With the NBA season quickly drawing to a close, many teams are focused on the upcoming NBA Draft. Most of the attention has been on Jahlil Okafor and Karl Anthony Towns, but the buzz around NBA front offices has been about Valentino McLaughlin.
You are not alone if your first question is: who is heck is that and where is he from? Valentino is a 5’8 point guard from Phillips Island, just outside of Australia. He grew up idolizing the sport, but he was never very good. Cut from his fourth grade team, McLaughlin was determined to prove everyone wrong. He spent six hours a day working after school to become the next star. He watched as much basketball as he could and took 1500 shots every single day.
All of Valentino’s hard work amounted to absolutely nothing as he failed to make the team every single year from fifth grade until his senior year of high school. Getting cut from the team nine years in a row would be enough for most players to get the message that they are terrible, but not Valentino.
For his eighteenth birthday, his parents bought him a pair of ACTON RocketSkates with the hopes that Valentino would find a new hobby. Instead, Valentino put on the RocketSkates and headed to the courts. Though he was not a great skater, Valentino instantly started making more shots with the skates.
His newfound success gave Valentino hope and sparked an idea. He realized if he could just learn how to effectively move in the skates, he could compete with anyone on the court. Valentino enlisted the help of Tomas Petronis, the famed Lithuanian skater, who happens to be a huge basketball fan.
Tomas taught Valentino how to glide across the court and jump in the skates. Suddenly a player that could never touch the net was throwing down ‘Vince Carter like’ dunks. With the skates on his feet, Valentino began playing like someone 6’8 rather than 5’8. Under Tomas’s tutelage, he became the best shooter, passer, defender and dunker on the island. He joined a local men’s league and averaged 68.5 points, 10 assists, 14 rebounds and 11 steals a game. In just two months, he had become the most dominate player in the island’s history.
It’s one thing to be the best player on an island with a population of less than 8,000 people, but how will Valentino fare in the NBA?
During one of his games, Valentino caught the attention of a Knicks scout who happened to be visiting the island on vacation. The scout was in awe of Valentino’s abilities on the skates and sent a video to NBA commissioner Adam Silver who invited Valentino to the NBA Combine. In two combine games, Valentino averaged 34 points, 24 assists, 16 rebounds and 8 steals.
Valentino had this to say after the combine: “I never imagined that NBA players would be better than the studs we have at Phillips Island, but they are. I kept passing the ball to the other players and they kept making it. It was a remarkable concept.”
With his unbelievable athleticism and play making skills, Valentino has shot up to the top of many teams draft boards. We have never seen a prospect come into the league with so much promise. He makes LeBron James look like the Smush Parker of prospects,” said analyst Jay Bilas.
The Lakers, who have the second pick, feel Valentino would be the perfect fit in Hollywood and have made quite the offer to the Timberwolves for the first pick. “It would be a shame to see such a great talent wasted away in freezing Minnesota,” Lakes General Manager Mitch Kupchak said.
Since the Lakers have no one of value on their roster, they had to be creative with their offer. The team has offered Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and the draft rights to any future sons the two players may have in addition to 5 first round picks, unlimited access to the Lakers’ practice facility and an autograph poster of Kobe Bryant. At this time, the Timberwolves are holding out for a Lakers’ championship trophy as well.