Vonleh would be happy to come home to Celtics

Vonleh would be happy to come home to Celtics
May 29, 2014, 11:30 am

BOSTON — For many youngsters growing up in New England, playing for the Celtics would be a dream come true.

And in the upcoming NBA draft, there's a kid from these parts whose chances are pretty good - maybe not California Chrome-like odds, but pretty good nonetheless - of actually happening.

We're talking about Haverhill native and former Indiana big man Noah Vonleh, projected by most as a lottery pick (top 14), who could go as high as No. 5.

The Celtics have a pair of first-round picks, including the No. 6 overall selection.

Vonleh, considered by scouts as one of the hardest workers in the draft, has embraced the idea that he may be selected by Boston.

"I've been watching Boston growing up," Vonleh said. "Lived in Boston my whole life. It'd be great to play back at home; great organization."

Because of that familiarity, Vonleh understands better than most the expectations that come with playing in this city.

A reporter asked him at the Chicago pre-draft combine earlier this month what comes to mind when he thinks of the Celtics.

"They have a lot of championship banners," he said.

And he's more than open to the idea of having an opportunity to add to that.

Still, considering what the Celtics need and where Vonleh's at right now with his game, drafting him with the No. 6 pick will be a tough call.

Vonleh is viewed as a player whose game will need time to develop. Because Boston has so many needs at so many positions, there's a good chance that they can draft someone at No. 6 who can help immediately.

But Vonleh is an impressive talent, especially when you consider he won't turn 19 years old until August.

At the pre-draft combine, he measured just under 6-10 but impressed many with a 7-4 1/4 wing span (second-best among players at the combine) and hands that measured 11 3/4 inches from the tip of his thumb to the tip of his pinkie.

When word of Vonleh's hand measurement leaked out, former Celtic and NBA Hall of Famer Wayne Embry, also known for having big hands, sought out Vonleh to see him up close.

The two pushed their hands together to see which was longer.

Vonleh won.

Embry talked about others like Dr. J [Julius Erving] and Connie Hawkins who also had large mitts.

"Dr. J and Connie, they used them well," Embry told Vonleh. "So you use it well son, OK? Thank you."

He plans to do just that, although there's mixed opinions on how quickly his game will translate to the NBA.

Rebounding and defense will be his strengths early on, but there are some who believe his offensive game might be further along than he showed at Indiana.

"Two things hurt him in college," one scout said. "One, he's a shy kid who doesn't demand the ball enough. And two, they didn't seem to make a point of getting him the ball in spots where he can be effectively. He's a much more skilled player than the guy people saw at Indiana."

When asked about the Celtics taking him at No. 6, the scout said, "that might be a little bit of a reach. But his work ethic, his talent, he's going to be a good pro over time. Maybe not a superstar, but solid player."

In an interview with CSNNE.com in Chicago, Vonleh is convinced that his talent will translate well at the next level.

"I'm a guy that's 6-9, can handle the ball, can shoot the ball, post-up ...," Vonleh said. "I just have to keep working."

And only time will tell if that work will be done for his hometown team.