VANCOUVER – Kelly Olynyk isn’t upset that he wasn’t invited to the NBA draft in New York.
The Canadian college basketball star watched the proceedings on TV with 30-40 friends and family at his Kamloops, B.C., home as he was drafted 13th overall by the Dallas Mavericks and immediately traded — as part of a pre-arranged deal — to the Boston Celtics.
“I was definitely thinking about going,” Olynyk, 22, said Friday, a day after the festivities. “The NBA invites about 15 people, and I didn’t end up getting invited. So I didn’t end up going. But I think it worked out better that way.
“It was really fun to spend it here, back in Kamloops, with friends and family and people who have supported me my whole life. It was really nice, and real special, to be able to enjoy that and see how overjoyed people were for me and how proud and happy they were for me.”
Olynyk added: “It’s special. Being a little kid, it’s a dream. It’s every kid’s dream after touching a basketball. It’s another door that’s opened, another journey in your life.”
The seven-foot forward is looking forward to joining the storied Celtics as they go through significant transition with Kevin Garnett and other stars likely to be traded. Coach Doc Rivers has already moved to the Los Angeles Clippers.
“It’ll be different,” said Olynyk. “The franchise, I wouldn’t say it’s rebuilding, but it’s definitely remodelling. It’ll be interesting to see how everything pans out.
“Hopefully, it creates an opportunity for me. I just have to go in there and make the most of my opportunity.”
Olynyk’s selection in the draft came after he made the difficult decision to red-shirt in his third year of collegiate eligibility with the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
In most cases, first-year players red-shirt to prepare for the college game. But, after receiving limited playing time as a sophomore, he sat out a season to develop physically while also working on his skills.
That time spent honing his abilities helped Olynyk improve his game greatly and he became Gonzaga’s team leader after another Canadian, Robert Sacre of North Vancouver, B.C., had moved on to the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers.
“It was tough because, as a player, you always want to play,” said Olynyk. “And it’s tough sometimes just watching (games), because you’re not able to be out there helping your team. … It was definitely really good for me learning a new step and really good for my development.
“It allowed me to really work on my body and work on my game and really excel and take those things to the next level. I think it was vital in my development and my success this year. I definitely developed more of an inside game, which is huge. I didn’t have a very versatile inside game.”
Olynyk averaged 17.8 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 63 per cent from the field as Gonzaga earned the No. 1 NCAA ranking late in the season, marking the first time the small Spokane, Wash., university had achieved the mark.
He was also thrilled to be part of an NBA draft where University of Nevada-Las Vegas freshman Anthony Bennett, a Brampton, Ont., native, became the first Canadian to be selected No. 1 overall. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ surprise choice of Bennett came a year before Thornhill, Ont., native Andrew Wiggins’s anticipated first overall selection.
“It’s huge,” Olynyk said of Bennett’s selection. “It’s an unbelievable accomplishment for Canada and Canadian basketball, especially with it never being done before. I can’t be happier for him.
“Hopefully, I get a chance to play with him in the national team or something along those lines. Hopefully, we can repeat it next year with Wiggins. … I think (basketball in) Canada is still on the rise. There’s a lot of younger kids coming up who have a lot of potential and could (have) the same opportunity.”
Olynyk, who was born in Toronto, got weaned on hoops in the 1990s while his father Ken coached the University of Toronto Varsity Blues and Canadian junior men’s national team while also serving as a visiting coach with the NBA’s Raptors for a season. The family moved to Kamloops when Kelly was 12.
He hopes to help Canada qualify this summer for next year’s world championships and then advance to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“If I have an opportunity to play with the national team, I’d love to,” he said.