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He’s 24, can bury the 3-pointer and can play defense. He is the kind of rookie made in Tom Thibodeau’s draft heaven, ready to produce now.
“I’m ready to step in,’’ Oregon 6-foot-6 swingman Chris Duarte said on a Zoom call Friday after working out for the Warriors in San Francisco. “I’m ready to play.”
Duarte will likely be on the board at either 19 or 21 when the Knicks select in the NBA Draft on July 29.
Too many teams consider a 24-year-old rookie a turnoff, especially one whose journey was so unorthodox — from the Dominican Republic, to a boarding school (Redemption Christian Academy) in Troy, N.Y., to a junior college (Northwest Florida State College) in the Florida panhandle town of Niceville.
But he may not be a turnoff for the win-now Knicks, who will send 25-year-old rookie Luca Vildoza of Argentina into the fray next season.
“No doubt in my mind, [Duarte is] good enough for an NBA rotation now,’’ said Tony Stubblefield, the former Oregon associate coach who recently accepted the head-coaching job at DePaul. “And he’s ready to impact winning in an NBA franchise. He’s still got more upside to his game.’’
Duarte did not travel the USA/AAU path, moving to the U.S. from Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic at age 15. He was a baseball player first and didn’t pick up a basketball until age 13.
“He’s a very humble young man that comes from the Dominican and didn’t grow up with much from a financial standpoint,’’ Stubblefield said. “He’s very appreciative of everything. The kids who didn’t grow up with much in the United States had a great life compared to Chris Duarte.’’
Duarte speaks with a thick accent and came to the U.S. knowing almost no English. He admitted recently to the Oregonian: “I still can’t speak English that well. Back in that day, I only know how to say, ‘Hey, hey, I’m hungry.’ ”
On Friday, Duarte, who hasn’t been back to his mother country in two years, declined to talk about the joy of playing in New York, and the city’s vast Dominican population.
“I can’t think about it because I can’t control that,’’ Duarte said. “Only the [NBA] guys know what will happen.”
“Not a lot of kids make it out of the DR,’’ Duarte added. “Me being one of those kids, it’s amazing. I’m really proud of myself and the people that helped me to get here.’’
The Knicks recently interviewed Stubblefield about Duarte. The Knicks, however, are juggling a lot of things — even the chance of trading up or trading out for an established player.
Thibodeau said at the NBA Draft Combine in June that the Knicks are looking at “for wings and guys who can shoot.’’
Hello, Chris Duarte.
He won the Jerry West Award for the nation’s top shooting guard. He averaged 17.1 points, making 53.2 percent of his shots from the field and a sensational 42.4 percent from 3-point range. He also averaged 4.6 rebounds. 2.7 assists and 1.9 steals. He was named Pac-12 Player of the Year by the AP and was a conference first-team all-defense selection.
“Your numbers are your numbers,’’ Stubblefield said. “I know the NBA 3-point line is different from the college line, but if you look at film, he has no problem shooting NBA 3’s and shot a lot of them. He wasn’t just a 3-point shooter on the line.’’
Oregon was 24-7 and 21-7 in his two Ducks seasons.
“Chris is a stud because he’s a winner and plays with no fear,’’ an NBA scout said.
After playing at junior college, Duarte was recruited by just Oregon and Houston before he chose the Ducks.
“Chris wasn’t recruited at that level, he wasn’t recruited by the Kentuckys of the world, North Carolinas, Duke,’’ Stubblefield said.
He’s the antithesis of the one-and-done college freshman. And that just may be OK for the Knicks. Duarte even skipped the draft combine, eschewing team interviews.
Duarte has worked out for the Wizards, Thunder, Spurs and Hornets, in addition to the Warriors. He says he’s got a few more upcoming but wouldn’t reveal the schedule. When asked about meeting the Knicks, he said, “That’s something my agent is dealing with.’’
Rumors among agent circles say Duarte has a guarantee somewhere.
“We ran things for him, but credit to him for moving without the ball to open spots,’’ Stubblefield said. “He does a great job moving without the ball. He creates for himself, too. He’s a scorer and has a scorer’s mentality.’’
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