Saddiq Bey sat on a couch in his grandmother’s home in Bowie, Md., while more than a dozen family members and friends gathered around the television awaiting the announcement of his NBA destination.
But as the former Villanova forward rose from the couch and put on a Detroit Pistons cap as the 19th selection in the first round of the draft Wednesday night, he knew exactly where to go first.
“My Mom was the first one I hugged,” Bey said Thursday over the telephone from Detroit.
Drewana Bey, an instructional superintendent of secondary schools in the District of Columbia public schools system, played college basketball at North Carolina-Charlotte and would critique her son during their long rides together during his AAU travel team days.
“It meant a lot,” he said of the post-announcement celebration. “The camera really couldn’t show everybody that was behind me, but just the support I’ve had from them on every team I’ve played for and stuff like that, it was great. I appreciate them and love them to death. So it was just great to be able to share that.”
The 6-foot-8 Bey, one of three first-round picks of the Pistons (acquired after the Nets drafted him), said he didn’t really know where he would be going but tried to spend the evening not getting too high or too low.
“I was more trying to stay in the moment and just be ready whenever my name was called,” he said. “It was a blessing just waiting to hear my name called. I know this year is different from any other year, so I really honestly didn’t know what to expect from any team.”
Another challenge while the NBA deliberated when to hold the draft was finding places to work out amid the pandemic around his home in Largo, Md.
“You just find different ways,” he said. “I’ve played the game for so long that I know different ways to continue to work on my game. Whatever opportunity I had to work, I tried to use it to the best of my ability. So even though it was a tumultuous time, I feel like I still was able to work.”
Bey’s scoring average for Villanova jumped from 8.2 points his freshman year to 16.1 points as a sophomore, earning him postseason accolades including the Julius Erving Award as the nation’s best small forward, unanimous first-team All-Big East recognition and honorable mention AP All-America status.
He also attracted the attention of NBA scouts for his three-point shooting, finishing fourth in Division I last season with a 45.1% mark.
Bey, the seventh Villanova player to be drafted in the last four years and the fifth selected in the first round, said Wildcats coach Jay Wright called him immediately after his name was called. He also heard from many of his former college teammates.
“He’s still got an upside,” Wright said Thursday. “There’s still a youth to him that, he still can learn a lot and he’s open to learning and being coached. I’m really hoping he’s a steal for them where he’s really good now and he’s ready, but he can really get a lot better, and that’s a unique kind of guy.”
Bey met Pistons coach Dwane Casey during his first day in Detroit and called him “a great guy.”
“He was saying he’s excited to get to work,” Bey said. “I was telling him I’m thankful for the opportunity and will work as hard as I can to help the team win. We had a great conversation about that.”
With the new NBA season beginning on Dec. 22, training camp will be shorter than usual. But Bey is ready to get started.
“I’m going to stick to the grind, stick to the work,” he said. “I’m ready to play. It’s been so long, man, so just having the opportunity to play again is exciting.”