“With the 49th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs select Quinndary Weatherspoon from Mississippi State University.”
As the words from NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum rung throughout the Barclays Center, Weatherspoon rose from his seat, his emotionless face a foil to the cheering family and friends surrounding him – precisely what you would expect from the man whose demeanor has drawn Kawhi Leonard comparisons.
Beside him, rising at the same time, was a man wearing a suit, glasses and a bigger grin than anybody else in the building – a stark contrast to the stoic Weatherspoon.
“Yes! Whooooo!” the grinning man shouted, no longer able to contain the excitement that had begun sprouting in him 40 seconds earlier, when he had learned that the Spurs would be drafting Weatherspoon.
He dapped up Weatherspoon, then stood still for a few moments, beaming, soaking it in. He snapped back to reality, gave out a couple of hugs and jovially slapped Weatherspoon on the back.
The man was Daniel Hazan, Weatherspoon’s agent and the founder of Hazan Sports Management.
When Hazan found out that Weatherspoon was about to be drafted, he immediately told his client the news. For an NBAer-to-be on draft night, that moment – the moment you find out your hard work over the years has finally paid off – is a special one. The Mississippi State product reacted accordingly.
“[He had] no reaction at all,” Hazan told Def Pen Hoops. “But that’s just Quinndary.”
Kawhi Leonard-esque, indeed.
“I think it’s just the way that I am,” Weatherspoon told Def Pen Hoops of his subdued reaction. “And the stuff that I’ve been through, it’s hard to get a reaction out of me.”
Weatherspoon hails from Canton, Mississippi, a city in which, as of the 2010 census, the per-capita annual income was just over $15,000, and 31.4% of the population was under the poverty line.
Emblazoned black ink outlining Mississippi sprawls across Weatherspoon’s left leg, with Canton represented in the form of a red star.
“[Getting the tattoo is] just something that I did so I won’t ever forget where I came from,” Weatherspoon said. “It’s a city where a lot of people don’t make it out, so … I just hope I give the kids the opportunity or give them the confidence that they can make it out.”
Weatherspoon is the third player from Canton to be drafted to the NBA and the first since 1980.
Hazan and Weatherspoon’s formative years couldn’t have been much more different. One grew up in bustling New York City, the other is from a small Mississippi city. One dreamed of playing in the NBA as a child, the other admits he “didn’t even watch basketball” and was much more passionate about baseball than hoops.
That baseball junkie is now in the NBA, and the man who wanted to be in his shoes is managing his career.
Most young basketball fans dream of becoming NBA players – until those dreams are eventually quashed by harsh reality. Hazan received his dose of that reality at an earlier age than most, and not for the usual reasons.
Hazan’s family is Jewish, and his parents told him he couldn’t play basketball on the Sabbath – a day set aside for rest and worship – and therefore could never be an NBA player. The logic is flawed in hindsight, but Hazan took his parents’ word for it.
So, at 8 years old, Hazan left his hoop dreams behind.
Well, sort of.
He moved onto what he calls “the next best thing” and began telling his third-grade classmates of his new dream to become an NBA agent.
Most of our third-grade dreams don’t become our careers – there simply isn’t a high enough demand for astronauts, firefighters or ballerinas.
But Hazan knew what he wanted to do, and he did it.
A die-hard Knicks fan, Hazan recalls chasing JR Smith and Smith’s brother Chris down the street in the hunt of autographs.
“Two years later, we’re managing their careers.”
Hazan’s meteoric rise happened in a flash.
The 27-year-old, who founded the agency out of his dorm room during his junior year of college, is something of a prodigy.
As an undergrad, he founded a company called Java Ads, which put advertisements on disposable coffee cups. Those cups are now located in over 2,000 cafes in the New York area, Hazan said.
He went on to sell his shares in the company for $5 million, according to Ozy. In 2014, he became the youngest agent ever to sign an NBA player. He was in class when he signed that first client, Elijah Millsap. In fact, Hazan was ducking out of class to make business calls so frequently that his fellow students thought he had a bladder problem. When he got Millsap a training camp deal with the Milwaukee Bucks, a RealGM-perusing classmate approached him, and the secret was out: The whole school soon knew of the phenom sports agent.
Although Hazan has had a client in the NBA in every year of his career, Weatherspoon was the first of his players to be drafted – another enormous milestone, one that Hazan had been waiting on for a long time.
