The mystery of Dante Exum

ASSOCIATED PRESS Dante Exum mingles with kids during clinic yesterday in New York.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Dante Exum mingles with kids during clinic yesterday in New York.
Posted: June 27, 2014

NEW YORK - The biggest mystery player in tonight's NBA draft recently ate dinner in Philadelphia with 76ers coach Brett Brown.

For the player, 6-6 Australian combo guard Dante Exum, the meal provided among other things a chance to touch base with a former (and perhaps future) coach and discuss the state of basketball in the land Down Under.

"It was a very good time," Exum said yesterday.

More such occasions could come soon. When news broke last week of Joel Embiid's foot injury and the touted center's ensuing surgery, changing the complexion of tonight's draft, speculation that Philadelphia might use the No. 3 pick on Exum was amplified. Considering all the unknown surrounding him, the Melbourne native is perhaps the most intriguing prospect in this year's class.

"I didn't understand it at first, being the mystery guy," said Exum, who doesn't turn 19 until next month. "But being in the states now and walking down the street and no one knows who you are, it's a good thing, but you get those one or two people that are like, 'Hey, is that Dante Exum?' It's good to be known, but it's also good to be a mystery."

Exum said yesterday at the Westin in Times Square, where this year's top prospects met with the media, that he had worked out for the teams with picks Nos. 2 through 8 but visited only Milwaukee (No. 2 pick), Philadelphia and Orlando (No. 4). He said he felt comfortable with each of his workouts and added, "I guess it's in their hands now."

Teams have much less of a grasp on Exum than the draft's American collegiate prospects, making his predraft workouts all the more important. Exum has not been widely showcased in five-on-five competition since last year, when he burst onto the scene in the Nike Hoops Summit in Portland. He also competed last July in the FIBA U19 World Championships in Prague.

"You really don't see many 6-6 point guards," said fellow point guard prospect Marcus Smart, who played against Exum in the FIBA tournament. "He's versatile. He can play the 1 and 2. He's a great player. It was exciting to play against him.''

Brown might be as familiar with Exum's game as well as anyone, as the second-year Sixers coach knows the player from when he used to coach the Australian national team. Exum was invited to the team's training camp at the mere age of 15. Brown also years ago coached Exum's father, Cecil, with the Melbourne Tigers. And according to ESPN draft expert Chad Ford, speaking this week on Bill Simmons' podcast, Brown's connections helped the Sixers obtain tape of 36 of Exum's games in Australia.

Exum said his recent workout in Philadelphia went well. The Sixers' emphasis in pushing the ball down the court and scoring on the fastbreak was evident, he said.

"It was definitely a hard workout," said Exum, who said he also got to see a lot of the city. "It was lots of up and down. I went two-on-two against some other guys. It went well. It was just for me to get out on the court and show them a bit of what I can do and how I react to certain situations."

Exum projects as a point guard at the next level and has been described as quick and smooth with the ability to get to the basket as well as create his own shots. He certainly has the frame, length and athleticism, but the biggest knocks on him are his shot and his lack of experience against NBA-level competition.

Considering his skill-set, there is a popular notion out there that Exum and reigning rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams might not be able to coexist in the same backcourt. Listening to Exum speak yesterday, it's clear he does not necessarily subscribe to that concept.

"I've thought about the idea and I wouldn't have worked out for them if I didn't think it was a good idea," he said. "I'm willing to go into a situation where we can work together, and I think that's how you get wins is being able to cooperate with teammates."

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