Former Evergreen High School standout will sign professional contract with NBA’s Charlotte Hornets
VANCOUVER — Undrafted does not mean unwanted.
The Charlotte Hornets made it known that Robert Franks Jr. was indeed a priority last week, getting in touch with his agents less than an hour after the NBA draft concluded.
A few minutes later, Franks had agreed to a two-way deal.
The Hornets are about to get a very motivated basketball player from Vancouver.
“My ultimate goal is to stick in the NBA and look back on it and say, ‘I had a great NBA career, and I played years and years and years,” Franks said. “I think I’m just scratching the surface of my NBA potential. I’m kind of just eager and ready to go prove myself all over again.”
A 2015 graduate of Evergreen High School, “Robo” led the Pac-12 in scoring as a senior at Washington State this past season. Early projections had him being drafted in one of the two rounds, but as the pre-draft process continued, it became less clear that he would be selected.
“I’ve always been an underdog,” Franks said. “I’ve always had the fuel, the fire, the desire to go prove people wrong. That draft-night moment, with everything I’ve overcome already, it’s going to fuel me to be great.”
There are some benefits to being undrafted, Franks said. But he acknowledged he wanted to be selected. He said he watched most of the draft but turned it off with about five picks remaining in the second round.
“It definitely stung during the moment,” he said.
It was a pride thing, he said. He wanted to hear his name called.
He got over it in a hurry, though, because the Hornets reached out so soon, proving to Franks he was in demand.
It might become a blessing in disguise.
“With me going undrafted, I was (able) to decide my future destination,” Franks said.
The Hornets were big on Franks, too.
James Borrego, the team’s head coach, told Franks’ agents about the long-term plan.
“The coach really liked me. He reached out. ‘We want Franks. We think we can develop him and get him to where he needs to be.’”
Franks and his agents talked about it and decided it was the ideal situation.
A two-way contract allows Franks to be a member of the Hornets organization with the plan to play most of next season in the G-League, the NBA’s developmental league. The contract also allows Franks to be on the NBA roster for up to 45 days.
“You’re an extra piece of the team,” Franks said.
Salary for a player on a two-way contract varies, depending on a number of factors, but a player can earn up to $400,000 or more for a season. It is a non-guaranteed contract.
If Franks can exceed expectations and earn a spot with the Hornets beyond the 45 days, he would then earn an NBA contract.
“That’s the plan. Go in there and bust my tail from day one and try to prove this is where I belong,” Franks said. “I have real high hopes and aspirations to go over those 45 days.”
So do his fans.
On the night of the draft, a search on social media showed a lot of support for Franks. Many fans were claiming that NBA teams were making a huge mistake by passing up this sharp-shooting forward.
Franks said he saw a lot of those comments.
“Very heartwarming just to know you have … people you have never met before, rooting for you to win,” Franks said. “Kind of drives you to want to be more successful. It gives me an edge that I have a support system beyond my own support system. It definitely put a smile on my face.”
He has a lot of love from east Vancouver.
“When I look back, it’s kind of so surreal. It doesn’t seem real until you actually think back to where you have been and where you are going,” Franks said. “Just to say I’m from Vancouver, and I went to Evergreen High School … it’s amazing to say my dream came true. Hope it gives people hope and inspires people around here. Something special can be done out of Vancouver.”
One must work for it, of course.
Franks averaged 2.2 points per game as a freshman at Washington State. Minutes and points moved up a bit as a sophomore, but still, nothing to suggest what would happen next.
As a junior, he was voted the Most Improved Player in the Pac-12, averaging 17.4 points per game.
The key to his transformation was a new diet and workout plan that he started after his sophomore season.
“Ever since then, my motto is ‘Health is Wealth.’”
As a senior, he led the Pac-12 in scoring at 20.6 points per game, connecting on 40 percent of his 3-point attempts.
He capped his career on Senior Night with a career-high 37 points.
“It was amazing. Just having friends and family there, just going out there and giving it my all and playing the game I love, the right way,” Franks said. “It was just truly a blessing. I don’t think I could have scripted it any better, my farewell at WSU.”
He had another special moment at Washington State, too, when he earned his degree in social sciences and humanities with a minor in sports management.
For most of this past spring, his focus as been on his profession. He participated in the G League elite camp, a combine of sorts, plus he visited with 12 NBA teams.
“No doubt, one of the … happiest times in my life, just to get to travel and go show my game to different NBA teams,” Franks said. “At the same time, it comes with stress. The travel is very intense.”
He learned a lot throughout the process.
“Your mentality has to be professional at all times,” Franks said. “This is your job. You’ve got to be prepared any way, shape, or form.”
Clearly, he made an impression on the Hornets.
As far as his impression of Charlotte, he was only there for a short visit. He liked what he saw, but he is looking forward to exploring more of the city. He leaves Friday for Charlotte. He said he will sign his two-way deal on July 1. Franks and the Hornets will then travel to Las Vegas for summer league.
“I’m more than ready for this challenge,” he said.
No matter where basketball takes him, Robert Franks Jr. will always know where this odyssey began — Vancouver and his high school.
“It’s always home. It’s always where I started,” Franks said. “Evergreen has my heart and my full support.”