Jose Alvarado goes deep on decision to stay in draft, pursue NBA dreams

Credit: Ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Ccompton@ajc.com

It was three years ago, but Jose Alvarado said he remembers being a guest at Josh Okogie’s draft party like it was yesterday.

“It was his day, but it was more like he made it for everybody,” Alvarado told the AJC. “He made a feeling that I just wanted to have eventually on my own.”

ExploreAlvarado makes ‘very hard’ decision to stay in draft

On the evening of June 21, 2018, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected the Georgia Tech guard – Alvarado’s running mate – with the 20th overall pick of the NBA draft. Thursday, with memories of that night spurring him for the past three years, Alvarado will have his own draft-night celebration with friends and family in New York.

Alvarado recognizes that he’s most likely not going to be a top-20 pick like Okogie, but he’s counting on landing with a team, either through the draft or as a free agent.

“Getting a phone call and just getting an opportunity is like (being) the No. 1 pick for me,” Alvarado said. “The situation I come from, I would never have thought that this would be my life at all.”

Alvarado is nearing the end of a slew of pre-draft workouts that was to end Tuesday. Along with Yellow Jackets teammate Moses Wright, he was scheduled to work out for the Clippers Monday and then the Lakers on Tuesday.

Sharing a meal with Wright on Sunday evening in Los Angeles, Alvarado said, “we were just talking about this whole process and talking about how surreal it’s getting. Thursday’s the day for us. We’ve been waiting our whole lives for it.”

ExploreGeorgia Tech’s prince of thieves shines as a senior

It was Alvarado’s belief that he was ready to pursue that dream that ultimately led him to stay in the draft on July 7, the last day that he could have withdrawn from the draft and played a fifth college season.

“I’m very comfortable with it,” Alvarado said. “It was really close on what I wanted to do. I love Georgia Tech, I love the program and I love everyone that was there. So it was a very hard decision for me to make, but I don’t regret it. I love Georgia Tech, but I think I was just ready to be a pro, just mindset-wise.”

Alvarado said he has received positive feedback from the teams he has worked out for, primarily focused on his energy and effort, two qualities that have separated him and helped him earn ACC defensive player of the year and lead the Jackets to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010.

“That’s more than half the (battle),” he said of his intensity and determination. “You can’t teach that. A lot of teams have been saying that. The feedback’s been really good.”

He also said he didn’t hear any type of assurance from a team that it would draft him if he were available. Alvarado said that feedback was not a driver in the decision. It was primarily his belief that, after four years in the ACC and a Tech degree in hand, he was ready.

That said, his performance in his workouts (Alvarado said his final two workouts in Los Angeles will bring him to 17) and the G League camp gave him added confidence in his decision to stay in the draft.

ExploreAlvarado loving NBA pre-draft process

“I felt like I belonged,” he said. “It’s not like I’m just going out there and saying, ‘I just want to be a pro.’ I went to the workouts and I felt comfortable with how I was performing and how I was doing. It felt right for me, like I was doing my part. Definitely, the workouts and how I was performing made me feel more comfortable about the decision.”

After Tech’s season ended in March and he made the decision to enter the draft, Alvarado said that he went into the process keeping open the option to return, but with an attitude of being committed to staying in the draft, advice he received from coach Josh Pastner.

“Because you just don’t want to put all your focus on like, Oh, I’m going to a workout and at least if it doesn’t go well, at least I’ve got this option (to go back to school),” Alvarado said. “I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to think more like, This is my only option.”

As the July 7 deadline approached, Alvarado said he was up in the air about it. Drawing him back to Tech was the opportunity to add to his legacy and play one final season in front of Tech fans in McCamish Pavilion after a year in which arena capacity was capped at 14% due to COVID-19.

“For me to come back and do it in front of them, that would have been something amazing to do,” he said. “But I’m always going to be a Yellow Jacket.”

In the end, Alvarado bet on himself, as he has done often and with success.

“I went with my gut feeling, and I feel like this was the right decision,” he said.

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Interestingly, he said that earlier in the process, he briefly considered going into the transfer portal. Alvarado said he had heard the rumors that he might transfer, possibly to Kentucky.

“I might have thought about it for two or three seconds, then it was like, This is not for me,” he said.

Getting drafted in the second round seems to be a possibility, as does signing as an undrafted free agent with an offer of a two-way contract to play in the NBA and G League. Of course, so is the potential to have to try to play his way into the NBA through the G League.

“I think you know that answer,” said Alvarado, asked if he would be willing to go that arduous route. “That’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. I know my road is going to be different from a lot of other people, but I’m O.K. (with that). Because if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t make sense to my story, it wouldn’t make sense for who I am. I’m ready for anything. All I want is someone to give me the opportunity, and then I’ll do the rest.”

Having to provide for his daughter Nazanin, born in February 2020, was also a factor in his decision to stay in the draft. However, he has no immediate plans to play in Europe, where he could earn a solid paycheck but likely place himself farther away from his dream of playing in the NBA than he would in the G League.

“Overseas is an option, but not as of right now,” he said.

He called the pre-draft experience “an amazing experience” that he won’t forget. He marveled at the chance to work out for and meet Mavericks coach Jason Kidd, the hall-of-fame point guard, and likewise to work out for the Knicks, the team he grew up rooting for.

“It’s just all about having fun with it,” he said. “Because it’s not regular. This is not regular. This is not what regular people do. For us to have fun with it, for us to have people who are around us and believe in us, it’s so much fun. If you would have told me freshman year, you will be working out with this many teams, I would have been like, Oh, my God. He really believes this?”

Alvarado will now count the hours until Thursday night and wait for the phone to ring.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, draft or not drafted,” he said. “I know something good’s going to happen on the 29th. Don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but I know something good’s going to change my life forever.”