Bucks Lead

DiVincenzo Shining in Unfamiliar Role

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College Career

The path to the NBA for Donte DiVincenzo was certainly unique when compared to other highly-touted prospects. The Milwaukee Bucks picked him 17th overall in 2018. Most picks in this range are either 1) fairly unknown, foreign-born prospects (Hi Giannis!) or 2) they we a superstar wherever they attended school, and naturally started every game possible. Donte, however, doesn’t fit into either of those categories. He started only 12 times over his 85-game NCAA career.

Also, if you take a look into his stats, you see some pretty pedestrian numbers. His collegiate averages in the three main statistical categories: 10.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per game. It’s worth noting he was on a great team, so as an underclassman it can be harder to get minutes. Still, not the type of resume that comes to mind when you think of a high draft pick.

Interestingly enough then, Donte decided to bet on himself and declare for the NBA Draft after only his sophomore year. He had two years left of eligibility to improve his game, increase his draft stock, and maybe, just maybe, become a member of the team’s starting five!

What Made Donte Special?

The obvious question then becomes: What made him worthy of a top-20 pick?

There are a few reasons. For one, the basic stats I referred to doesn’t properly reflect his talents. He’s extremely athletic, unselfish, and has a high basketball IQ. All those cliché characteristics that can’t necessarily be taught – you either have them, or you don’t.

But what really set Donte apart was his incredible knack for showing up big when it mattered the most. Case in point: The best game of his collegiate career was the last time he’d put on a Villanova Wildcat jersey. He scored a career-high 31, added five boards, three assists, and two blocks. Most importantly, the epic performance just so happened to be the 2018 NCAA National Championship Game. He was the best player on the court that night, and carried Nova on his back to beat an extremely talented Michigan team….. and the entire country was watching. Pretty good timing sir, well played.

Of course, he wasn’t drafted solely on that game alone. DiVincenzo had a few other accolades in his relatively short stint at Villanova. He was named to the Big East All-Freshman Team, was awarded Big East 6th Man of the Year, and possibly most impressive of all, was rewarded with the nickname “The Big Ragu” by sportscaster Gus Johnson. Once you’re stamped with a nickname by Gus, there’s nothing left to accomplish at the amateur level. It’s officially time to move on.

Year One Derailed by Injuries

Unfortunately, his rookie campaign with the Bucks didn’t get off to an idyllic start. DiVincenzo only appeared in 27 total games and eventually was ruled out for the year due to a bilateral heel bursitis injury. The Bucks were steamrolling their way to a 60-win regular season, making it an easy decision to give their young investment all the time he needed to heal.

Big Ragu – Year Two

The Bucks got off to a hectic start last month. They looked awful for stretches, won a game they probably shouldn’t have, lost two games by blowing a huge lead, and generally just seemed disjointed. Of course, the pieces would eventually start falling in to place, but the early season roller coaster made it tough for Donte to get any sort of rhythm going at first. He was still contributing in those ways that don’t show up on a basic stat sheet:

Injury Sidelines Middleton

Injuries are an unfortunate part of all sports, but inevitably every team has to deal with them in some capacity. For the Bucks, the first setback of the season was a thigh contusion suffered by Khris Middleton. The initial timetable for return was 3-4 weeks. Obviously, this creates an opportunity for other guys to step up, specifically DiVincenzo.

Hype Train Starting to Gain Steam

With Middleton out, it was announced that Donte would make his first career NBA start on November 14th. It was not a masterful performance by any stretch of the imagination. But let me reiterate – our guy hardly started any games in college, now he was being asked to start for an NBA team expected to be a title contender.

Since that though, he’s played beautifully. There’s a palpable swagger and confidence to his game, and he flashes glimpses of his potential each night. You can watch him starting to gel with Giannis, which is huge. For a young guy, he’s extremely poised too. If I could buy stock in Donte DiVincenzo, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Can you tell I’m excited about him yet? Ok, I’ll stop.

Here are his numbers for the past four games, all Bucks’ victories. I think these numbers reflect a guy who understands his role in Milwaukee’s potent offense:

(11/16/19) Start #2: 6-9 FG/14 Pts/4 Reb/2 Stl

(11/18/19) Start #3: 5-9 FG/15 Pts/4 Reb/4 Ast/3 Stl

(11/20/19) Start #4: 4-9 FG/11 Pts/5 Reb/3 Ast/2 Stl

(11/21/19) Start #5: 7-15 FG/16 Pts/6 Reb/1 Ast/1 Stl

Sure, there will be bumps in the road ahead, but Donte is just getting started. He’s in an ideal situation right now, and Coach Budenholzer will give him all the tools he needs to succeed. Just add Donte DiVincenzo to the long list of reasons why it’s an amazing time to be a Bucks fan… oh, and did I forget to mention he’s only 22 years old?

This guy gets it:

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About Dan Parker

Born and raised in the greater Milwaukee area. Graduated from UW-Parkside with a B.S. in Sports and Fitness Management. Avid Wisconsin sports fan, currently residing just outside of Detroit.

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