'My dream came true': Undrafted Pacers Terry Taylor, Duane Washington Jr. proud of NBA deals
INDIANAPOLIS — Terry Taylor is arguably the greatest player in Austin Peay history, and Duane Washington Jr. was a standout at one of the premier programs in the country, Ohio State.
Neither player heard their name called during last year's NBA Draft, but by the end of the 2021-22 season they were rotational players for the Pacers and had earned standard multiyear deals in the league. It was an unexpected rise for the undrafted rookies, although maybe it wasn't. Because regardless of the odds, there were always two people who believed Washington and Taylor could do it: themselves.
"Honestly, I didn't (impress myself)," Taylor said in an exit interview with Pacers sideline reporter Pat Boylan. "I know how impactful I am and what I do and what I bring to a team and the game. So I wasn't really too much impressed because I've been doing it my whole life. You can check everywhere I went, I've won or I've impacted the game in a positive way."
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Taylor and Washington began the season with Indiana's G League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, and were eventually signed to two-way contracts, meaning they would split time between the G League and the Pacers. Neither had noteworthy NBA debuts, with Washington going scoreless in 51 seconds at Brooklyn on Oct. 29, and Taylor going scoreless in 50 seconds against the Nets on Jan. 5.
But as the year went on — and due to COVID-19, injuries and trades — they were called upon to play big minutes in the NBA and took advantage. Washington tallied 20 points and a game-high four 3s at Cleveland in his second start Jan. 2, and Taylor totaled 21 points and 14 rebounds in his first start against Chicago on Feb. 4.
Washington said he never focused on how his NBA career began but rather where he plans to take it.
"A lot of people have great stories about being drafted super early, super high-round picks and stuff like that," Washington told Boylan. "There's also stories that have undrafted guys that have had a real impact in this league. (So) just for me, not comparing myself to anybody. Understanding that everybody's journey is different and looks a lot different for everybody.
"I'm writing my own story and it's a beautiful thing."
Washington averaged 9.9 points and shot 37.7% on 3-pointers in 48 games during his rookie season. The 6-3 guard notched four 20-point games, highlighted by a 21-point night at New Orleans on Jan. 24, when he drained a franchise rookie-record seven 3s.
Taylor, an undersized 6-5 forward, averaged 9.6 points and 5.2 rebounds in 33 games, and had six outings with at least five offensive rebounds. He registered career highs of 24 points and 16 rebounds against Orlando on Feb. 2.
After Taylor and Washington proved they belonged, and with two games left in the season, the Pacers announced that their two-way contracts had been converted into standard multiyear deals.
"My agent called me and was like, 'Yo, we're gonna get this done Thursday (April 7),' so he was telling me congrats," Taylor said. "After we hung up the phone, I just prayed because it finally happened.
"My dream came true."
The 2022 NBA Draft is slated for June 23 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It will be a pivotal night for the Pacers, who are guaranteed their first single-digit pick since 1989. But for the players who won't hear their names called, Washington thinks his and Taylor's journeys can serve as inspiration.
"It was hard for me to accept that, going undrafted and feeling like I should've been a part of those 60 guys," Washington said. " ... To everybody out there who feels like they're being compared and on the short end of the stick, just keep working, put your head down, keep that chip on your shoulder and take it to the top."
Follow IndyStar Pacers beat writer James Boyd on Twitter: @RomeovilleKid. Reach him via email: email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: 'My dream came true': Undrafted Pacers Terry Taylor, Duane Washington Jr. proud of NBA deals