Matas Buzelis

Matas Buzelis, a fan of Derrick Rose, thrilled to join hometown Bulls

Lithuanian wing didn't expect to be staying local

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Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

Matas Buzelis didn't sugarcoat it: Despite working out for his hometown Chicago Bulls, the Lithuanian product didn't expect to be available at the 11th pick in Wednesday's NBA Draft.

"They came to watch me in Los Angeles work out privately," Buzelis said. "But no, I didn't expect actually to be here. Now that I'm here, I'm very excited."

Buzelis, 19, grew up in Chicago and played one season for Hinsdale Central, where his younger brother currently plays. He later transferred to prep schools and played last season for G League Ignite. He can't believe he's joining the Bulls.

"Super thankful," he said via Zoom. "I'm very grateful. I worked really hard to get here. I just can't thank the Bulls organization enough.

"This means the world. Me being born and raised there, it just makes it so much better. It means everything to me. I can't even explain it."

Buzelis cited Derrick Rose, who he said "was a big impact on Chicago basketball," as his favorite Bull growing up. And Buzelis believes his G League background will prepare him for next season.

"Play against the best players in the world and getting trained by the best coaches in the world and having some vets who have been on NBA rosters and know what it's like to go through the route we went on," Buzelis said. "So I think I gained an advantage being there."

In a predraft interview with NBC Sports Chicago, Buzelis cited J.R. Smith as someone whose style he admires. That's not a name you hear often, which is why he was asked about it in a question that also asked him to list his strengths and weaknesses.

"I need to work on getting stronger. That's going to come eventually. I need to work on shooting," he said. "What translates is blocking shots, pushing the ball in transition, getting right into the offense. Being a good teammate.

"The J.R. Smith thing is just me being a basketball head. I love basketball. So I look at a lot of different players."

The 6-foot-9-inch wing is a first-generation American, with his parents both playing professionally in Lithuania. That's the same country that produced Bulls executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas.

"I don't know him that much. My Dad knows him from being with the Lithuania national team," Buzelis said. "I had some chats with (Karnišovas)."

Buzelis said he will work to contribute as soon as possible.

"Whatever the coach tells me to do, I'm going to do to the best of my abilities," he said. "I'm ready to work and give it my all."

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