When Keita Bates-Diop got feedback on his NBA draft prospects at the end of his redshirt junior season at Ohio State, it was favorable enough to convince him to forgo his final season with the Buckeyes.
“The range is first round, and that’s what sealed the deal,” he said during a news conference March 26.
It proved not to be the case.
After leading Ohio State to the NCAA Tournament while earning Big Ten player of the year honors, Bates-Diop was still waiting to hear his name called as the second round passed the midway point Thursday night.
By that point, Bates-Diop and his family had already left the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where they had been sitting in the crowd.
He was finally selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves with the 48th overall pick. He became the first reigning Big Ten player of the year not to be taken in the first round since Draymond Green was taken at No. 35 overall by Golden State in the 2012 draft.
“Better late than never,” he told The Dispatch in a text message. “That’s all that matters.”
As the second round got underway, CBSSports college basketball analyst Seth Davis tweeted, “Someone's gonna get a great pick in Keita Bates-Diop.”
Bates-Diop was not invited to the green room for the draft but made the trip to Brooklyn anyway to take in the draft from the audience along with Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann and his family.
Bates-Diop and his family knew that falling into the second round was a possibility, and his relative age compared to the rest of the draft class was discussed throughout the night. In addressing Bates-Diop during the broadcast, ESPN analyst Jay Bilas mentioned a lack of athleticism as being the primary knock on Bates-Diop.
It cast a shadow over his 7-3 wingspan, impressive mid-range game and his ability to take over games last season.
Boston, a likely first-round landing spot, instead took Robert Williams of Texas A&M with the No. 27 overall pick. Williams had been widely projected to be taken higher in the draft, and that could have affected Bates-Diop’s situation.
At 47-35 last year, Minnesota earned the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs and lost to top-seeded Houston in five games.
Back in Columbus, his former Buckeyes teammates all gathered together to watch the night unfold. Entering the night, Bates-Diop was projected to be taken somewhere during the final 10 picks of the first round.
As Denver contemplated the No. 14 pick, Bates-Diop moved into the No. 10 spot on analyst Jay Bilas’ list of the top remaining available players during the ESPN broadcast. The 6-foot-9, 224-pound forward was the sixth Big Ten player selected.
A former top-30 recruit, Bates-Diop worked his way into Ohio State’s lineup as a sophomore and was poised for a breakout junior season until he suffered a leg injury that ultimately required season-ending surgery.
He took a medical redshirt for the 2016-17 season and then, fully healthy, blossomed into a star player. Bates-Diop led the Big Ten in scoring at 19.8 points per game and was second in rebounding at 8.7 per game as the Buckeyes surprised by finishing 25-9 overall and 15-3 and tied for second in the conference.
He drilled his final shot, a straight-on three-pointer, at the end of Ohio State’s season-ending loss to Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.