Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston had his NBA dreams become a reality on Wednesday night when the Oklahoma City Thunder, who traded the pick to the Washington Wizards, called his name in the second round at No. 53 overall.
Winston spoke with the media on Thursday to detail what the NBA Draft Night process was like for him.
“I mean emotions went probably all over the place,” Winston said. “You know, just worried a little bit, excited. You figure like ‘eventually one of these gotta be mine,’ you know what I’m saying? So, you’re sitting there excited. A little bummed out — you felt like you could have gotten picked earlier, so a little bummed out — and then when you get picked it’s like all that just goes out the window. Once you see your name, it’s just the feeling takes over, and you’re like ‘Wow, I really just got drafted. Like that really happened. We really made that happen.’”
“You just don’t know where you gonna go, you don’t know what team you’re gonna play for, nothing is in your hands anymore,” Winston later elaborated. “You did everything you could. You have no control over what happens on that night, and that’s probably the (most) nerve-racking part. You just don’t know what’s gonna happen, you don’t know what the result is gonna be so you’ve got to just sit there waiting. The suspense is crazy, and when you just hear your name it’s like a relief. You can take a deep breath (and say), ‘That happened. We just made that happen. Now things are back in my field. Now I got more control over what the situation can look like from here on out.’”
Winston is also excited about the prospect of playing with All-Star guards John Wall and Bradley Beal in Washington, D.C. While there have been trade rumors about both players, Winston is eager to learn as much from those two as he possibly can.
“I’m super excited (to learn from Wall and Beal),” Winston said. “Both are very talented, both very successful guards in the NBA. Both of them are dawgs — play hard and they’re trying to win. I’m excited to go there, learn as much as I can. If they’re there, if they’re not there for long, I’m gonna try to learn as much from them as I can.”
While Winston may have been drafted a little bit later than he wanted to be, and isn’t the most athletic player in the 2020 Draft class, or perhaps not the player with the highest ceiling, he is confident in his abilities and knows what he will bring with him to the professional ranks.
“I trust myself, I trust my ability, I trust my work (and) I’ll put my money on me,” Winston said. “I got an opportunity and that’s really all I wanted. That was all I’ve been asking for the longest (time). There was a point in time where I wouldn’t even be in this situation that I’m in right now, so I’m grateful for the opportunity and I trust myself to make that work.”
At the end of the day, no matter where he was drafted, Winston has met his goal — even through the incredible tragedy of losing his younger brother, or being doubted for what he can’t do on the court, and everything in between. Now that Winston has his opportunity, he is going to cease it and look to improve every day.
“We set a goal that we were going to make the NBA and we were gonna make it happen, and we went out there and we made it happen against all types of odds,” Winston said. “It would have been so easy for me to fail and nobody would have blamed me. There would have been no excuse, everybody would have been like ‘That’s probably what should have happened to him.’ To be able to still be here, still standing, make that happen, get a chance to keep moving forward — that’s a crazy feeling.”
Winston also said that he spoke with Michigan State basketball head coach Tom Izzo. Izzo was apparently one of the first to speak with the Wizards’ coaches after they knew they would be selecting Winston, and he had some kind words for his former captain.
“He told me how excited (the Wizards’ coaches) sounded that they could get me, that I was coming to their organization, how proud he was of me and that I’ve been in this situation before,” Winston said. “I’ve been doubted before. I’ve been told things that I can’t do and what things will hold me back. I know what that situation feels like and look what I made of it. So, he has faith that I can go out there and do it again — keep having faith in my work, trust in myself and go out and make it happen.”
Overall, Winston is grateful for his time in East Lansing and will always love Michigan State and Spartan Nation, but he truly is looking forward to a new chapter and new challenges in Washington D.C.
“I’m excited to just go somewhere and see something new,” Winston said. “It’s a fresh start — new city, new people, new vibe. (It’s) something to adjust to, grow to and something to figure out. It’s just something else to challenge myself, and I’m excited to do that. I love Michigan State, I love playing there, I love being there to death, but at some point it’s like ‘all right, we really got Michigan State, we got this figured out — let’s go try ourself at something else.’ I’m excited to go to a city like (Washington, D.C.), play for a team like (the Wizards), and get an opportunity to try to make something out of that.”
Winston also said it would be “cool” to play alongside instead of against Mo Wagner, who played for the rival Michigan Wolverines and now plays for the Wizards. Winston said Wagner’s “got game” and is a “talented player.”