“You can’t imagine how badly we wanted to get a draft pick,” he said. “Six months of just nonstop imagining this moment. We just knew how big this was for our career and how big this was to get this kid drafted. Once we heard his name called, our emotions just completely [took] over. It’s a huge sigh of relief.”
Much of the NBA agency business is controlled by a handful of monopolies. Klutch, CAA, BDA, Excel, Priority, Catalyst, Wasserman.
Those established agencies are the major players, and cracking that rotation is a difficult task.
But Hazan and his business partner/longtime friend Andrew Hoenig have turned their perceived weaknesses into advantages: Being a small agency doesn’t mean they lack resources or credibility, it enables them to provide their clients with a level of attention that larger agencies can’t match. And their youth doesn’t mean they’re inexperienced or naive, it means they understand things like social media and see eye to eye with their college-aged clientele a lot better than older agents who came up in the pre-digital era.
“We’re young and energetic,” Hazan said. “We’re a boutique agency, so if you sign with us, you’re getting extra attention. All eyes are on you. … If you sign with a bigger agency, you might fall to the bottom of the priority list.”
But still, convincing a player that you can take care of him better than the big boys can, when you don’t have the same track record, can seem like a daunting task. It takes a special kind of player to eschew larger agencies and place his faith and future in the hands of the little guy who found him first and believed in him when he was far from a major prospect.
Enter Quinndary Weatherspoon.
Hazan will never forget the first time he watched Weatherspoon play. It was 2018, a game at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Weatherspoon made his name as a scorer at Mississippi State, but it was his defense that first caught Hazan’s attention.
“He literally looked like a cornerback on the court,” Hazan said. “He was just so active. He had such quick hands defensively, always stripping the ball.”
Hazan kept watching the game and kept noticing Weatherspoon. The ease with which he scored, the passing ability, the way he let the game come to him – it blew Hazan away.
“He knows how to play the game the right way,” Hazan said. “It really stood out. His body frame and everything just came off to me as someone who was going to be successful in the NBA.”
Hazan liked what he saw, so he went up to some of the scouts in attendance to inquire about Weatherspoon.
“They didn’t even know who the hell he was,” Hazan said.
Hazan knew he had to capitalize on his discovery. He became a regular at Mississippi State games. He introduced himself to Weatherspoon’s family and became friendly with his parents. He had been over to their house multiple times before he and Weatherspoon even met.
Hazan showed interest in Weatherspoon early, and Weatherspoon returned the favor with his loyalty.
“I trusted [Hazan Sports], and I was cool with ’em.” Weatherspoon said. “I respected what they had [done,] so I just rolled with ’em.”
Hazan’s bet – that the agency’s “boutique” identity would appeal to players – paid off. Weatherspoon didn’t want to partner with a bloated agency that might treat him as an afterthought.
“I had some big agencies come at me, but I just didn’t want to get lost into what they had going on with other, first-round draft picks,” Weatherspoon said.
And now, the unknown kid who impressed Hazan so much that day in New Jersey is an NBA player.
Weatherspoon was a busy man in the predraft process. He underwent 18 workouts, a fact that recently promoted Spurs General Manager Brian Wright (assistant GM at the time of the interview) told Def Pen Hoops impressed the organization.
“He was somebody that didn’t run from a challenge. He didn’t run from the fatigue of doing two workouts in three days, or three in four. Flying across the country, he took every challenge,” Wright said.
Although Weatherspoon, at No. 49, was somewhat of a late draft pick, Wright confirmed that he was in the mix for the Spurs at 29, where they ended up taking Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson instead.
“We had [Weatherspoon] pegged somewhere in that range, and so to get him at 49 was a huge get for us, because we thought he has the talent of a first-rounder for sure.”
Wright said he wasn’t sure exactly why Weatherspoon fell so far in the draft but thought his age probably had something to do with it. Wright said teams sometimes “know too much” about the four-year college players like Weatherspoon, which can lead to overanalysis.
Whatever the reason for Weatherspoon falling to the bottom half of the second round, Wright said the Spurs are just “extremely happy” they were able to get him.
The Spurs have a long history of drafting diamonds in the rough and developing them, and both parties are hoping Weatherspoon will be the next name on that list.
Weatherspoon sees himself as a player who has flown under the radar and pointed out that the Spurs “take those type[s] of guys and make them into people that can last in the league for a long time.”
And the Spurs believe he’ll be a perfect fit in the famed “Spurs culture.”
