Josh Christopher’s NBA dream has come true.
The 6-foot-5 shooting guard out of Mayfair High School (Calif.) and Arizona State was selected by the Houston Rockets with the 24th pick in the first round of the NBA draft Thursday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
He is the first first round pick out of ASU since James Harden was selected with the third overall pick in 2009 by Oklahoma City.
Christopher was the No. 10-ranked prospect out of high school when he chose ASU over Michigan to become the Sun Devil’s highest ranked recruit ever. He was once considered a lottery pick although his stock slipped over the course of the season with the most recent projections having him slotted late in the first round or early in the second.
The most popular landing spots for his services in mock drafts were the Utah Jazz, which had the 30th and last pick in the first round, and the recently crowned NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks who have the first pick of the second round.
Houston was one of many teams for whom Christopher had a private workout according to ASU coach Bobby Hurley.
“I think he probably helped himself in those situations,” Hurley said, before the draft. “He has the physical tools and his passion and love for the game really comes through. I’m sure he was able to show that he is an elite player.”
Christopher’s only season in Tempe did not turn out as well as he would have liked, although he did get to play with older brother Caleb for a season. He missed the last 11 games of the season with a back injury which occurred in the first half of game against Oregon on Feb. 11. He took a hard fall, landing flat on his back after going up and blocking a dunk attempt.
Christopher played in 17 games, averaging 14.3 points and 4.7 rebounds, with his best showing coming against then No. 3 Villanova when he scored 28 points with four rebounds, two assists and a steal.
On the season he shot 43.2% from the field and 80% from the free-throw line.
Although the number of draft picks out of ASU lately has been small, it doesn’t mean there haven’t been players who have made it the hard way. The most recent was guard Luguentz Dort who went undrafted but signed a two-way contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2019, eventually working his way into the starting lineup by the end of the season.
Christopher was the fourth Pac-12 player selected. He followed USC center Evan Mobley, who was taken third overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Stanford’s Ziaire Williams, chosen with the 10th pick by the New Orleans Pelicans and Oregon’s Chrs Duarte who went to the Indiana Pacers with the 13th pick.
Like Christopher, Mobley and Williams entered the draft after their freshman years. Mobley was named Player of the Year Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the Pac-12 last season.