With likely top two picks from SC, this year’s NBA Draft ‘monumental’ to Alex English

Alex English calls Thursday’s NBA Draft an important one for the state of South Carolina.

The Palmetto State will be front and center of the draft with South Carolina natives Zion Williamson and Ja Morant expected to go with the top two picks. It could be the first time two players from South Carolina are going No. 1 and 2 in the draft.

Former Latta star Raymond Felton was the last SC native drafted in the first round when the Charlotte Bobcats took him with the fifth pick.

According to Basketball Reference, Williamson and Morant will be the 41st and 42nd players born in SC to play in the NBA. Last year, there were four SC natives on NBA rosters including Charleston native Khris Middleton, an all-star, and two more (PJ Dozier and Juwan Evans) who split time in the G League and NBA.

“Tells you where South Carolina basketball has come. Two of the best players of this year’s draft from South Carolina, it is amazing.,” English said last week. ”Both slated to be difference makers for the teams they are going. It is going to be a monumental day.”

Williamson and Morant will be on hand in New York for the Draft day festivities and meeting with the media leading up to their big moment. That was a far cry from when English, a Columbia native who starred at Dreher High School, was picked in the second round of the 1976 Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks and went on to play 15 seasons in the NBA, most notably with the Denver Nuggets.

The NBA Draft wasn’t televised back then and English received a phone call from the Bucks when he was picked. He received a $10,000 signing bonus but wasn’t guaranteed anything after being drafted. His first NBA contract was for $50,000.

All first-round selections have guaranteed contracts. According to SportTrac, Williamson should make $20 million over the first two years with two more additional club options which could push the deal to near $45 million.

According to RealGM, Morant is slated to make $6 million in his first year contact and as much as $32.77 million over his four-year deal.

Both players will have endorsements in addition to their salaries. Morant already has signed a shoe deal with Nike. Williamson hasn’t announced his shoe deal yet, but it could be a record-setting deal for a rookie.

English said back then shoe deals were unheard of when he was drafted.While the money has definitely changed, English has some advice for the two South Carolina natives.

“The NBA can be an enjoyable lucrative career. It will change their lives,” English said. “My advice to them would be to strive to be the best. Keep the same kind of drive and passion that helped you get to this point and keep putting in that kind of work. Don’t lose that drive.”

English has never met either Williamson and Morant but watched several of their games on TV. He was at Colonial Life Arena where Williamson and Duke played their first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Williamson scored 32 points and had 11 rebounds in the second round win over Central Florida.

“He was phenomenal,” English said of Williamson, who was born in Florence and played at Spartanburg Day High School. “I questioned his outside jumper a little but he showed the ability to hit that and just the way he could handle the ball. He is going to be a game-changer.”

Morant, who played at Crestwood High School, didn’t have the publicity or notoriety coming out of high school but everyone across the country knew who he was by the end of this season, especially after his performance in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Morant scored 17 points, had 16 assists and 11 rebounds in Murray State’s first round win over Marquette. It was just the ninth triple-double in NCAA history.

“That game was an eye catcher,” English said of Morant’s triple-double. “He kind of came out of nowhere but his fun to watch and also is going to be a game-changer.”

NBA Draft

When: Thursday, 7 p.m.

Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY