SAN ANTONIO — The Spurs wasted no time in getting their three 2019 draft picks out into the community Tuesday, sending them to participate in a basketball clinic at the Eastside Boys & Girls Club.
Selected by San Antonio in the NBA Draft just last Thursday, first-round picks Luka Samanic and Keldon Johnson and second-round selection Quinndary Weatherspoon met with reporters after helping teach elementary-age boys and girls the fundamentals of the game.
Samanic, Johnson and Weatherspoon, who will play with the Silver and Black’s Summer League team in next week’s Utah Summer League, have been in San Antonio since Sunday and will begin practicing Thursday. All three made it clear they’re eager to get on the court and start learning the Spurs’ way of doing things.
“It has been a whirlwind, but I’ve just been enjoying the process," said Johnson, a Kentucky swingman who was taken by the Spurs with the No. 29 overall pick. “I’m definitely eager to start practice. We went over a couple of things today. I can’t wait to get out there and just hoop, and getting to know my teammates a little bit better.”
All three players appeared to enjoy working with the kids at the clinic on Tuesday.
“It’s about giving back to the kids,” Johnson said. “They look up to you, so you definitely want to give a good impression, and you really want to have fun and enjoy yourself with the kids. I do it a lot, whether it’s back home or whether it’s at Kentucky. We do a lot of community work.”
Johnson read to elementary school students back home in South Hill, Va.
Johnson was expected to go higher in the draft but was still available when San Antonio, which took Samanic with the No. 19 pick, made its second selection of the first round. Johnson dismissed any notion Tuesday that he’s hung up on not having been drafted earlier.
“I am blessed to be in the draft," Johnson said. "There are a lot of people who don't get that opportunity. It is definitely motivating. But, at the same time, God blessed me to a great situation being here in San Antonio.
“I am just taking it all in and enjoying it, and kind of leaving it alone. The draft is behind me. You are starting at ground zero when you get here. I am just ready to come in here and learn and have some fun."
Johnson and Samanic are both only 19 years old. Johnson played just one season at Kentucky before entering the NBA Draft. Johnson, 6-foot-6 and 211 pounds, was a guard/forward in college, but he said he hasn’t been told by the Spurs where they’ll play him.
Samanic and Johnson have visited the team’s practice facility and met with longtime coach Gregg Popovich. Both spoke highly of Popovich, who has led the Silver and Black to all five of their NBA championships.
“He's an amazing guy," Johnson said. "I think a lot of people who look at him as a mean, stubborn man. They see him during a game when he’s competitive, but he is a great person."
Samanic, who was drafted with the No. 19 overall pick, also talked about meeting Popovich for the first time.
“You watch him on the games at home, and then you get to meet him . . . it’s amazing,” he said.
Asked what advice Popovich gave him as he starts his NBA career, Samanic said: “It’s not only about on-court things. It’s also about off court, so to be a good guy and teammate.”
A 6-foot-11, 210-pound power forward from Croatia, Samanic also talked about being excited to get on the court Thursday. “I can’t wait, I can’t wait,” he said.
What about his expectations heading into summer-league play?
“I don’t have so high expectations because it’s my first time playing (in the United States), so just to feel like it is to play in the NBA and to meet new teammates and new coaches . . . just to do my best,” Samanic said.
Weatherspoon, a guard who played four seasons at Mississippi State, was taken by the Spurs in the second round with the 49th overall pick. Lauded for his leadership by Spurs general manager R.C. Buford on draft night, Weatherspoon has been called a silent competitor who goes about his business on the court quietly.
“I just go out and play the game and don’t really say too much,” Weatherspoon said. “I just get out and try to get my job done and lead the game.”
Weatherspoon finished his career as the third-leading scorer in Mississippi State history. He played against Johnson in the Southeastern Conference.
“It was great playing against him, and competing against him,” Weatherspoon said. “Now we get to play together this year. I know some of the things he likes to do. Just get each other involved will be great."
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