Men's Basketball: Historic night for former South Bend prep standout, Irish guard

Tom Noie
ND Insider
Jun 23, 2022; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Blake Wesley (Notre Dame) shakes hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver after being selected as the number twenty-five overall pick by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Former Notre Dame and Riley High School basketball standout Blake Wesley bet on himself and his basketball future in the spring. 

On Thursday night, Wesley cashed in that winning lottery ticket. 

Wesley, who became the first player in Irish program history to play one college season before turning pro, was selected in the first round of the NBA draft late Thursday. The 19-year-old Wesley was taken by the San Antonio Spurs with the No. 25 pick. It brings with it an automatic four-year contract, with the first two years guaranteed. The third and fourth years are team options.

According to the NBA rookie wage scale, Wesley will earn $6.17 million across the next three seasons. The first two years of his rookie deal are guaranteed. The third and fourth years are team options.

He's the 21st player in Irish program history selected in the first round. Wesley was among the final prospects still in the green room as 10:30 p.m. came and went, but it didn't matter. His name was called. In the first round. Done.

"The San Antonio Spurs are a big development team," Wesley said in his post-draft press conference. "To go there would be a blessing."

Wesley was among the 24 pro prospects to earn invitations to the green room at Barclays Center in New York, site of the draft. Among the guests with Wesley on Thursday was Irish head coach Mike Brey. 

San Antonio finished 34-48 and 10th overall in the Western Conference last season. Wesley was one of three first-round picks of the team on Thursday. San Antonio also took Baylor forward Jeremy Sochan (No. 9) and Ohio State  swingman Malaki Branham (No. 20). 

Noie:Blake Wesley's NBA dream payoff is near

Wesley is the first former Irish selected in the first round since guard Jerian Grant was the No. 19 pick of the Washington Wizards in 2015. Wesley is the fourth player taken in the first round under Brey joining Grant, Ryan Humphrey (19, 2002) and former Irish All-American/lottery pick Troy Murphy (14, 2001). Wesley is the first Notre Dame player taken in the draft since former guard Demetrius Jackson was a second-round selection of the Boston Celtics in 2016. Jackson played three NBA seasons. 

Notre Dame had one former player – swingman Pat Connaughton – play in the NBA last season. Connaughton recently completed his seventh season with the Milwaukee Bucks. On Wednesday, Connaughton exercised his 2022-23 contract option ($5.7 million) to remain with the Bucks 

Wesley’s whirlwind ride to the NBA commenced early last season. After working the first six games as a reserve, Wesley entered the starting lineup for Notre Dame’s Atlantic Coast Conference opener, a road loss to Boston College. Eight days later, Wesley made the winning basket in a home victory over then-Np. 10 Kentucky. It was in that game, against that team, that Wesley said he first started believing he could be a one-and-done. 

Wesley finished his only season with the Irish the team’s leading scorer (14.4). He averaged 3.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.3 steals in 29.3 minutes to earn first team All-Rookie in the ACC. Wesley finished second to former Duke power forward (and Thursday’s No. 1 overall pick) Paolo Banchero for ACC rookie of the year. 

Wesley also was a second team all-league selection. He had had been slotted anywhere from No. 14 to 30 in various mock drafts over the past two months. 

Prior to Thursday, the city of South Bend never had a player selected in the first round of the NBA draft. Wesley was the second South Bend native taken in Thursday’s first round. He joins former Marian High School and Purdue standout Jaden Ivey, who was selected by the Detroit Pistons with the No. 5 pick. 

Ivey became only the sixth South Bend native drafted into the NBA. Former Indiana power forward Tom Abernathy was the first when he was a third-round selection of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1976. The others were John Laskowski (1975), Dave Magley (1982), Jimmy King (1985) and Lee Nailon (1999).

In 1947, former South Bend Central High School standout Bulbs Ehlers was a first-round selection (third overall) by the Boston Celtics in what was known as the Basketball Association of America.

Wesley will be the 10th player from Notre Dame to play for San Antonio. Those Irish were spent time with the Spurs include Dave Batton (1983-84), Matt Carroll (2004), Tim Kempton (1996-97), John Paxson (1983-85), David Rivers (1990-91), Donald Royal (1991-92), John Shumate (1979-81), Chris Quinn (2010-11) and Monty Williams (1994-96). 

Since announcing in late March his plan to bypass his final three seasons of eligibility and turn pro, Wesley has called Las Vegas home, where he worked with a personal training. He recently wrapped his workout tour for various NBA teams last weekend with a visit with the Chicago Bulls. 

The first South Bend public school basketball player to sign with Notre Dame since 1985, Wesley is the seventh South Bend native drafted by the NBA. 

11/21/2020: Photo courtesy/DEMETRIUS JACKSON
A young Blake Wesley once attended Notre Dame summer basketball camps. Here he stands with former Irish guard Demetrius Jackson. Wesley is signed to play for Notre Dame next season.

A young Blake Wesley once attended Notre Dame summer basketball camps. Here he stands with former Irish guard Demetrius Jackson. Wesley is signed to play for Notre Dame next season.
Photo courtesy Demetrius Jackson

The NBA summer league begins July 7 in Las Vegas. Exact dates and times for games involving the Sprus will be announced at a later date. 

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.