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Former John Carroll star Immanuel Quickley selected No. 25 overall in NBA draft, headed to Knicks

Immanuel Quickley has been known to put his nose to the grindstone and overcome any challenge that comes his way. Now, the former John Carroll star will take his talents to the NBA.

The Kentucky guard was selected with the No. 25 overall pick by the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night, and will reportedly be traded to the New York Knicks.

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“Man, this is crazy dog, I don’t even know what to say right now,” Quickley said during a video posted to Instagram on Thursday night. “God is so good, God is so great, just appreciate the opportunity, all the people that believed in me. My coaches, friends, family. This is just crazy, this is unbelievable.”

Nitrease Quickley, Immanuel’s mother and a former Morgan State basketball player, said: “You got a dream and don’t work toward it? It’s nothing but a wish, we ain’t into wishes.”

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“That’s one of the reasons why I made it right there, because I got the ultimate mom in my corner, ultimate,” he responded.

Quickley made seven starts in 37 games as a freshman at Kentucky during the 2018-19 season, averaging 5.2 points, 1.2 assists and 1.8 rebounds per game. He immediately went to work during the offseason and blossomed into the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year as a sophomore, averaging 16.1 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists to catch the attention of pro scouts.

According to Basketball-Reference.com, Quickley is the only player in SEC history to shoot above 42% from 3-point range and above 92% from the free-throw line while averaging over 15 points per game for an entire season. His former Kentucky backcourt mate Tyrese Maxey was selected with the 21st overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers.

Many draft pundits had the 6-foot-3, 188-pound guard going in the second round. However, the Havre de Grace native was adamant before the draft that he is a first-round talent.

“I’ve heard that I’m sitting in that 20-30 range, but if I was picked in the second round, I want to try prove to anyone that I should be in the conversation for that [the first round],” Quickley said.

Quickley’s Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association foe at Mount Saint Joseph, Jalen Smith, was selected by the Phoenix Suns with the 10th overall selection. The young guard, who helped the Patriots win a Baltimore Catholic League title and was named The Baltimore Sun All-Metro Player of the Year as a sophomore, believes that playing against some of the top talent in the country in high school prepared him for his time at Kentucky and now the NBA.

“It was great because my high school experience was a little like my college,” Quickley, a former McDonald’s All American, said before the draft. “My freshman year, I didn’t play that much and in my second year, I was the player of the year in my high school league. It was the same thing in college where I didn’t play a lot in my first year at Kentucky and won the SEC Player of the Year my sophomore year.

“I learned from those experiences — I think being able to play in the MIAA, Baltimore Catholic League, a top-five league — playing in those tough environment against those great players, has built my game on the floor that will allow me to contribute at the next level.”

John Calipari, his national-title winning coach at Kentucky, agreed.

“What you find with those kids is that you have to fight for what you want,” Calipari said before the draft. “Nothing is given to you — not with those kids down in Baltimore. If you don’t want to do the right stuff, you’re not making it. In that town, more than any other place, there are no frauds. Players know who can play, they all know, and if you think you’re tricking somebody — you’re not down in Baltimore. [Quickley] grew up in that area having to fight and it helped him here.”

The Knicks acquired the draft rights to Quickley by trading the No. 23 pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the No. 25 and No. 33 selections, according to multiple reports. The Timberwolves earlier acquired point guard Ricky Rubio and the 25th and 28th picks from the Thunder in exchange for a package that includes the No. 17 pick, according to ESPN.

Quickley will find a familiar face in New York, as Knicks assistant Kenny Payne coached him while he was at Kentucky. Leon Rose, the Knicks’ new team president, was also Calipari’s agent.

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“Going anywhere, you know, you’re just happy to be there. But going somewhere like the Knicks, where I know coach Kenny Payne — I was with him every single day,” Quickley said, according to the Associated Press. “Worked out with him every single day, watched film with him, things like that. So going somewhere I know and I’m familiar with the coaches, the GM, and things like that, I feel it’s definitely an advantage going to a team like that.”

The former Patriots star also won’t be the only new player in New York with Maryland ties. With the No. 8 overall pick, the Knicks took Dayton star Obi Toppin, who spent a postgraduate season at Mount Zion Prep in Prince George’s County, where he grew to 6-foot-8 and attracted the attention of Division I programs.

Baltimore Sun Media reporter Randy McRoberts contributed to this article.

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