Former Liberty County High School and University of Tennessee player Jordan McRae was selected by the San Antonio Spurs in the second round, 58th pick overall of the 2014 NBA draft Thursday.
Seconds later, he was traded to the 76ers, but by then it no longer mattered.
Anxious as each pick drew the draft nearer to the end, McRae heard NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum announce his name on ESPN and the crowd at the St. James Sports Center erupted.
An elated McRae dropped to his knees as friends and family rushed to him. McRae couldn’t hide the tears as he hugged his parents.
“Jordie couldn’t have done this without all his family, the people here, folks in and out of state and all his coaches,” his dad Cornelius said.
A native of Midway, McRae was a two-time, first-team All-SEC performer who averaged 17.3 points during the last two seasons at Tennessee. He increased both his scoring average and field-goal percentage every year throughout his career as a Volunteer and with 1,521 points, McRae ranks 16th on Tennessee’s all-time scoring list.
After completing his senior year, McRae received his degree in sociology/criminal justice from UT on May 9.
But for McRae that is when the real work started.
On May 15 McRae posted, “No twitter or Facebook until the draft. I only have one chance at this dream, and I will make the best of it. Be safe and be blessed….talk to you all then.”
Immediately after the post he headed to Chicago for the NBA Draft Combine.
After the combine, McRae had scheduled workouts with several NBA teams including the 76ers who brought McRae to Philadelphia for a pre-draft workout June 1.
Yet McRae’s anxiety was apparent as Thursday night’s draft crept into Friday morning’s second round picks. It was around 12:30 a.m. and pick 56 with no call. He sat next friends who encouraged him to keep his head up.
Returning from a commercial ESPN broadcasted the San Antonio Spurs’ 58th pick. Everyone watched the screen and when Tatum announced McRae’s name the atmosphere in the gym erupted. Soon everyone piled around McRae, overjoyed.
McRae thanked everyone who gathered and supported him. He thanked all his teachers, coaches and mentors. More importantly he thanked his dad who he said spent at least three years taking him all across the nation during his formative years helping him improve his game. He thanked and hugged his mother Paulette for her encouragement, love and support.
Afterward McRae admitted he was nervous toward the end of the draft. “I was trying my hardest to keep the faith…it was a long night but it all worked out,” he said.
He said it didn’t bother him being picked by the Spurs but traded to the 76ers, adding it happens in the draft often.
“It’s fine, just getting a chance to be in the NBA is what I dreamed of,” he said.
McRae also knows he still has a tough climb.
Second round picks in the NBA are not given guaranteed contracts. That means he’s not guaranteed a roster spot for Philadelphia.
“I’m not taking any time off,” McRae said. “I am not happy about where I’m at (physically) and I know I have a long way to go (to get better).”
And he is motivated not just for himself but for his son, Jaheim Greene.
“It’s all for him,” McRae said. “When I found out I was having him I knew I had to be there for him and support my family so I will work even harder to make this happen for us.”