Dalen Terry, the No. 18 pick, arrives ready to get to work for the Chicago Bulls: ‘I breathe, sleep, cry basketball’

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When Chicago Bulls draft pick Dalen Terry turned 10, he had only one request for his birthday present — a basketball tournament.

So his mother, Fenice Yancy, rented out a space at the local rec center to organize a 3-on-3 tournament for Terry and his friends, picking up a referee’s whistle herself to officiate the competition.

“She gave me all the calls that day,” Terry said Monday during his introductory news conference at the Advocate Center, laughing with his mother and father, Al Terry, in attendance offstage.

By age 10, Terry already knew he wanted to play in the NBA. He spent every day with a ball in his hands, so taking a day off for his birthday wasn’t an option. Nearly a decade later — Terry will turn 20 next month — the wing’s dream came true when the Bulls drafted him with the No. 18 pick in the 2022 NBA draft.

“I love basketball. I’ve loved basketball since I was born,” Terry said. “I breathe, sleep, cry, everything basketball. I played basketball every day, but for my birthday, I wanted to play basketball again.”

On Terry’s first day in Chicago, Bulls coach Billy Donovan and executive vice president of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas both praised the former Arizona player for his “high motor” and athleticism. Both of those features will help the Bulls’ perimeter defense, which they need to shore up in rotations without Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso.

Although Terry was projected to be picked lower in a deep draft class, Donovan said the young wing has stuck out ever since he was recruited by Xavier coach Sean Miller, a longtime friend of the Bulls coach.

“It’s the same situation with Ayo (Dosunmu) last year with the competitive mentality,” Donovan said. “The one thing that really stood out is just his energy, his enthusiasm and his eagerness to want to learn and get better and grow. If you talk to anyone about Dalen, the thing that comes out loud and clear is his passion and competitiveness and want to win.”

Donovan and Karnišovas haven’t determined an immediate role for Terry, who is currently fashioned as a versatile wing who assists and defends more than he shoots. The Bulls have been clear Terry needs to develop his shooting after averaging only 6.2 shots per game as a sophomore at Arizona (albeit on 50.2% shooting).

Although Terry often served as a glue player on a stacked Wildcats roster, Karnišovas noted Terry’s ability to step up after an injury to star point guard Kerr Kriisa as a key factor in the front office’s draft decision.

“When you have so many good players, he’s just doing everything to win games,” Karnišovas said. “Even through some injuries, he adjusted and performed at a high level. His ability to adapt and play off every game with the same energy — that’s what attracted us to him.”

Terry’s role will be more clearly established in the next two months in NBA Summer League. Fellow young players Patrick Williams and Ayo Dosunmu will not participate in summer league games this year — instead joining most of the roster to train in Chicago this summer..

Terry said he already has connected with most of the Bulls roster, although he hasn’t heard from veteran leader DeMar DeRozan, whom he praised highly on draft night. The rookie is now focused on adapting to Chicago after his move this week.

He already took one step toward fitting in with his jersey number selection — No. 25, a nod to former Chicago high school talent Ben Wilson and Bulls star Steve Kerr.

Terry will begin training with the Bulls this week in preparation for the NBA Summer League tournament, which tips off July 7 in Las Vegas.

“How he’s going to fit in, we’re going to find that out,” Karnišovas said. “It’s one thing at a time. He’s going to get into the gym. He’s going to go through summer league. This period of time in between training camp and now, it’s very important.”