth in defensive rebounds (8.3), 48th in blocks (1.7) and 69th in field-goal percentage (.513).

With Aldama, the Greyhounds advanced to the Patriot League tournament final before falling to Colgate, 85-72, on March 14.

In August 2019, Aldama spearheaded the Spanish national team’s run to the FIBA U18 European Championship in Volos, Greece, averaging 18.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.3 blocks and 1.9 steals. He was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

In April, Aldama announced his decision to test the NBA waters and enter his name into the draft while retaining his amateur status and maintaining his commitment to Loyola Maryland. But strong workouts caught the attention of NBA scouts, and the deadline for Aldama to return to the school passed.

At the time of Aldama’s announcement in April, Hardy said Aldama had his full support.

“He’s a phenomenal person,” Hardy said. “His maturity, his understanding of the bigger picture in life, that’s who he was during the recruiting process, and he’s maintained that. He cares about things beyond basketball. But at the same time, he wants to be a pro. So he’s worked extremely hard on his game and his body. … He’s still just scratching the surface in terms of his potential.”

This story may be updated.

From the Patriot League to the NBA

When Santi Aldama was selected in the first round of Thursday night’s NBA draft, the Loyola Maryland forward joined an exclusive club of players from the Patriot League who heard their names called during the draft. Here is a list of players from the conference who were chosen in the NBA draft since it went to a two-round format in 1989.

Year; Name; College; NBA team; Round; Pick

1997; Adonal Foyle; Colgate; Golden State; 1; 8

2013; C.J. McCollum; Lehigh; Portland; 1; 10

2013; Mike Muscala; Bucknell; Dallas; 2; 44

2021; Santi Aldama; Loyola Maryland; 1; 30

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