Jaden Ivey’s NBA career began with some tears dripping down his face.
After being taken by the Detroit Pistons with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday night, Ivey broke down crying and embraced his mom, ex-WNBA star and Notre Dame head coach Niele Ivey.
The 20-year-old Purdue product was able to compose himself as he joined commissioner Adam Silver on stage, though it didn’t last long. He once again got choked up when ESPN played him a surprise congratulatory message from Arike Ogunbowale — a former player of his mother’s at Notre Dame.
“I just want to say congratulations on being drafted in the first round,” Ogunbowale said in the pre-taped video. “That’s crazy I’m even saying this — just being this little boy grow up, wanting to be in the gym all the time, working on his game every day to become this young man, superstar athlete.
“You’re about to go crazy in the league. I’m a firm believer that you’re really about to take over this lease. I love you, I’m, proud of you, it’s your time to go crazy. I’m always in your corner.”
WNBA stars like Ogunbowale and Skylar Diggins-Smith played a role in developing the younger Ivey as he traveled with his mother, an assistant coach with Muffet McGraw’s Irish program from 2007-19 before becoming the head coach.
The moment left the new Piston reaching for tissues and thanking his mom.
“Oh man, this [is] everything,” he told ESPN of being drafted as his voice wavered. “I worked day in, day out to get to this level. I know wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her. I’m just so happy.”
Niele, who also counts Grizzlies star Ja Morant among her charges, was able to hold it together for their ESPN moment, grinning widely as she sat next to son.
“I’m speechless almost, this is his dream come true,” she said. “To be in Detroit, [we] have so many roots in Detroit. To be able to walk on that stage… I’m just so joyful, I’m so happy for him … just taking it all in.”