There’s been one central topic of conversation in the last few months during the adult league basketball games in Middletown, N.Y.
That would be native son and Wichita State product Cleanthony Early and where he’s going to go in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
For Early’s friends and family it’s been an exhausting, exhilarating time.
“Exciting, yes, but also overwhelming,” said Early’s mother, Sandra Glover. “There’s just been so much going on, so many questions about where he’s going to end up.”
Early, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound forward projected to be a late first-round pick and the Shockers’ first draft pick since 1987, grew up in the Bronx before his mother moved the family upstate to Middletown when he was in middle school.
Early then spent his first two years of college at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y., a 30-minute drive from Middletown.
So when his core group of childhood friends – Pat Chellel, Kyni Scott and Derrick Jean – play in the adult basketball league during the week in Middletown, the questions come hard and fast.
“I think we’ve all been counting down the days to the draft,” Chellel said. “A lot of the guys in the league are guys we knew in high school and guys who used to coach Cle, so they want to know how he’s doing, where he’s been and where he’s going to get drafted.
“We follow all the mock drafts and the projections and stuff like that. We’re just hoping he can go somewhere, in the first round, where he can get playing time and help take that team to the top. Everywhere he’s been, he’s always succeeded.”
Early has been all over the place in the months leading up to the draft, working out for a number of teams, including a last-minute trip to Atlanta on Monday and Tuesday to work out for the Hawks.
Early was scheduled to fly back to New York on Wednesday and has a draft-night party for his close friends and family planned, presumably in proximity to Brooklyn and the Barclays Center, where the draft is taking place and where he can meet up with WSU teammate Nick Wiggins afterward.
Wiggins’ younger brother, Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins, is a possible No. 1 overall pick.
Early, a two-time All-MVC pick, spoke at length about his professional prospects before the NCAA Tournament in March, a conversation that ultimately came back to his family.
“I want to play with the best basketball players in the world, and that’s in the NBA,” Early said. “But more important than anything else, to me, is being able to provide for my mom and my family, to help them have a better life. That’s my main goal, that’s what I’ve been working so hard for.”