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Matas Buzelis, a Derrick Rose fan, was happy to join hometown Bulls – NBC Sports Chicago

Presented by Nationwide insurance agent Jeff Vukovich

Matas Buzelis wasn’t kidding: Despite working 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 train privately in Los Angeles,” Buzelis said. “But no, I didn’t expect to actually 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 for G League Ignite last season. He can’t believe he’s joining the Bulls.

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

“It means the world. Being born and raised there, it just makes it so much better. It means the world to me. I can’t even explain it.”

Buzelis called Derrick Rose, who he said “had a huge impact on basketball in Chicago,” 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 be trained by the best coaches in the world and have some vets who have been on NBA rosters and know what it’s like to go the route we went,” Buzelis said. “So I think I gained an advantage there.”

In a pre-draft interview with NBC Sports Chicago, Buzelis singled out J.R. Smith as someone whose style he admires. It’s not a name you hear often, so he was asked about it in a question that also asked him to list his strengths and weaknesses.

“I have to work on getting stronger. That will happen eventually. I have to work on shooting,” he said. “What that translates to is blocking shots, pushing the ball in transition, going straight into attack. Being a good teammate.

“The JR Smith thing is I’m just a basketball head. I love basketball. So I watch a lot of different players.”

The 6-foot-1 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 well. My father knows him because he played for the Lithuania national team,” Buzelis said. “I had some conversations with (Karnišovas).”

Buzelis said he will contribute as soon as possible.

“Whatever coach tells me to do, I’ll do it to the best of my ability,” he said. “I’m ready to work and give it my all.”

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