Milton Keynes to NBA Draft: Jeremy Sochan among list of international basketball prospects

Jeremy Sochan will feature in the upcoming NBA Draft with the hopes of being picked up by a top side. Credit: AP

Few NBA stars originate from the UK and fewer still from Milton Keynes, but 19-year-old Jeremy Sochan is tipped to do just that.

Originally born in Oklahoma, his American father and Polish mother moved to the UK when Jeremy was just two-years-old.

Now, he is on the cusp of joining the biggest basketball league in the world.

Living in Milton Keynes untill he was 15, he went on to play high-school basketball at an academy in Indiana before the pandemic started - which forced him to join a programme in Germany.

His mum played the game professionally, which stoked his own passion for the sport.

"I always remember I used to follow my mum, just being on the court. You know just playing, trying to shoot, trying to score a basket," he told BBC Sport.

Standing at 6ft 9in, the teenager has been tipped by ESPN as the number 15 prospect in the NBA draft owing to his defensive versatility and toughness, as well as his ability to average 9.2 points a game.

Sochan at the NBA draft combine. Credit: AP

Like many talented players, Sochan has always wanted to play in the NBA, however, only seven players developed in the UK have ever made it to the biggest stage in basketball.

The last British player to even enter the NBA draft was Ryan Richards 12 years ago, who was picked up by the San Antonio Spurs.

However, the challenge is something he feels he's ready for as he looks forward to blazing a trail at the next level.

Who goes in the NBA Draft?

The Draft determines which team each of the new cohort of potential NBA players will sign for and is the main pathway for turning professional.

In the US, many sports stars attend college before turning professional, where they play for their teams in often-televised and widely-supported matches.

While playing for their college teams, some may qualify to be considered by the professional teams in the NBA – although they must be at least 19.

This is the case for Sochan, who has played for Baylor University in Texas for one year and is now eligible for a chance to be picked by an NBA team.

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They then have the chance to show off their abilities at what is called the NBA Combine, where they can perform in front of the league’s scouts. This took place last month in Chicago.

Those who are considered the best will likely be picked in the first round, while some may not be picked at all and remain undrafted.

How do teams decide the players they recruit?

Each team takes a turn to pick the player they would like to recruit. The order is in large part determined by how well or badly the team has performed in recent seasons.

Those teams near the top of the league are likely to be nearer to the back of the queue than struggling teams, who typically get to pick from the best first.

Ultimately, the order is confirmed in the NBA Lottery, which took place on May 17 this year.

The order is set over both rounds of the Draft. Any players who are not drafted do have the chance to try out for any team, though there is no guarantee they will be recruited.

If this system were to be implemented in the Premier League, Manchester City would likely be one of the last to pick their first player as they have won the league in the past two seasons.

Other factors can also influence the order – for example, if the Orlando Magic wanted a player from the Boston Celtics, they could offer one of their own players to swap and give up their first-round pick to sweeten the deal. This would give Boston the turn meant for Orlando.

So which teams will pick first this year?

There are 30 picks in the first round of the draft. This is the order of the teams:

1. Orlando Magic

2. Oklahoma City Thunder

3. Houston Rockets

4. Sacramento Kings

5. Detroit Pistons

6. Indiana Pacers

7. Portland Trailblazers

8. New Orleans Pelicans

9. San Antonio Spurs

10. Washington Wizards

11. New York Knicks

12. Oklahoma City Thunder

13. Charlotte Hornets

14. Cleveland Cavaliers

15. Charlotte Hornets

16. Atlanta Hawks

17. Houston Rockets

18. Chicago Bulls

19. Minnesota Timberwolves

20. San Antonio Spurs

21. Denver Nuggets

22. Memphis Grizzlies

23. Philadelphia 76ers

24. Milwaukee Bucks

25. San Antonio Spurs

26. Dallas Mavericks

27. Miami Heat

28. Golden State Warriors

29. Memphis Grizzlies

30. Oklahoma City Thunder

So who could Sochan play for?

If pundits are correct, Sochan can expect to be the 15th player picked in the Draft. This would likely see him join the Charlotte Hornets, who are based in North Carolina.

The Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, and Houston Rockets are also potential destinations.

Have any big names been the 15th pick before?

Al Jefferson, who currently plays for the Boston Celtics and just this month played in the NBA Finals, was drafted as the 15th pick in 2004.

One of the most notable to be picked at 15th, however, was Kawhi Leonard in 2011. Leonard has won the NBA title and been considered one of the best players in the league over recent seasons.

The legendary Kobe Bryant, widely held as one of the greatest players of all time, was drafted as the 13th pick in 1996. Bryant died in a helicopter crash in January 2020 along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.