Isaiah Whitehead models No. 15 Brooklyn Nets jersey in press conference introducing Coney Island native to his new NBA franchise. (Photo by NBA.com)
The dream-come-true feeling surrounding Isaiah Whitehead's acquisition by the Brooklyn Nets has not subsided in the days following his selection in the NBA Draft and subsequent trade to his hometown team.
In fact, it seems to have grown stronger.
Whitehead, the phenom who led Seton Hall to a Big East championship and NCAA Tournament before taking his talents to the professional level, was introduced in a press conference held Tuesday afternoon outside the Nets' team store in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, just steps from where Whitehead grew up, launched his career, and honed his craft.
"I look at it as a positive," Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson said of the impact his rookie point guard has a chance to make in his first NBA season. "What a great thing for the Brooklyn Nets, to be able to draft a local guy. I think it's a great thing, and I think we all realized when we interviewed him that he's a guy who can handle that pressure."
"I'm real confident," Whitehead told Zach Braziller of the New York Post when addressing whether or not he is NBA-ready after just two years at Seton Hall. "That's one of the traits about me. I would never back down from anyone."
Whitehead, who will continue to wear the No. 15 he has donned throughout his career at both Lincoln and Seton Hall, was lauded by his new head coach as equal parts playmaker and scorer.
"When I watched film on him, that's the first thing that stood out," Atkinson said in regard to Whitehead's ability as a facilitator. "He can pass the ball with both hands, and he made his teammates better. He obviously can score, we all knew that, but what really attracted him to me was his ability to see the floor, and I still think he can get better there."
Whitehead's maturation into a full-fledged point guard during his sophomore season was key for Seton Hall in the Pirates' run to their first Big East championship since 1993. Initially met with skepticism as to how he would handle being the floor general at the beginning of the season, Whitehead prospered, and the patience Kevin Willard had in his budding star paid off in the long run.
As far as his ability to handle the stage of playing in his hometown, well, that does not seem like it will be much of a factor.
"We wouldn't have drafted him if we didn't think he could handle it," said Atkinson. "We did a lot of work on him and watched a lot of his games. We're thrilled that we got him in the position we got him."
"This kid has proven he's a winner at various levels," Atkinson added. "Now it's time for him to prove it at the NBA level."
*Josh Adams of College Hoops Digest contributed to this story.