After Donte DiVincenzo returned home to Delaware, following a pre-draft visit in Milwaukee earlier this month, he presented his dad, a lifelong Bucks fan, with the long-sleeve white T-shirt the team had given him.
"When I came here for a workout, he begged me to get him a shirt," DiVincenzo said Monday at the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Sports Science Center. "I went back and gave it to him, and he didn’t take that shirt off for a long time. He loves it; he even brought it here today."
An almost-giddy John DiVincenzo confirmed the story. "I took it out of the bag and put it on and I actually jumped up and down," he said smiling. "I was really happy."
Now, he’ll just have to get a No. 9 jersey to wear over it.
On Monday morning, the Bucks formally introduced their newest player, whom they selected with the 17th pick of the first round in the 2018 NBA Draft. The Villanova guard, who shot up league draft boards after a red-hot NCAA Tournament performance – in which he scored 31 points in the national championship game and was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four – said he was happy to be in Milwaukee and eager to get his professional career started with the Bucks.
"I can’t wait," he said. "It’s extremely exciting. I just want to come in here, fit in, and any way I can possibly help them take that next step, I’ll do. It doesn’t matter what my role is. I can’t wait."
Said Bucks general manager Jon Horst, "Based on Donte’s character, athleticism, his skill set, the person that he is, the way that he’s competed and won at a high level, we could not be more excited to welcome Donte and his family to the Milwaukee Bucks today."
Horst reiterated Monday what he told the media on draft night – that the team had long-coveted DiVincenzo, targeting him with their first-round pick and hoping he’d fall to No. 17.
"Donte was a guy that, as we went through our process – not only this season but last season, the video work we’d done, bringing him to Milwaukee – there were a number of things that stood out to us about him," Horst said. "On the floor, the skill set that he has – he can pass, handle and shoot, he’s a very good athlete, he has positional size, he’s an elite competitor.
"Off the court, you can tell he comes from a great family, a great upbringing, he’s a man of high character. He’s going to be a tremendous teammate; we think he’s going to push our guys to be even more competitive than we already are. And the winning environment that he comes from at Villanova stuck out to us. … When we knew we had an opportunity to draft him, there was no doubt that we were going to."
At Villanova, which went 36-4 and won the 2018 NCAA National Championship, DiVincenzo came off the bench, averaging 13.4 points and 3.5 assists per game while shooting 40 percent on 3-pointers, ultimately earning the 2017-18 Big East 6th Man of the Year award.
Both Horst and new head coach Mike Budenholzer repeatedly praised DiVincenzo’s intangible qualities, saying the rookie would contribute to the team’s locker-room culture immediately, though they expected him to make a positive impact on the floor, as well.
"Coming off the bench for a great team, the sacrifices he’s made in the past, that really spoke to all of us, especially me as a coach," Budenholzer said. "He and I shared some stories, and I think it’s invaluable to have a player of his caliber coming off the bench at Villanova. It’s pretty unique to have a young man who’s willing to do that.
"I think Donte will earn whatever role he gets. He has a long-term future with us. He brings a lot to the table that we really value."
DiVincenzo made a major impression by hitting 10 of 15 shots, including 5 of 7 three-pointers, against Michigan, coming through in the biggest moment on the sport’s biggest stage. His 31 points matched the second-most ever in an NCAA title game. He then wowed NBA talent evaluators at the Draft Combine by posting a 42-inch max vertical leap – tied for the best among participating players – and showing his competitive spirit.
With that display, DiVincenzo started jumping up draft boards, culminating with the Bucks selecting him 17th. He said his life has already changed "big time" since being picked, and he hasn’t yet had time to process everything.
"Everywhere I go now, people notice me. It’s awesome," he said. "Outside the hotel today, people were yelling my name, welcoming me to Milwaukee. It’s a really good feeling."
DiVincenzo said he thinks coming off the bench in college will actually help him adjust to the NBA, since he isn’t entering the league with an ego, not having been the main offensive option for the Wildcats. He’s excited to play with Giannis Antetokounmpo, who reached out to welcome him to the Bucks, and said his job will be to provide effort, create opportunities for the Greek Freak and others and do the little things to help the team win.
"Honestly, that’s a good question because I don’t know," he said when asked what his role will be. "They can just put me anywhere and give me a role – knock down shots, defend, rebound, just get my feet wet – and once I establish myself, my role will grow.
"I mean, they have a superstar on their team, they have a young team and they’re a playoff team. Just to be able to play alongside somebody like Giannis and to be able to play alongside people who just want to win, you see their mentality, I want to be part of that. I’m just coming in here wanting to work and fit in, that’s all."
After he got drafted last Thursday night – and especially because he was drafted by the Bucks – DiVincenzo said his dad was "like a little kid. He was talking about the history, shooting out names left and right, and I was like, ‘Pops, I don’t know these names.’"
John DiVincenzo fondly remembers watching Milwaukee with his own father in the 1960s on "the console TV with the antenna and you had four channels." He loved Lew Alcindor, his favorite player was Sidney Moncrief, he really jumped on the bandwagon when Don Nelson was coaching and he was spotted not too long ago in Philadelphia wearing what he thinks was a Ricky Pierce Bucks jersey with "mustard all over me."
Now, he was standing in the Bucks’ state-of-the-art training facility, with "Fear the Deer" written on the wall and a world-class arena nearly completed next door, saying "it’s unbelievable to be here."
John DiVincenzo said his son will be an excellent fit in Milwaukee and help the Bucks toward their championship aspirations.
"Donte will give this organization everything for every minute that he’s here," he said. "I’ve watched the young man grow up; diving on the floor is a norm for him, and I believe that will help this team reach the next level. This is beautiful, I’m just happy I’m able to … I’m just so happy to be around here.
"I’m a Bucks fan until I leave this planet. And now I have the Big Ragu to cheer for."
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.