Canberra teenager Dante Exum is going into the NBA draft in America. Photo: Jeffrey Chan
Canberra schoolboy Dante Exum plans to sit down with Kobe Bryant to learn the secrets behind the superstar's successful leap from high school to the NBA.
LA Laker great Bryant became the first guard in history to bypass college and be drafted straight out of high school in 1996. Exum, who completed high school last year, is preparing for a similarly rapid rise to the big stage after announcing last week he would forego college and nominate for June's NBA Draft.
The point guard has signed with Bryant's manager Rob Pelinka, who has told the 18-year-old that Bryant is willing to give him advice on how to handle the leap. The Lakers, in the midst of a disappointing season, have already contacted Australia basketball great Luc Longley to discuss Exum, who led Canberra's Lake Ginninderra College to last year's national schoolboys title.
''A reason why I signed with the agent I'm with is he has Kobe Bryant, and he's been through this when he came into the NBA,'' Exum said.
''I guess having him as a mentor who can guide me through what he did and how he became successful is something which is pretty good. I haven't chatted to him yet, but the agent said Kobe knows who I am and he said he'd definitely have a chat to me.''
Exum is widely tipped to be a top 10 draft pick, and will head to the US next week to prepare for the biggest moment of his career.
NBA clubs have been banned from drafting American high school players, since the 2006 collective bargaining agreement, which states players must be at least 19 and a year out of high school.
However the rule doesn't apply to international hopefuls, paving the way for Exum to accelerate his career. He sought the counsel of family and several Australian Boomers teammates before deciding that skipping college was in his best interests.
''The main thing was some players don't perform in college, it is a different game and I was also thinking about injuries,'' Exum said. ''Being over there I'd be under the microscope, in my opinion it was a smart move to forego it and head straight to the NBA.
''My dad was a big influence, but Joe Ingles, Patty Mills and Andrew Bogut helped me through this decision. Bogut went through the pressure of being the No.1 pick, he knows what it's all about.''
Exum is keen to play for a team in desperate need of a point guard, where he can play immediate minutes. The Lakers are having a disappointing season and could receive a high draft pick, and veteran point guard Steve Nash is in the twilight of his career. ''I want to go to a place that needs me, I don't want to go somewhere like the [LA] Clippers who have Chris Paul and be stuck behind him,'' he said. ''I want to go to a team which is going to want and need me, and hopefully get minutes in my first season.''
Exum admitted it still seems surreal he was playing school ball just weeks ago, and will soon become an instant millionaire.
''It's crazy to think even two months ago I was at the schools championship just playing with my friends and having fun, now it's going to turn into a business,'' he said. ''I love the sport so money or not it doesn't matter to me, as long as I'm playing and am healthy. The good thing is I don't have my licence so I won't be buying [flash] cars any time soon.''