PORTLAND, Ore. — CJ Elleby is a bit too young to remember much about the SuperSonics while growing up in Seattle, but he recalls the Trail Blazers, and in particular, guard Brandon Roy.
Roy was a Seattle-area product himself, and returned there to coach when his NBA career was cut short by injuries. Roy is currently coach at Garfield High School.
“Growing up, hearing stories about him and seeing his legacy that he left behind and that he’s continuing to live. It was just inspiring. And so I’ve always been watching the Trail Blazers,” Elleby said.
In fact, Elleby said he was heading off to watch Roy’s highlights. But first he had to take care of business with his first news conference as a pro.
Elleby was the 46th pick in the NBA draft Wednesday night by the Blazers. He became the first Washington State player drafted since Klay Thompson in 2011.
“Coming into the draft, I really didn’t know where I would be selected, if I would be selected. The projections that were put upon me were late second round to undrafted. A lot of the people who were making mock drafts left me off of them,” he said Thursday.
The Blazers noticed. Elleby averaged 18.4 points and 7.8 rebounds as a sophomore for the Cougars last season. He led the Pac-12 with 1.8 steals per game.
A 6-foot-6 lefty known as a disruptive defender, Elleby matched his career high with 30 points in his final game with Washington State, an 82-68 victory over Colorado in the opening round of the Pac-12 tournament. He added 10 assists.
His 30 points were the most for a Cougar in the conference tournament since Thompson had 43 points in a game in 2011.
“I just kind always believed in myself and I have a great community of people around me who believe in me. So really, that was the process. I felt that it was time, I felt that I was ready,” he said about the decision to turn pro. “Last year I decided to go back to school. But this time around I kind of just had a different feeling in my stomach, just kind of my gut feeling.”
In his two seasons with the Cougars, Elleby averaged 16.6 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. Last season he had 74 3-pointers, two short of Thompson’s school record in 2010.
He becomes Portland’s second CJ, joining guard CJ McCollum.
Earlier Wednesday evening the Blazers selected Isaiah Stewart out of Washington with the 16th overall pick but he wound up in Detroit after a series of reported trades.
Among the teams invited to play in the bubble in Florida, the Trail Blazers made it to the NBA playoffs for the seventh straight season but they were knocked out in the first round by the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in five games. The Blazers finished the coronavirus-shortened season 35-39.
The season is set to open on Dec. 22.