The crowd of family and friends who came to the sprawling, immaculate home of Terry Rozier’s agent to watch Thursday’s NBA draft couldn’t handle the tension any longer.
They had gathered around a television by the backyard pool, and Rozier’s agent, Aaron Turner, told them to tuck away their phones. Good news was coming any minute, he said.
They went silent, save for the dozen or so children who buzzed around the yard in the midst of an intense game of keep-away.
Then NBA commissioner Adam Silver came on the TV screen and changed their lives.
Rozier, a 6-foot-1 guard who played two years at the University of Louisville, had been selected by the Boston Celtics with the 16th overall pick in the first round of the draft, far earlier in the night than most draft analysts expected.
Pandemonium broke out.
The crowd mobbed Rozier, who couldn’t stop smiling. His mother, Gina Tucker, shouted through tears, “We’re going to be Boston fans!” Turner bounced around the backyard, a grin on his face.
Rozier, as he walked over to Turner, who had Celtics president Danny Ainge on the phone, hollered, “Second round? Yeah, right.”
“Unbelievable feeling, just to see the looks on everyone’s faces,” Rozier said. “I’ve got little brothers, little cousins here. They’re happier than I am. I can’t explain this feeling.”
Tucker, still wearing a shocked face, said the nervousness and uncertainty of what would happen had consumed her right up until her son’s name splashed across the screen.
Rozier’s house party in suburban Cleveland erupted when his name was called.
“I totally did not know they were going to call his name,” she said. “I’m just happy for him — very, very happy.”
Someone identified as Rozier’s aunt drew a circle seven- or eight-deep around her and shouted a prayer into the night, praising God for his glory and for his blessings of her nephew, amens from the crowd accentuating each sentence.
Moments later, Rozier popped open a champagne bottle and sprayed the crowd — twice. A half dozen of his friends and cousins jumped into the pool, and Rozier, wearing the suit that one of his agents bought him, hopped in too.
This is what it’s like to be drafted, to be one of the 60 players chosen. First-round selections get guaranteed, two-year contract deals, with a third-year option.
For comparison, the 16th pick in last year’s draft, Jusuf Nurkic, signed with the Denver Nuggets for more than $1.56 million a year.
Rozier joins a young Celtics team that struggled through the early part of last season but made a late push into the playoffs, earning the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference before LeBron James’s Cleveland Cavaliers swept them.
The former UofL guard worked out for the Celtics earlier this month, apparently impressing Ainge and head coach Brad Stevens.
“The opportunity to grab a guy with this much upside with the highest level of toughness and drive is the right fit,” Stephens told the Boston Globe.
But Rozier admitted he was surprised the Celtics picked him. When he first declared for the draft a day after UofL lost in the Elite 8 of the NCAA Tournament, Rozier was projected as a potential late first-round pick or second-rounder.
He gradually moved up in most projections, thanks in large part to a strong NBA draft combine performance in which he measured a 6-8 wingspan and a 38-inch vertical leap.
From there, he thrived in the private workouts with teams, traveling all over the country to places like Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Antonio and more.
Yet even then, the most anyone seemed to think was that he’d be picked somewhere in the 20s, especially after a Yahoo! Sports report that an NBA executive had guaranteed Rozier that he wouldn’t fall out of the first round.
“You just never know what’s going to happen,” Tucker said.
Back at the house of Verus Management CEO Gregg Levy, as the draft began on television, Rozier’s agents said their client would be picked by at least No. 31, which was the Minnesota Timberwolves’ spot.
The nervous energy permeated throughout the house, but Rozier, who is typically calm and even-keeled, skipped from group to group, keeping up conversations and posing for pictures.
He was the most collected person at the party.
And when they called his name, he just stood there, staring at the screen, a smile creeping across his face.
Everyone in the crowd hooted and hollered, clapping their hands. Some hugged. Some pumped their fists.
“I’m just blessed with this opportunity,” Rozier would eventually say. “Thank God — I’m about to make the best of it …
“I’ll definitely come in to Boston and play. I’m a winner. I want to win. I will not let you down. I’m going to bring something to the table.”