It took some time, but Wesley Iwundu has arrived to the NBA

Feb 11, 2017; Morgantown, WV, USA; Kansas State Wildcats forward Wesley Iwundu (25) dribbles the ball around West Virginia Mountaineers forward Lamont West (15) during the first half at WVU Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 11, 2017; Morgantown, WV, USA; Kansas State Wildcats forward Wesley Iwundu (25) dribbles the ball around West Virginia Mountaineers forward Lamont West (15) during the first half at WVU Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports /

Wesley Iwundu does not fit the profile of a top NBA prospect. But the senior worked hard to establish himself and get to the NBA and to the Orlando Magic.

Wesley Iwundu has been left off a lot of lists in his career.

He started his basketball career as a somewhat unknown three-star prospect committed to the Kansas State Wildcats. He was the 36th-ranked small forward in the country in the Class of 2013, a class that included Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon. Iwundu was not even in the Rivals150.

While Aaron Gordon was finding his legs in the NBA, Iwundu was trying to find his footing in the Big 12. Even then it took Iwundu time to find his footing. He did not eclipse 10 points per game until his junior year. He finished at 13.0 points per game as a senior.

The NBA was far from a certain thing for him even entering the season. Even entering the Draft.

After a third-team All-Big 12 appearance last year, Iwundu had no other option but to try to make it in the NBA. His basketball career seemed to be coming closer to an end — at least, in the United States.

The dream was dimming.

That was when Iwundu’s work began again. It started with an impressive showing at the NBA Draft Combine. Then impressive workouts with the Orlando Magic — twice — and others around the NBA had him slowly climbing. Media reports suggested he could sneak into the first round.

The Magic made that dream come true with the 33rd pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday.

"“It’s a dream come true,” Iwundu told Orlando Magic Daily following the NBA Draft on Thursday. “I’m just taking it all in. I’m excited to get to orlando, excited to meet my teammates, my new coaches, excited to meet everybody. I’m just happy right now.”"

The journey to get to that moment was a long and arduous one. From being lightly recruited — a three-star prospect according to 247Sports — to having to work his way from the bottom of the rotation to a full-time starter to a role player to a star.

And now back to the bottom again. Iwundu is back having to prove himself again to make it in the NBA. But that is work he has had to do throughout his career.

Iwundu came off the bench for his first game at Kansas State. He recorded a double-double in that first game, took over the starter’s job from there and never looked back.

Only that was just the beginning. He averaged just 6.7 points per game, using his larger 6-foot-7 frame to make an impact defensively and slowly grow his game. Iwundu, unlike so many other NBA prospects, needed all four years to get his game NBA-ready.

"“Wes has done what you hope every college basketball player will do,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber told Kellis Robinett of The Wichita (Kans.) Eagle. “He is the old school guy that took a step all four years he was in school and became a complete player.”"

His scoring average bumped from 6.7 points per game as a freshman to 5.8 as a sophomore to 11.9 as a junior and, finally, 13.0 as a senior.

In the process, Iwundu remade his shot. His coach told The Wichita Eagle that Iwundu’s rotation was extremely poor. They had to draw a line on the ball to help him correct some bad habits. That process hit rock bottom in 2016 when he shot 20.0 percent from beyond the arc for the season.

Iwundu remade his shot and hit 37.6 percent from beyond the arc as a senior. Questions about his outside shooting almost certainly remain.

While Iwundu projects as a strong defender — he posted a +3.4 defensive box plus-minus, according to Sports-Reference, and that was the lowest of his career, and he measured at the Combine with a 7-foot-1 wingspan — there are still questions as to whether he can make it on the offensive end.

On the other hand, this is not a top scorer trying to fit into a role. Iwundu played a major role as the Wildcats’ defensive stopper. And while he played on the ball a lot his senior year, it is clearly not his strong suit. His NBA effectiveness may be more as a perimeter defender and supporting player — making his shot ever more important.

The fact Iwundu improved on something every year at Kansas State should be a sign of his work ethic. And what he can still work on in the future.

Iwundu used all four years to get better. And actually did get better, showing a clear progression from start to finish.

"“I think that was the beautiful thing about staying all four years, growing as a person on and off the court,” Iwundu told Orlando Magic Daily. “Just coming within myself and finding out my game. By my fourth year, I was very comfortable doing many things. Maybe my first two years, it was a different role. Maybe I wasn’t the go-to guy with the ball in my hands. I was doing the rebounding and the passing to get more guys involved. By my junior and senior year, it was more scoring in there, but also doing the other things as well. Just being a versatile guy on the defensive and offensive end is something I take pride in.”"

Iwundu makes no bones about it. His game starts on the defensive end. That desire on the defensive end is certainly something attractive for coach Frank Vogel. He said at Friday’s press conference he puts a premium on players who are versatile defensively. Both Jonathan Isaac and Wesley Iwundu fit that mold.

President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman too pointed toward the players’ versatility as among the reasons the team drafted these two players. But he also noted the fact both Jonathan Isaac and Iwundu have overcome doubts in their careers speak volume about who they are as people. That was worth adding in itself.

With Iwundu, it has certainly been a lot of doubt. He does not fit the typical statistical profile of a future NBA player. And, as a senior, he will have to prove himself quickly. There is likely little “upside” to grow from. Iwundu is certainly a more developed player than his draftmate, Jonathan Isaac.

But the work for Iwundu is never-ending. He is ready to prove his mettle once again.

"“The real work starts now,” Iwundu told Orlando Magic Daily. “I feel like first round or not, you still have to work as hard as you can to give yourself an opportunity to be on the floor. I think with me, that just puts more fire in to come in and work even harder. I’ve always been a hard worker. That does not stop now that I have been drafted.”"

This may be exactly why the Magic felt comfortable drafting him, even as they were seemingly trading out of every other pick they had.

He is a player who understands his strengths and his role, with the willingness to continue improving and a chip on his shoulder as someone to whom the NBA was really just a dream.

Next: Orlando Magic's process just beginning, to some chagrin

Until his name was called. And Wesley Iwundu finally arrived.