NBA

Inside MarJon Beauchamp’s incredible and convoluted journey from Yakima to the NBA Draft

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MarJon Beauchamp discovered on Wednesday that he was one of 20 players invited to sit with his family in the Green Room at the NBA draft in Brooklyn, an honor reserved for those expected to be the top picks next week. .

“I was the last selection (green room), but I feel like it’s part of my history,” Beauchamp said with a chuckle over the phone from Charlotte, where he was preparing for one of the twelve pre-draft practices with the NBA. teams.

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And what an amazing, convoluted story Beauchamp has woven as he stands on the brink of an NBA career that has been a lifelong dream — an obsession, really — but seemed like a faint possibility just a short time ago. a year. Now he should go anywhere from No. 8 to the start of the second round, with most fictional drafts ranking him No. 20-26 overall.

Beauchamp will be alongside other local stars including O’Dea’s Paolo Banchero and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren on Thursday night, while Garfield star Tari Eason is also expected to be taken in the first round.

“I feel like everything I’ve been through has prepared me for this moment,” Beauchamp said. “The struggles, the adversity that I’ve been through, it’s only made me stronger. I feel like a lot of people haven’t had to go through that, so I feel ready. I I’m just excited to be in this situation. And I always knew I would be in the situation, but I just didn’t know when.

It’s a story that began in his hometown of Yakima, where Beauchamp began to make a name for himself on the AAU youth hoops circuit, so much so that he caught the eye of Brandon Roy. , newly appointed trainer at Nathan Hale. MarJon and her father, Jon Beauchamp, moved to Seattle after eighth grade to play for Roy, winning a state title as a rookie. They followed Roy to Garfield, winning another sophomore title before moving again, this time to Rainier Beach, to play his junior year.

It was at Beach in 2018-19, under coach Mike Bethea, that Beauchamp really blossomed, averaging 26 points, 11 rebounds and five assists and winning the Player of the League title. Metropolitan League year as the Vikings finished fifth. And then, seeking an even higher level of play, Beauchamp took off once again, this time to Arizona, to play his senior year at Dream City Christian School in Glendale — his fourth high school in four years. Dream City is a private school that plays many of its home games in Kentucky, of all locations, as part of the “Grind Session” circuit, teeming with Division 1 hopefuls.

Beauchamp, a 6-foot-6 winger, was one of those five-star prospects, ranked 40e in the country by ESPN, but he made another unorthodox move after high school. Instead of going to college — he was heavily recruited by Washington and most D-1 powerhouses — Beauchamp opted to cast his spell in San Francisco with former NBA coach Frank Matrisciano. Beauchamp was the first client of Matrisciano’s “Chameleon BX” program, designed to prepare players for the NBA draft without attending college. Training as hard as he has ever done in his life in the summer of 2020 and reaping the benefits, Beauchamp was aiming for the 2021 draft. But when COVID-19 struck with a vengeance, Matrisciano had to shut down the things.

“It was the joker. COVID came out of nowhere and kicked us in the gut, man,” Jon Beauchamp said. “Just when you thought you had the right answer to what was happening in our lives, boom. He becomes the Superman you thought he would be, then COVID.

A discouraged Beauchamp returned to Yakima in early 2021. Chameleon was supposed to have exposed him to NBA personnel, but COVID thwarted that. Suddenly, he was off anyone’s radar and his basketball future was in limbo. And then Beauchamp caught COVID himself. This was, he says, the low point of his life.

“Depressed is too strong a term, but he definitely had some ‘woe is me’ type feelings,” said Ray Funk, a longtime family friend who is an athletic director at Yakima Valley College. “Here he’s gone from some draft boards at the time, and definitely a major type player, but everything, all the opportunities, kind of dried up.”

“The depressing part was coming home,” added Jon Beauchamp. “Coming home after all these moves we made. I didn’t want him here. I mean, it’s awesome. We love Yakima. We are from Yakima. But when you’re in that little mode, or that little mood, Yakima could be a sinkhole.

Beauchamp and his dad looked into colleges, but realized the best place for MarJon was right under their noses. As Yakima Valley College resumed its season on a limited basis in March 2021, Beauchamp enrolled in the school and played for the Yaks, joining a group of his former childhood buddies. The trainer, London Wilson, was a longtime friend of MarJon’s mother, Denise Pleasant. It was a rejuvenating experience for Beauchamp, who scored 50 points in one game and averaged 30.7 points, 10.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists over the 12-game season.

