news 5 days ago

Heat rookie Kendrick Nunn comes to Chicago for All-Star Break as hometown kid

Sun Sentinel — By Khobi Price Sun Sentinel

Feb. 14-- CHICAGO-Returning to Chicago hasn't lost its luster for Miami Heat guard Kendrick Nunn.

Especially not on Friday, when the undrafted rookie was set to compete in the Rising Stars game in the United Center, less than 15 miles away from where he grew up on the South Side of Chicago.

"It's a dream come true," Nunn, 24, said about playing in his hometown during All-Star Weekend. "It's an honor to be here and I'm looking to have a lot of fun.

"Chicago basketball means a lot. A lot of great guys come from Chicago. There's a lot of legacy and tradition here and I like carrying it."

Nunn starred at Chicago basketball powerhouse Simeon Career Academy from 2009-13, winning four consecutive state titles alongside fellow Chicago native and Sacramento Kings forward Jabari Parker. The Heat rookie is one of five players-including Parker and Detroit Pistons guard Derrick Rose, also a Chicago native-to have their jersey numbers retired by Simeon.

He took the time to visit his alma mater on Thursday and spoke to the basketball team ahead of its playoff game on Sunday.

"Every time I'm in Chicago I try to show my presence there," Nunn said. "Just give them a little motivation. I told them what Simeon is all about and to bring the championship back."

Nunn, who went undrafted out of Oakland University in 2018, entered the All-Star break averaging 15.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists, and started in all 51 of the games he has played.

He's been named the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month all three times it has been awarded this season, joining Caron Butler as just the second Heat rookie to earn Rookie of the Month honors more than once. Nunn's the first undrafted player in league history to win the award on multiple occasions.

"I've proven a lot, just showing my talents and showing what I can do on a basketball floor," Nunn said. "I've been given an opportunity and I'm taking full advantage of it.

"I just needed that opportunity to prove myself. I've been doubted plenty of times and every time I continue to prove myself show what I can do."

Fellow Heat rookie Tyler Herro, who was selected to participate in the Rising Stars game but didn't participate because of a right-foot injury, called Nunn's story "tremendous." Nunn said betting on himself countless times helped get to this point in his career despite his unorthodox journey.

"Going undrafted, I could've taken a different route," Nunn said. "I could've played overseas, but I chose to play in the G League and take that route. It was definitely a long journey. I had a lot of patience with that and it worked out."

Although he said he didn't envision competing during All-Star Weekend while he was at Simeon, Nunn isn't surprised by the success and accolades he's achieved during his first season in the NBA.

"We put a lot of work in and the results are showing. It feels good when you're rewarded for your hard work and success. We're looking forward to a big run come the second half of the season."

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