Thor selected 37th overall as latest NBA Draft pick from Alaska

July 29, 2021

JT Thor

Rage City is on it’s way back to the NBA.

Anchorage’s JT Thor became the seventh Alaskan to be selected in the NBA Draft after he was picked 37th overall in the second round by the Charlotte Bobcats.

The 18-year-old rising star didn’t get his DVR-ready draft moment, however, as ESPN did not show the pick getting announced at the podium during the broadcast.

Instead, it flashed on the ticker scrolling across the bottom of the screen in tiny words. Those tiny letters spelled out big news for Alaska, a state that has produced only a handful of NBA players and hasn’t had one in the league since 2018.

Thor is the seventh player raised in Alaska to be a NBA Draft pick, joining familiar names like Mario Chalmers, Carlos Boozer and Trajan Langdon, and lesser-known names like Brooks Thompson, Tony Turner and Justinian Jessup.

It was supposed to be a momentous night for Alaska basketball with the possibility of Anchorage’s Daishen Nix also being drafted, but it didn’t happen. Nix went undrafted.

Nonetheless, it’s historic any time anybody from Alaska gets picked in the NBA Draft.

“Basketball is growing and developing in Alaska right now,” Thor said before the draft. “I think getting drafted could change a lot. People will see that they can make it, too. I could say we’re paving the way for younger athletes. The dream wouldn’t seem as far away from them as it once was.”

The 6-foot-10 forward is the definition of a stretch four as Thor had the second longest wingspan of 7-3 at the NBA Draft Combine.

He played just one season at Auburn University and started all 27 games, averaging 9.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots. He was one of five freshmen in the country with at least 250 points, 100 rebounds and 30 blocks during the season.

Thor is a 210-pound left-hander who can stretch the court with his ability to score from the post to the perimeter.

Thor grew up in Anchorage and was something of a late bloomer. He didn’t start playing basketball until he reached the seventh grade. Right away, though, you could tell he was special.

“Watching him for the first time in the eighth grade it was pretty obvious he was a talented kid,” said Demietrius Preston of WeGotNextt. “There was something different about him. You see a lot of kids do a lot of the same things, but he stood out. Just the way he shot the ball. He was just smooth.”

Thor played his freshman season on the JV team at West High before moving out of state. He grew five inches that season, sprouting to 6-foot-6. His growth spurt felt like it almost happened overnight.

“He went from being a guard to being a forward, but with guard skills,” Preston said. “When he was younger, he was still filling out his body. Then suddenly he’s 6-6 and you’re thinking, ‘Wow, this kid could really be something special.’”

After leaving Alaska, Thor played two years at Huntington Prep in West Virginia before transferring to Norcross High in Georgia for his final season.

“Moving away really helped him,” Preston said.

At Auburn, Thor picked up steam as the season went on and seemed to be at his best during SEC play. He reached double figures 15 times, including 10 of his final 15 games.

Against Alabama, he collected 15 points, nine rebounds, four blocks, three steals and two assists. A month later, he poured in a career-high 24-point performance at Kentucky – the most points scored by an Alaskan at famed Rupp Arena.

NBA Draft picks from Alaska:

JT Thor

Player: JT Thor, Anchorage
Drafted: 2021, 2nd Round, 37th overall (Charlotte Bobcats)
Size: 6-10, 210
Position: Power Forward
College: Auburn
Alaska connection: Grew up in Anchorage and played his freshman season on the JV team at West High before leaving Alaska for West Virginia, then to Georgia.
Highlights: Was one of five freshmen in the country with at least 250 points, 100 rebounds and 30 blocks during the season. His 37 total blocks was eighth in the SEC and second among all SEC freshmen.
NBA nugget: Had the second longest wingspan of 7-foot-3 at the NBA Draft Combine.

Justinian Jessup

Player: Justinian Jessup, Nome
Drafted: 2020, 2nd Round, 51st overall (Golden State Warriors)
Size: 6-7, 202
Position: Shooting Guard
College: Boise State
Alaska connection: From a prominent Alaska family, Jessup played for Nome Middle School between 2009 and 2011 before moving to Longmont, Colorado, where he was the 2015 4A Player of the Year.
Highlights: Jessup was a draft-and-stash pick, spending the past year playing in Australia for the Illawarra Hawks and averaging 13.3 points and making 42 percent of his 3-pointers. Finished college career as the all-time 3-point leader in Mountain West Conference history (325) and top-10 in school history in scoring (1,583).
NBA nugget: Jessup was drafted two spots ahead of Big Ten all-time assist leader Cassius Winston of Michigan State.

