Earlier this week, 18-year-old French basketball prospect Juhann Begarin arrived at the Auerbach Center for a predraft workout with the Celtics. The session included veteran college players and eventual draft picks such as Iowa’s Luka Garza and Pepperdine’s Kessler Edwards. But Begarin, a long and athletic 6-foot-5-inch guard, stood out in full-court scrimmages and three-on-three matchups.
“He showed some creativity and talent with the ball in that workout,” Celtics director of scouting Dave Lewin said. “And he showed promise as a shooter and got us to the point where we believed that he’ll become a good enough shooter, even if he’s not all the way there yet.”
Late Thursday night, in his first draft as the team’s president of basketball operations, Brad Stevens decided to select Begarin with the 45th pick.
Begarin, who plays for Paris Basketball in France’s LNB Pro B League, most likely will stay overseas for at least one more season. But Celtics assistant general manager Austin Ainge said there remains a small chance that the guard could join the summer league team.
Even though Begarin does not turn 19 until next week, the Celtics have been scouting him for several years. Lewin saw him play at the FIBA Europe Under-18 championships in Greece in 2019 and could hardly believe that the muscular guard was just 16 years old.
“He’s always been a very talented athlete for his age group,” Lewin said. “He’s big, strong, athletic. He really stood out at the junior tournaments in Europe, because he has the size, length, and athleticism you find in American guards, and it’s not as common in the European junior stuff.”
Added Ainge, “He stands out. Early on, he was so physically advanced for someone his age.”
Still, there are plenty of powerful athletes who are not necessarily good basketball players. The Celtics watched closely over the last two years as Begarin’s talent level gradually began to line up with his physical gifts.
“The shooting and playmaking got better, and he was a legit player in France Pro B at 18,” Ainge said. “He showed a lot of potential. Most guys make a big jump from 18 to 20, and we’re hoping we can get better every day.
“Usually players that are that physically gifted don’t have to develop some of the other aspects of their game. But we think his defense and also his playmaking have a chance to be better than the typical ‘3 and D’ guy. We think he’s got more game than that.”
Last season, Begarin averaged 11.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.9 assists while shooting 45.6 percent from the field and 35.2 percent from beyond the 3-point line. His shooting remains his primary weakness, but the Celtics are optimistic because he is still so early in his growth curve. Lewin said that with some minor adjustments to his balance and rhythm, Begarin should become a more complete shooter.
And there are no concerns about his physical development. Lewin said Begarin weighed in at just over 220 pounds at his workout.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Lewin said. “We were looking at a lot of 22-year-olds in this draft who play the 2-guard position and are not close to being 220 and probably never will be. That’s a pretty big, strong guard, regardless of age.”