To Josh Selby, the Memphis Grizzlies represent a clean slate, and a team that doesn't care about his past, only his potential.
To the Memphis Grizzlies — who snagged the Lake Clifton graduate with the 49th pick in Thursday's NBA Draft — Selby represents an investment of minimal risk, but one that still has the potential for a big return.
It wasn't a marriage many people saw coming. The Grizzlies never even had Selby in for a workout.
"I was very surprised," Selby said. "I didn't have any contact with them [before the draft]."
But when Selby was still available when the Grizzlies went on the clock, the organization felt he had too much potential to pass on. Now both sides are hoping it's the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
"I don't know what happened, and I don't really know why I slipped so far in the draft," said Selby, who once was considered a potential lottery pick before a disappointing freshman season at Kansas. "But I don't really want to get into that anymore. I was just happy to have my name called, and now I'm just going to make the best of my situation."
It's unclear exactly what caused so many general managers to sour on Selby. Some reports leaked out after the draft that teams were concerned a foot injury he suffered in college — one that kept him out of three games and limited his explosiveness after he returned — had never completely healed. Other analysts theorized that Selby didn't have a position to play in the NBA, or that he was too selfish and didn't have a great attitude.
But Grizzlies executives Chris Wallace and Kenny Williamson said they've been impressed by Selby dating back to his high school career and that their doctors gave him a clean bill of health. A number of people — including Kansas coach Bill Self — also personally vouched for him.
"At the 49th pick, there is not a great deal of downside. It's a bit like playing with house money," said Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace. "We know he's a very talented guy with a lot of offensive ability, and if he'd stayed in school another year, the odds are pretty overwhelming that he'd have gotten things sorted out and been a first-round pick."
Selby is going to a team, and a city, with several familiar faces. Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay grew up in Baltimore and played at Archbishop Spalding. He and Selby know one another a bit from various basketball circles. (Gay sent Selby a congratulating tweet Thursday night welcoming him to the team.) And his cousins, Will and Antonio Barton — who are from Baltimore and played at Lake Clifton — both play on the University of Memphis basketball team.
"They're just down the street, so I think it's a good fit for me," Selby said.
Wallace even joked that the organization was rapidly becoming the "Maryland Grizzlies." In addition to Gay and Selby, they also have Greivis Vasquez, who played four years at the University of Maryland, as well as Sam Young, who won two Maryland state championships at Friendly high school in Prince George's County.
One Baltimore prep star from years ago, Sam Cassell, even went to bat for Selby with the Grizzlies front office. Cassell played for Williamson at Florida State, and he told Williamson he was definitely worth the minimal risk of a second round pick.
"Sam believes he's a good kid, and that he's a gym rat," Williamson said. "He believes Josh will come in here and work. I trust Sam, so until he proves otherwise, that's what I'm going to go with. Perception is a hell of a thing. You know how they say possession is 9/10ths of the law? Well, perception is 9/10ths of reality. I believe the kid has been miscast."
Wallace made it clear the Grizzlies are taking a chance on Selby based on what he did in high school, when he was considered the No. 1 recruit in the country by Rivals.com, and more or less throwing out what happened at Kansas.
"It's up to Josh what he does with this opportunity," Wallace said. "He's jumping on what I'd call a moving train here. We're coming off the best year in the history of the franchise. So it's up to him to figure out how he's going to come in here and impress Lionel Hollis and his coaching staff so that he can not only make the team, but earn some playing time. ... This is a whole new chapter in his basketball book. When you're a kid like him, you're drafted on potential, but now the potential part is over. Now it's about producing."
Selby said he's already found inspiration in the stories of second round picks like Gilbert Arenas and Monta Ellis who weren't highly regarded when the entered the league, but soon became stars. Whatever happens, the moment when he was finally drafted is one Selby says he'll never forget.
"It was a wonderful feeling, just hearing my family screaming and seeing them crying," Selby said. "Just seeing the smile on my mom's face and my grandmother's face was a great feeling."
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