De’Andre Hunter and Ty Jerome are best buds. In recent months, as they’ve dispersed to different parts of the country, public displays of their friendship have been relegated to shoutouts on their respective Instagram stories and poking Twitter comments. But for nearly three years at Virginia, the guards from the Northeast were virtually inseparable.
They bonded on the court, of course, but also off the court, sharing laughs on press conference podiums and in University of Virginia lecture halls. After a late-May workout with the Indiana Pacers, Jerome was asked what he’ll remember most about the Cavaliers’ run to the NCAA Tournament championship.
“The memories,” he said. “The wins are that much more special when you’re doing it with guys you love.”
If the right dominos fall Thursday during the 2019 NBA Draft, Jerome and Hunter could be teammates again. And their most likely landing spot? The Cleveland Cavaliers, who own the No. 5 pick and the No. 26 pick.
ESPN’s Jay Bilas said teams likely don’t place emphasis on drafting players from the same school, though.
“I can’t imagine an NBA team would factor that in making a draft selection,” Bilas said. “To me, that would be irrelevant. Both are really good players and will do well in the NBA.”
College teammates are often reunited in the NBA. This past season, former Michigan guards Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke suited up for the New York Knicks, before both were traded to the Dallas Mavericks. On the Boston Celtics, former Cal players Jaylen Brown and Jabari Bird shared a locker room, as did old UConn teammates Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb on the Charlotte Hornets. In total, nine NBA teams last season featured former college teammates.
Jerome and Hunter could be next.
Hunter has long been expected to be a lottery selection, and after the Los Angeles Lakers traded the No. 4 pick to the New Orleans Pelicans as part of the Anthony Davis trade, the Virginia guard landing in Cleveland seems like more of a possibility.
Conventional wisdom indicates the Pelicans will take Duke forward Zion Williamson with the No. 1 pick, leaving the Memphis Grizzlies to select Murray State point guard Ja Morant at No. 2 with the Knicks grabbing Duke forward R.J. Barrett at No. 3.
Some reports indicate the Pelicans are shopping the No. 4 pick, but otherwise many experts predict New Orleans to take Texas Tech guard Jarrett Culver. Both Sports Illustrated and The Ringer have the Cavaliers taking Hunter, who projects as a solid 3-and-D wing at the next level. And NBA writer Sam Amico reported Monday that new Cleveland coach John Beilein has a soft spot for Hunter.
Jerome’s name has appeared near the bottom of the first round in mock drafts for months, and all signs point to that being actualized Thursday. Though The Ringer has him going No. 22 to the Boston Celtics, Sports Illustrated has him falling to No. 26 — Cleveland’s second selection of the first round.
The penultimate shot of Hunter’s college career came with 12 seconds left in regulation of the national championship game, when Jerome found him open from the right corner for an overtime-forcing 3-pointer against Texas Tech.
It was a sequence that will live forever in Virginia lore, and depending on how things shake out Thursday, one that could be repeated next season against NBA defenses.