Written by: Mike Ryan
The story of Frank Ntilikina and his journey to Madison Square Garden chronicled through the perspective of Ntilikina himself.
It’s the story of a family who abandoned their home country leaving everything behind to escape a war torn Rwanda in hopes of a better life.
It’s a story of a parent’s dedication to make sure their children have bright futures. A tale of how Ntilikina and his older brothers were ultra competitive growing up. It shows how his brothers helped shape the path for their brother to one day realize his dream of becoming an NBA player.
That dream was realized Tuesday night when Ntilikina checked in for the first time as a New York Knick at the 6:33 mark of the opening quarter.
Ntilikina wasted no time showing he was worth the 8th overall selection in the draft. On his first possession, Ntilikina showed poise and calmness as he ran a double high pick and pop with Kyle O’Quinn. The double screen led to Ntilikina feeding O’Quinn for a nice easy 18 foot jump shot.
A couple of possessions later, Ntilikina ran a similar pick and pop with Michael Beasley from the right elbow. Again, the play resulted in Ntilikina dishing out to Beasley for Beasley to step in for an easy 20 footer at the top of the key.
Within the first two pick and pop sets Ntilikina ran, he had already racked up two assists.
His first basket was the result of another nice set offensive play that resulted in a open three from the right elbow.
Ntilikina fed the post to Kanter from the top of the key, drifted down to an open space at the elbow, positioning himself for Kanter to kick the ball back out if need be. A catch and shoot form resulted in swish which got both the Knicks crowd and bench to their feet.
His most impressive play came a play later.
Ntilikina ran a high pick and roll with Kanter starting from the halfcourt line. Kanter set the screen about a foot outside the three point line. Ntilikina used his speed to get around his defender and dart into the paint. Quincy Acy was forced to leave Kanter to stop Ntilinkina from getting a layup. Ntilikina used his court vision to pass to Kanter cutting down the middle of pain and fed him with a nice pass that resulted in a Kanter lay up.
Already within his first 5 minutes as a pro, Ntilikina showed he could be an impact player.
Although, there was tons of positives from his debut, not all went well for the rookie point guard. Ntilikina threw an errant pass out of bounds when running a corner sideline pick and roll with Kanter. The play was there but the pass ari mailed over Kanter’s head and out of play.
On the night, Ntilikina finished with 5 points, 3 assists, a rebound and a steal in 18 minutes of action. He struggled shooting the ball going 1-for-7 from the field and 1-for-3 from the three point line. He did hit both of his free throw attempts and only turned the ball over twice.
The final box score makes his seem as Ntilikina had an uninspiring debut but that could not be further than the truth. Ntilikina looked poised and calm out there and held his own playing NBA talent for the first time. Ntilikina was the youngest player in the past draft and there will be a ton of growing pains from him moving forward.
However, there’s enough on the game tape to have fans believing in his ability. He has shown the ability to find the open man, he can push the ball down the court, his jump shot is a fluid motion, and is likely to make an immediate defensive impact due to his 7’ wingspan.
There’s hope in the Garden for Knicks fans. The youth movement is here and if Ntilikina proves to be a bright spot next to Porzingis, there will be competitive basketball for years to come.
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