Nico Mannion waited longer than he expected to hear his name called in the 2020 NBA Draft, but it was well worth it.
“Surreal,” the Arizona guard said. “When I heard that I got the call and had found out I was getting drafted by Golden State, it was just a rush of emotions because my father (Pace) was also drafted by Golden State. Yeah, it’s unexplainable. It’s a blessing come true.”
Going 48th overall to the Warriors is “not where I wanted to go number-wise”, Mannion admitted, but he is relishing the opportunity to develop with what has been the most successful NBA franchise over the last decade.
And he gets to do it under fellow UA product Steve Kerr, who tweeted “Bear Down!” when the pick was announced.
“I’ve talked to him before and talked to him recently, and he just seems like a great dude,” Mannion said. “I think he runs a clean ship at Golden State, and he’s a hard worker, and I think that rubs off on the guys. One thing I’ll say about Coach Kerr is it seems like he really has his guys’ backs, which really pays off in the long run. I think the guys that play for him really will go to war for him because they know he has their best interest and will go to bat for them.”
One of those guys being Stephen Curry, the top point guard in the NBA.
“That’s just another situation that I see that’s surreal,” Mannion said. “When I found out, that was kind of the first thing I thought of: I get to learn from Steph. He’s been in the league for a while, a multi-time MVP. I actually got to meet him already. I played at Steph’s camp and kind of get to know him a little bit. But I’m excited, man. I think the biggest thing for me is I get someone I can really learn from. He’s a vet and one of the best players to ever play. I’m just going to be like a sponge, trying to soak up as much information from him as I can.”
Mannion had a disappointing one-and-done season at Arizona considering the hype he arrived with as a McDonald’s All-American. It’s why, in only a matter of months, he devolved from a potential lottery pick to a late second-round selection.
But Mannion believes he’s a different player now. He added “12 to 15” pounds to his now 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame and made a couple tweaks to his jumper in hopes of becoming a more consistent shooter.
“I don’t think I shot the ball as well as I should have or could have at Arizona...and right now I’m shooting the ball better than I ever have,” Mannion said. “I think a big thing also is the system that Golden State plays. I think I’ll be able to fit right in with that.”
Mannion’s playmaking could be needed from the get-go now that All-Star guard Klay Thompson is reportedly out with a significant Achilles injury, and he’ll be extra motivated when he debuts.
“Being the 48th pick does give me a little chip on my shoulder,” Mannion said. “I’d say a little more than a chip. But I’m lost for words, honestly. I think next year, I don’t have any expectations going into the season. I’m just ready to get there and learn and work. I’ve already talked to Coach Kerr, and he pumped me up even more. So I’m excited to get there and learn and work as hard as I can and see what we can do next year.”
Mannion called it “the perfect situation.”
“I’m ecstatic,” he said. “I’m still at a loss for words. I’ve been with my family for the past 30, 40 minutes since I got picked, and I just keep crying, tears, and it’s a surreal feeling.”