If Zack Rosen accomplishes his dream next month and gets drafted by an NBA team, he will have managed a truly rare feat in professional basketball.
Not since his coach, Jerome Allen, was selected 49th by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 1995 has an Ivy League player been picked in the draft. Even Jeremy Lin was forced to sign with the San Francisco Warriors as a free agent after going undrafted in 2010.
In fact, in the history of the NBA and the ABA, roughly 40 Ivy players have ever played in a game. Put in perspective; the University of North Carolina can boast almost double NBA alumni than all the Ivies combined.
“I know that I can be of use right now,” said Rosen, who most recently worked out with the Philadelphia 76ers, and has been attending combines and workouts all over the country. “The NBA is about one team saying, ‘yes.’”
The process of making an NBA team is an intense and arduous one. After Rosen finished his college career, he found and hired an agent. He attended the New Jersey Nets combine, where he worked out in front of representatives of every NBA team and connected with professional squads.
In the next month, he will work out in front of the Detroit Pistons and the Phoenix Suns. He is also considering going to California to showcase his talents in elite pick-up games.
If Rosen goes undrafted— a likely scenario — he, along with other possible NBA talent, will spend the 36 hours after the draft signing with summer league teams, which can be a stepping-stone to signing with an NBA team as a free agent.
“The draft is pretty much just the start,” Rosen said. “A lot of guys that don’t get drafted ended up signing up as free agents.”
Rosen was the star on Penn’s basketball team (20-13, 11-3 Ivy) this season, which narrowly missed making the NCAA tournament, taking second place in the conference to Harvard.
He averaged 18.2 points and 5.2 assists per game, and played nearly every minute of every game. He also established himself as the team leader who, beyond his speed and skills, was the competitive centerpiece of Quaker basketball.
Rosen said he is prepared to take on a drastically different role from the one he had at Penn should he be able to join an NBA squad. However, for now, he is just trying to play his best game.
“To me, it’s just kind of stick to your guns,” Rosen said. “No one’s changing their games in a month.”
If Rosen makes it to the NBA, he would likely emerge as a backup point guard, a role that he said he would be more than happy to take.
“[People say] this guy’s not a prototypical NBA player and that’s true, but I can play and I can definitely service a role in that environment,” Rosen said.
Though he is not going to be picky about where he plays on the court, he does have an idea of which team he would like to play for.
“[The 76ers] would be a dream come true,” he said. “I know that they have two second round picks.”
However, even if Rosen’s NBA plans fail to immediately pan out, his basketball career is certainly not over. Come next season, he said if he is not playing pro ball in the United States, he will be playing in a foreign league, possibly in Israel.
“If it doesn’t end up happening here, it would definitely be over a body of water,” Rosen said. “I believe that everything’s going to work out for me.”