The Wizards made waves when they finalized their opening day roster last week. They opted to keep Sheldon McClellan, Danuel House, and Daniel Ochefu — three undrafted rookies from the 2016 class — over Jarell Eddie, Johnny O’Bryant, and Casper Ware, who all had previous NBA experience. It’s rare to see a team with an undrafted rookie on the roster, much less three, but each rookie who made the cut has a chance to have an impact this season.
Two of these rookies have some previous history together. They played against one another in their early years. House and McClellan grew up in Houston, playing an exciting brand of basketball.
McClellan went to Bellaire High School. He started his collegiate career at the University of Texas, before transferring to Miami. During his senior season, McClellan scored 16.3 points per game and shot 56.8 percent from the field.
House is a 6’7 forward, who attended Hightower High School and started his college career at the University of Houston in 2012 and then would join the Texas A&M Aggies. He led the Aggies scoring during his junior and senior seasons, averaging 15.6 points last season.
House talked about his unique connection with McClellan in an interview with CSN Mid-Atlantic’s Chase Hughes:
"It’s exciting. We’re like brothers. Just to see each other succeed, there’s no greater feeling in the world. To see two people from Houston, Texas go undrafted and then make the roster, that’s big for our hometown and especially for our community. If you keep pushing and fighting, you never know what’s going to happen."
As for McClellan, it was more of the same feeling of being humbled by the experience:
"It’s a special moment, as far as both of us being from Houston and both growing up playing against each other. Now we have a chance to grow in this organization together. It’s just been a bonding thing from when we were little to now."
Both McClellan and House bring something to the Wizards that is dearly needed: Wing depth and athleticism. They can both play the two and three. That is a huge benefit for a team that has dealt with its fair share of injuries at those positions in recent years.
It has been a whirlwind year for Daniel Ochefu as well. He won an NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship with Villanova and won a spot for the Wizards, at a position that is of a huge need. With Ian Mahinmi out for about 4-6 weeks, Ochefu will most likely need to play at least a few minutes during Mahinmi’s absence, especially if one of the other big men gets dinged up. His ability to play efficient on the offensive end and protect the paint so well in high-pressure situations should serve him well when he’s called upon this season.
The national champion is also a local talent who grew up in Baltimore. He would relocate to Pennsylvania and play high school basketball at Westtown School and Downingtown East High School before he joined the Wildcats.
At the end of an NBA bench, you want these high motor, intelligent players who are willing to scrap for each possession when they get playing time. ‘Scrappy’ is word usually used for guys who are not athletic, but that’s not the case here. They will be willing to go the extra mile to prove that they are NBA talents this season. The Wizards missed that edge last season, and hopefully these rookies will help push the Wizards to a new level thanks to their energy this season.