He’s so ready for the NBA, it’s not funny.

“After not playing for a year and a half, playing with friends I grew up with and being coached by people I grew up with, this was exactly what I needed,” Beauchamp said. . “Coach London was always telling me, you’re gonna play for me one day. It’s crazy how it’s come full circle. And, man, it was an amazing experience, because I found the love of the game again.”

Jon Beauchamp added: “It was a nice thing, because he couldn’t play high school here. The only downside is that Yakima couldn’t see it because they didn’t let anyone in the gym for games (due to COVID).

Suddenly the radar was back on Beauchamp. Funk, also an assistant coach at YVC, remembers a Houston Rockets scout who showed up for a Yaks game. Beauchamp’s winding road to the NBA had one more detour: Last September, he accepted an offer to play in the NBA’s G League with Ignite, a team comprised mostly of recent high school graduates and international players seeking of an alternative path to the NBA. Ignite had three players selected in the 2021 NBA draft, including No. 2 pick Jalen Green and No. 7 Jonathan Kuminga, and could have three first rounds in Thursday’s draft.

The G League proved to be a fortuitous landing spot for Beauchamp, who averaged 15.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists for Ignite and shot the mock draft boards. The exposure to NBA executives was invaluable.

“I remember the first two practices, scouts were there, Mike Schmitz (ESPN’s NBA draft analyst) was there, and everyone was like, ‘Who is this kid? ‘” Beauchamp said. “As the season went on you would see mock drafts where the high was I think 11, having not been on mock drafts at all before the season. That’s just crazy to see where I am now.

Rainier Beach’s Bethea watches Beauchamp’s hoops game and sees Golden State’s Jordan Poole, a 2019 first-round pick, as comp.

“He can shoot from anywhere, he can score the dribble, he’s really long and I think his best basketball will be in front of him,” Bethea said. “He and I were talking about it. I think he could be a hell of a defender with those long arms. He reminds me of a longer version of Baby Boy (former Husky Dejounte Murray, now starring for the San Antonio Spurs), as far as stature goes. I mean, Dejounte proved that in the NBA, and MarJon has yet to do that, but that’s what he reminds me of – a long wingspan of something like seven feet, right? He is sporty. He has all the tools to become a good NBA player.

As he makes the pre-draft circuit, training for teams, Beauchamp believes his nomadic career, while trying at times, will serve him well in the NBA.

“I feel like I can fit into any basketball system, and I’m going to figure it out,” he said. “That’s what I learned going to four different schools. I can come in right away and play.

Or as his dad said, “He’s so ready for the NBA, it’s not funny.”

Beauchamp feels strongly connected to Seattle’s basketball community, but he also cherishes his roots in Yakima, where his grandfather, Henry Beauchamp, served as the first African-American mayor. MarJon told Funk and others that he plans to give back to the community, including helping renovate the Henry Beauchamp Community Center. Funk calls MarJon “a great kid – a very nice, genuine, loyal type of kid. I’ve known him for a long time, and he’s the kind of guy who’ll give you the shirt off his back.

“Yakima will always be my first place in my heart because that’s where it all started,” Beauchamp said. “My dad pushed me hard like getting out of there. He always had me in the gym, avoiding the negative stuff, and it paid off. Yakima always had the most support there, and they always support me. There will always be love for them.

Beauchamp, now 21, admits it wasn’t easy leaving Yakima after his eighth year.

“Looking back on it, it was really hard for me,” he said. “Leaving my friends and not going to high school with them, leaving my mother and my little brother and my sister, because they did not come with us. My mom sacrificed a lot so I wasn’t in my life for four years, and looking back, I feel like it affected me mentally. But I got away with it. And we got away with it. »

When asked when he first thought MarJon might be an NBA player, Jon Beauchamp replied, “Seven.”

And now that it’s about to happen, after about as untraditional a route as one can imagine – although it may be less so in the future, as the fabric of college sports is significantly changed – Jon said, “We pretty much followed our process. We haven’t really fallen into other people’s ideals or processes.

He added: “I made some tough decisions along the way. It’s been a long road, but we made it. Me and him did it together. It was a kind of introspection – on my part too. MarJon did all the work. He got into it. It was a struggle to keep his mindset. But he held on. »

Now, the final stages of this journey are days away. On Thursday, MarJon and his family will be sitting in the Green Room and hearing his name called — likely in the first round of the NBA Draft.

“It doesn’t even seem real, to be honest,” MarJon said. “But I can’t wait for this day.”

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