The Pacers opened rookie and free agent camp at the Fieldhouse on Thursday. The team is getting ready for the Summer League games next week, and among them is a former Indiana Hoosier with something to prove.
Two of his Indiana University teammates walked the stage at the NBA draft in New York City to greet the commissioner - picks two and four overall. But Christian Watford never heard his name through two rounds.
Watford said it was "very disappointing" not to be drafted. "I felt like I did a great job at the pre-draft camp. I was getting all the right feedback. Things just didn't work out. But you can't hang your head now. You just got to keep going."
Christian Watford wanted to be drafted. He expected to be drafted. He even thought the Pacers might use their second round draft pick on him.
The Pacers sold the 53rd pick to the Celtics, leaving Watford a free agent. Indiana was one of eight teams that invited the bearded forward to rookie/free agent camp.
After four years in Bloomington, Watford sees Indiana as his second home and his best NBA opportunity.
"It would be great. There's a lot of people that love me here, definitely. It would be a great opportunity for me. I would definitely seize the moment to be a Pacer," said Watford.
Watford will always be known for making the shot to beat Kentucky that signaled the return of IU basketball. He averaged 13 points and four rebounds during his college career.
"He's got to come in and prove he belongs," said Dan Burke, Pacers Summer League coach. "What he did at IU doesn't mean anything. There's guys in here that have been all over the world playing. He'd better show them he belongs and prove to himself, and then come a little more confident tomorrow and build on that and raise his effort everyday."
"College and professional sports are just totally different, period. At this level, you just have to want it more bad than the next guy," said Watford.
Watford is no longer the IU star. He's just another rookie with something to prove.
Other notable players at the Pacers' camp:
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