Mario Chalmers

Player: Mario Chalmers, Anchorage
Drafted: 2008, 2nd Round, 34th overall (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Size: 6-2, 190
Position: Point Guard
College: Kansas
Alaska connection: A 2005 graduate of Bartlett High School, Chalmers was a three-time Alaska 4A Player of the Year and the state’s third McDonald’s All-American.
Highlights: Played in four NBA Finals from 2011 to 2014 with the Miami Heat alongside LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, winning titles in 2012 and 2013. Part of draft day trade that sent him to Miami. Named to the NBA All-Rookie Team for the 2008-2009 season. Played in the league from 2008 to 2018 with Miami and Memphis and scored 5,783 career points in 646 games. Set career highs of 34 points, 13 assists, 9 steals and 10 3-pointers. Appeared in 99 playoff games and his teams posted a 14-4 series record. Chalmers made his name by making big shots. In Game 5 of the 2011 Finals, he hit a halfcourt shot to end the first quarter. In the 2012 Finals, Chalmers had 25 points in Game 4, including 12 points in the fourth quarter. In the 2013 Finals, he had a team-high 19 points in Game 2 and pumped in 20 points in a Game 6 OT win.
NBA nugget: His cousin Lionel Chalmers played in the NBA with the Los Angeles Clippers. His other cousin Chris Smith played with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Carlos Boozer

Player: Carlos Boozer, Juneau
Drafted: 2002, 2nd Round, 35th overall (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Size: 6-9, 258
Position: Power Forward
College: Duke
Alaska connection: A 1999 graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School, he was a three-time Alaska 4A Player of the Year and the state’s second McDonald’s All-American.
Highlights: Alaska’s only NBA All-Star Game selection, Boozer played 13 seasons in the league from 2002 to 2015 with Cleveland, Utah, Chicago and the Los Angeles Lakers. Registered his only career triple-double in 2008 with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. Averaged double figures in scoring for all 13 seasons, highlighted by top double-double averages with Utah of 21.1 points and 10.4 rebounds in 2007-2008, and 20.9 points and 11.7 rebounds in 2006-2007. Scored 13,976 points and grabbed 8,192 rebounds in 861 career NBA games. Scored a career high 41 points three times and pulled down as many as 23 rebounds. Played in 83 playoff games and his teams posted a 7-8 series record. Advanced to Western Conference Finals with Utah in 2007 and Eastern Conference Finals with Chicago in 2011, losing to Chalmers and the Heat. One of his 41-point games came in Game 2 of the 2007 playoffs in a 98-90 loss to Houston. Twice selected for the NBA All-Star Game and bagged a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds in 2008.
NBA nugget: Played for the ‘Redeem Team’ that won a gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics. Also won a bronze medal at the 2004 Olympics.

Trajan Langdon

Player: Trajan Langdon, Anchorage
Drafted: 1999, 1st Round, 11th overall (Cleveland Cavaliers)
Size: 6-4, 211
Position: Shooting Guard
College: Duke
Alaska connection: A 1994 graduate of from East High, Langdon was a three-time Alaska 4A Player of the Year and the state’s first McDonald’s All-American. Great Alaska Shootout all-tournament selection in 1998.
Highlights: Alaska’s first lottery pick, Langdon left Duke as the school’s all-time leader in 3-pointers (343) and top-10 scoring leader (1,974). He played in the NBA from 1999 to 2002 for the Cleveland Cavaliers. In his second season, he came off the bench to score a career-high 31 points on the strength of 6-for-6 3-point shooting. Scored 647 career points in 119 NBA games. He went on to star for CSKA Moscow and later earned Euroleague All-Decade Team honors.
NBA nugget: Currently serves as general manager of the New Orleans Pelicans. In 2014, Langdon won a ring with the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs as a scout.

Brooks Thompson

Player: Brooks Thompson, Anchorage
Drafted: 1994, 1st Round, 27th overall (Orlando Magic)
Size: 6-4, 200
Position: Point Guard
College: Texas A&M, Oklahoma State
Alaska connection: Raised in Anchorage, Thompson played at Wendler Middle School before moving as a freshman to Colorado, where he was the state’s 4A Player of the Year in 1989 for Littleton High School. Also played in the Great Alaska Shootout two times.
Highlights: First Alaskan to play in the NBA Finals in 1995 with Orlando Magic and Shaquille O’Neal; lost series 4-0 to Houston Rockets and Hakeem Olajuwon. Played in the NBA from 1994 to 1998 for Orlando Utah, Denver, Phoenix and New York. Best season came in 1996-97 with Denver when he averaged 6.8 points and ranked 20th in the league with a .398 3-point percentage. Scored 760 career points in 168 NBA games with a career high of 26.
NBA nugget: In 1992, Thompson was part of a three-team, eight-player trade that included Doc Rivers and Mark Jackson.

Tony Turner

Player: Tony Turner, Anchorage
Drafted: 1980, 6th Round, 116th overall (Detroit Pistons)
Size: 6-1, 175
Position: Shooting Guard
College: UAA
Alaska connection: Graduated from Bartlett High School in 1975 and was considered one of the greatest Alaska players of his era.
Highlights: First Alaskan drafted by the NBA. He never played in the league but he did play professionally overseas. Still ranks No. 9 in UAA history with 1,289 career points. Tuner could flat out score. He pumped in a career-high 36 points on 15 field goals and six free throws at a time when there was not a 3-point line.
NBA nugget: Turner was drafted 25 picks ahead of Lorenzo Romar, who played five years in the league before turning to coaching.