"He’s become a mystery man of sorts. Unless you are a diehard recruiting fan, follow international basketball or regularly frequent the NBA mock draft sites, Dante Exum is just a cool name.
But in the last few months, the long and athletic 6-foot-6, 190-pound Aussie has become the most talked-about NBA prospect not named Andrew Wiggins. ESPN’s Chad Ford has Exum behind only Wiggins and Kentucky freshman power forward Julius Randle in his Top 100 draft rankings for 2014.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Exum was a fringe high-major college basketball prospect. That was prior to his performance at the Nike Hoop Summit, and before he dominated at the U-19 Championships.
Back then, there was no doubt that Exum would be headed this way to play college basketball. But as I reported Wednesday, Exum told ESPN.com that if he does opt to play college hoops, he won't enroll in December and would instead wait until the 2014-15 season. He says he’s still 50-50 whether to go the college or pro route, but most college coaches and NBA guys anticipate him entering the draft.
“It’s crazy,” Exum told ESPN earlier this week. “Before the U-19s, I didn’t even know I could enter the draft. They were talking about it on TV, and I had no idea.”
What kind of player is Exum, and what level of impact could he have if he did opt to play college ball next season? Let's take a look.
Some college coaches and NBA executives view him as a point guard. Others consider him more of a shooting guard. Many say it doesn’t really matter, that he’s talented enough to play either spot. Exum said he’s comfortable running the team or playing off the ball, but he’s played more at the point over the last couple years.
Exum has the body build of, say, a Shaun Livingston or a Michael Carter-Williams. However, he’s more of a scorer, terrific when attacking off the dribble, able to defend multiple positions -- but also able to distribute and make his teammates better. One scout said he could be a less-explosive, longer version of Russell Westbrook.
"He's more of a two-guard than a point right now, but has great instincts," said one college coach. "He will be a very good shooter, he just needs physical maturity."
His shooting was a concern brought up by other college and NBA folks I spoke with, but Exum is also realistic about his weaknesses. He’s well-spoken, humble and realizes he needs to continue to get stronger and also work on becoming more consistent with his perimeter shot.
The most common thing you hear people say about Exum?
A couple of months ago, he was a virtual lock for college. Now many figure it’s far more likely he’ll be one of the first guys walking to the podium in June.
“I didn’t think I could be in the equation for the 2014 draft,” Exum said. “But now I understand how fortunate I am to have a decision like this.
“I’ll wait until the draft gets closer to make a decision,” he added. “I want to get as much information as possible and have a better idea of where I’m going to go before I decide anything.”
Exum told ESPN that if he were to choose college, the five schools on the board are Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, North Carolina and Oregon. His father, Cecil, was a reserve on the Tar Heels 1982 national title team, and the Tar Heels recently offered him a scholarship.
Exum took his first college visit to Indiana this past January and plans to check out a few of his five finalists after he graduates high school in October. "