“He’s an unselfish guy, he’s a great teammate, he’s a hard worker, he’s a competitive guy,” Wright said. “He just gets it, you know? There’s a maturity level to him.”
Weatherspoon has all the makings of one of those Spursy second-round steals. In his final year at Mississippi State, he averaged 18.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game on .508/.396/.809 shooting splits. He ranked in the 96th percentile in hand-off plays and in the 94th percentile for both cutting plays and spot-up-shooting plays, according to Synergy Sports. He also graded in the 86th percentile as a pick-and-roll ballhandler, including passes.
Shoot-first combo guards often lack efficiency, but not Weatherspoon. He shot an astounding 56.4% from 2-point range as a senior and 57.5% as a junior.
Weatherspoon attributes that efficiency from inside the arc to his ability to convert in close, saying that he prides himself on his ability to finish at the rim (although he takes pride in his shooting ability above all else). The numbers back up his confidence in his finishing ability. In all four of his years at Mississippi State, Weatherspoon never shot below 60% at the rim, according to Hoop-Math.
It’s not the shooting or the finishing that’s the most intriguing thing about Weatherspoon’s game. In fact, it isn’t any one thing. It’s the combination of many.
“Versatility” is a bit of a buzzword in NBA chatter, but for good reason. Versatility is paramount to a winning NBA team, and it’s what the Spurs see in Weatherspoon.
“He’s a guy that always plays at his own pace,” Wright said. “And he has a feel for the game that you could see right away, where he’s versatile, can do a lot of things.”
The NBA today is an arms race for versatile players, and the Spurs found a weapon in Weatherspoon.
“As you look at the league, everybody’s trying to add as much versatility as they can,” Wright said. “And from the guard spot, he could play a little combo point guard, he could play the ‘2,’ he could guard a couple positions, he could dribble, pass and shoot. There really wasn’t much that he didn’t do well. … So we were really drawn to just how well-versed he was and how well-rounded he was as a player on both ends of the floor.”
Weatherspoon’s defense was overshadowed by his stellar offensive highlights in college, but as the eagle-eyed Hazan noticed when watching his now-client for the first time, Weatherspoon is a menace on that end of the floor. His frame – 6 feet, 4 inches with a 6-foot-9 wingspan – allows him to contain players on the ball and clog passing lanes off it.
And in Summer League, his dedication to playing hard, focused defense was on display.
Quinndary Weatherspoon hounding. pic.twitter.com/vDxTdKHJDo
— Ben Pfeifer (@Ben_Pfeifer_) July 2, 2019
For now, Weatherspoon’s focus is earning a role with the Spurs, and he knows consistent defense is a good way to get there sooner.
“If you can defend, and [you] play defense, it’ll get you on the floor quickly, so it’s just doing the little things that I think will help,” Weatherspoon said.
Carving out a role with San Antonio probably won’t happen right away, however. The Spurs have a loaded backcourt rotation, with Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes and Marco Belinelli all vying for minutes. And then there’s star swingman DeMar DeRozan, who mostly plays the “3” these days but still spent 20% of his minutes as a shooting guard last season, per Basketball Reference.
That the Spurs drafted Weatherspoon despite their surfeit of guards is certainly a vote of confidence, but the downside is that Weatherspoon was relegated to a two-way contract, meaning he’ll likely spend more time with the team’s G League affiliate Austin Spurs in Year 1 than he will in San Antonio.
But Weatherspoon doesn’t mind taking things slow.
“When I’m in Austin or when I’m in San Antonio, [I’m] just trying to find a way to get better and find my niche with the team to help them win,” he said.
The NBA is a grind, and the adjustment to that life is often a difficult one for players, but it’s coming easily to Weatherspoon so far.
“I don’t really do too much anyway,” he said with a laugh. “I’m really laid back and lowkey. It’s kind of coming naturally, and I’m able to adjust to it easily because I don’t really do much but work out.”
Hazan and Weatherspoon have ventured a long way together. And on draft night, they reached an important port of call. But getting drafted isn’t the end of Weatherspoon’s story, and getting one client selected isn’t the end of Hazan’s. For both, this is closer to the beginning of a journey.
Looking at the two men on draft night, the flashy New York businessman letting out an exhilarated scream and the humble, stone-faced kid from Canton couldn’t be much more different. But they’re both exceptionally talented, hard-working wunderkinds. They both found their ways into the basketball world – and to each other. And they both have blindingly bright futures.
Together, they are a formidable team.