BOSTON (CBS) -- When the Boston Celtics drafted Louisville guard Terry Rozier 16th overall in last week's NBA Draft, it left many scratching their head.
While he spent the final week leading up to the draft climbing up the boards, the 16th pick was perceived as a little high for Rozier. Add that to the fact Boston already had a steady stable of guards and his addition made an already small team even smaller, the pick sent some into a frenzy.
But when it came time for them to make their first of four picks last Thursday, there was no doubt whom the Celtics were going to take.
"We talked with a lot of people who knew everything about him. Terry was a guy we would have drafted even if he didn't come in for a workout, we had spent so much time on his background," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Tuesday. "We just liked Terry from the very beginning.
"I was getting nervous that he was moving up too high on the draft board. Had another week gone by he might have been rated much higher," added Ainge. "There was a time we thought maybe we could get him [with the 28th pick], but it was clear on draft day that wasn't going to happen."
As the days have passed, we're starting to focus more on Rozier the player rather than Rozier the 16th overall pick. Introduced on Tuesday, he sounds like he'll fit in perfectly on a Celtics team that battled hard at the end of last season to make the postseason.
"I'm a guy that just loves to compete and bring toughness to a team," Rozier told the Boston media at the team's practice facilities in Waltham, shortly after holding up his Celtics No. 12 jersey for the first time. "I have a winner's mentality; that's just me."
Rozier said he's had that chip on his shoulder since he was a kid, always out to prove that he belongs. Ainge saw that in him, and put his new guard in some pretty good company in terms of his competitiveness.
"Terry Rozier is a tremendous competitor. He is in the level of the Delonte [Wests], Tony Allens, and Avery Bradleys of competitor and athlete. His character and work ethic, we're not really worried about him."
"We think Terry brings a great deal to the table," head coach Brad Stevens told 98.5 The Sports Hub's Zolak and Bertrand on Tuesday. "He is the highest level of toughness, athleticism and drive to improve. Those three things are a good place to start, and hopefully he can get to be as good as he can be."
Rozier's first love was football, where he started as a quarterback. But he used his speed so much that he was eventually converted to running back, and then wide receiver. He gave up football after his freshman year of high school, focusing solely on basketball.
That focus has him in the NBA now. Rozier isn't worried about Boston's crowded depth chart at the guard position, either. He's ready to do whatever it takes to help the team, and is determined to improve his game throughout the summer. Despite averaging 17.1 points per game for Louisville as a sophomore last season, Rozier shot just 30 percent from three-point range. He knows that number can get much better, and it's something he'll be working hard at this summer and throughout Boston's summer league slate, which gets underway next week in Utah.
He's also pretty excited to practice against another defensive-minded guard in Marcus Smart, a player he's drawn comparisons to since the draft, and feels their head-to-head showdowns will only make them both better.
"He's a great competitor, so practicing should be a lot of fun," Rozier said of Smart. "You always want to make your teammate better and have him make you better. I can't wait to go to war with him... We're going to make each other better."
Most of all, he feels blessed to be playing professional basketball for an organization like the Celtics.
"I'm familiar that they have legends – Danny Ainge, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale – and their fans are very serious about their basketball. It's amazing and I'm just blessed to be in this position," he said. "I'm ready to meet my future teammates and have a lot of fun with it, knowing we're going to get cheered every night. I hope the fans fall in love with me and the way I play."
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