When Matisse Thybulle declined his invitation to the NBA Combine, most analysts assumed that a team had made him a promise. On Friday, during his first press conference in Philadelphia, the Washington wing confirmed that theory.
Thybulle told reporters the 76ers made it clear they wanted to draft him. Because of that, he not only skipped the combine but also canceled all his workouts.
“Philly showed interest early,” Thybulle said per The Athletic, “and we just trusted them and decided that we were going to put our faith in them and kind of shut things down.”
During Thursday night’s draft, Philadelphia proved just how badly it wanted Thybulle. The 76ers traded up to grab Thybulle at No. 20, sending their No. 24 and No. 33 picks to the Boston Celtics.
Thybulle was the first Husky selected. In the second round, sophomore shooting guard Jaylen Nowell went off the board to the Minnesota Timberwolves with the No. 40 overall pick.
“This is just such a blessing and something I’ve worked my whole life for,” Nowell said in a statement released by UW. “Now that it’s become a reality, I’m pretty speechless. I get to represent my family, my city and play in the best league in the world. It’s unbelievable.”
Shortly after his selection, a tearful Thybulle talked about his late mother in an interview with ESPN. Elizabeth Thybulle died in 2015 after a battle with leukemia.
“She never let anything stop her from doing what she wanted to do,” Thybulle said. “You saw that from when she became a doctor and it was basically a trend throughout her whole life. I try to be like that.
“My mom was a doctor. She took care of people so I just try to give back as much as I can. I feel like basketball has given me the stage to do that and now being in the NBA, I think I’ll have even more of a stage to do that now.”
Thybulle established himself as one of the top defenders in the country over the past two seasons. As a senior, he led the nation with 3.5 steals per game and was 18th in blocks per game with 2.3. He was one of just three players to average at least 2.0 steals and 2.0 blocks in the last 20 seasons.
The back-to-back Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Thybulle was also named the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year and was the recipient of the Lefty Driesell Award, which is given to the nation’s top defensive player.
“(Thybulle’s) been through a lot in his young life,” 76ers general manager Elton Brand told the team’s website. “Great human being, great person, very intelligent. He’s a great young man. That kind of resilience, Philly’s going to love him.”
At the end of March, Nowell announced he was leaving UW early to enter the draft. The 2019 Pac-12 Player of the Year, he averaged 16.2 points per game while shooting 50.2 percent from the field and 44 percent from beyond the arc.
Nowell was the quickest player in UW history to hit 600, 700, 800, 900 and 1,000 points and he reached double digit scoring in all but four games last season.
“He’s a very versatile player,” Minnesota president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas told the team’s website. “He’s a guy that very early in his career has accomplished a lot. His productivity from the perimeter as a versatile player, as a combo guy who also defends with his size and physical tools, was very intriguing for us.”
Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke also were taken in the first round. The Washington Wizards took Hachimura — the first Japanese-born player selected in the first round — with the No. 9 pick. The Oklahoma City Thunder selected Clarke No. 21 overall and then traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Kevin Porter Jr., who started at Rainer Beach High School before playing one season at USC, was selected by Milwaukee Bucks with the No. 30 pick. He was then traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
San Diego State’s Jalen McDaniels, who attended Federal Way High School, was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets at No. 52. Jalen is the brother of five-star forward Jaden McDaniels, who will attend UW next season and is projected as a lottery pick in the 2020 draft.