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How MarJon Beauchamp went from nearly quitting basketball to a first-round pick and possible Cleveland Cavaliers’ draft target

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The NBA scouts and executives that flocked to Walnut Creek, Calif. weren’t there to see MarJon Beauchamp.

Inside the G League Ignite’s home base stood more revered prep stars — Australian sensation Dyson Daniels, Jaden Hardy, Michael Foster Jr., Fanbo Zeng and Scoot Henderson. It was a reminder of how far Beauchamp had fallen in such a short time, how fast floating life can be.

A Washington native who grew up in Yakima — about 140 miles away from talent-rich Seattle — and looked destined to be next in the area’s star-studded NBA pipeline, Beauchamp finished up his high school career at Dream City Christian in Glendale, Az. It was his fourth different high school from him. Considered one of the top prospects in the 2020 class, with scholarship offers from Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Georgetown, USC, Washington and Washington State, Beauchamp bypassed each college opportunity. He chose to train for a year with the Chameleon BX program in San Francisco.

Beauchamp’s goal was straightforward: Prepare for the 2021 NBA Draft and become a high pick.

Needing to be one year removed from his senior year of high school to enter the draft, Beauchamp — skinny and not yet physically ready for that leap in competition — believed Chameleon BX was his best path to making that NBA dream come true. He expected to receive NBA-level coaching, speed, strength and nutrition.

But nothing went according to plan. After about six months, in February 2021, Beauchamp left, went back home and nearly quit basketball — for good.

“I was very close to giving up the game when I moved back to Yakima,” Beauchamp said when asked by cleveland.com during a pre-draft interview last week. “COVID happened. We weren’t getting in the gym. They shut the gyms down there, so I was like, ‘I got to do something else.’ That was probably the hardest time in my life. It was tough because I didn’t have no opportunity. Like they say, they love you when you’re at your highest but when you’re at your lowest you don’t really hear from anyone. That’s the position I was in.”

He moved in with his mother, Denise Pleasant. He suffered from depression and anxiety when he did n’t see his name de ella on draft boards and prayed for guidance.

“I feel like God got me through that,” Beauchamp said. “I started praying every day and having faith. I feel like he guided me through my hardest times. I got to play at JUCO and I didn’t really look at it as a downfall for me. I looked at it as a way to find love for the game again.”

That love was reborn at nearby Yakima Valley College. Beauchamp was initially just looking for a gym so he could clear his head and work out on his own.

Instead, the public college originally founded in 1928, located at South 16th Avenue Nob Hill Blvd. became his refuge.

Convinced to play for the program during its 12-game pandemic-shortened 2020-21 season, Beauchamp averaged 30.7 points, 11.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists. That’s when he knew the NBA dream was still alive.

“I started realizing it again during that season,” Beauchamp said.

Even though there was renewed interest from powerhouse college programs — Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Texas Tech, Arkansas and LSU — questions about his eligibility arose. He went to Memphis and started working out with 18-year NBA veteran Mike Miller, who is now an agent.

At one point, G League Ignite program manager Rod Strickland went to see Beauchamp in person, trying to determine whether Beauchamp was a fit for Ignite.

Despite not having some of the same hype as his teammates — a few who are likely to be drafted in the first round Thursday night — Beauchamp made an immediate impression on head coach Jason Hart, who recruited Beauchamp personally a few years earlier while at USC.

“I thought about giving up the game because things weren’t going right during the pandemic,” Hart told cleveland.com during a phone interview in early June. “I met with him and he had a mindset that he was going to make it. He wasn’t on any mock draft. He wasn’t talked about in NBA circles. He was a kid who took full advantage of his opportunity from him when he got it right away. He didn’t make excuses. He took it. He ran with it. Now he’s going to be a first-round pick.”

Despite Beauchamp being listed at 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, he played power forward, repeatedly asked to guard the opponent’s best offensive player — a responsibility he never had before, one he relished.

“On the basketball court, I feel like I didn’t really have that motor on the defensive side going into the G League, so I focused on building that part of my game,” Beauchamp admitted. “And then learning how to play without the ball because I was playing a lot with the ball in JUCO. I feel like I’ve grown a lot in the NBA G League. I feel like I found myself and learned new things about myself. I feel like I’ve grown as a man and on the court, taking steps to where I need to be.”

Beauchamp’s successful G League season — 15.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists — has him back on the NBA radar. I participated in the Rising Stars during NBA All-Star Weekend in Cleveland. He received an invite to the NBA draft green room, able to capture the full experience with friends and family inside Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. When recently asked to name which teams he worked out for during the pre-draft process, Beauchamp had a difficult time keeping them straight. There were too many.

The Cavaliers were one — a group workout alongside Alabama’s Keon Ellis, Ohio State’s EJ Liddell and LSU’s Tari Eason. Kentucky’s TyTy Washington and likely lottery pick Malaki Branham were also scheduled to participate but injuries altered that plan. According to a source who watched the session, Beauchamp, considered a mid-to-late first-round selection, looked good and shot the ball better than expected. He is one of the prospects Cleveland has on the radar at No. 14, sources say, with JB Bickerstaff receiving a film breakdown to study and analyze during this process.

“The Cavs workout was a big one for me,” Beauchamp said. “They thought my shot was very good and looked better than it did during the G League season. Even though I didn’t have a good shooting season with the G League Ignite, I know I can shoot the ball and I’ve been working on it. I got great feedback. I feel I can fit on that team with the players they have, the system they have and the coaches who seem really engaged. It was a great workout and a great group of guys that were in there.”

Shooting will likely be his swing skill. Beauchamp already has the competitiveness, versatility, athleticism, defense and, now, maturity that teams covet.

During the 12-game G League Showcase Cup, Beauchamp shot 57.1% from the field, slashing, cutting, attacking the basket and finishing with force. But he hit just 24.2% from 3-point range.

“Every NBA team needs a 3-and-D,” Hart said. “I saved 4-1. Toughness. length Lanky. wingspan. Freak athletic. Just like any young player, he needs to get his perimeter shot down. That will eat. He’s selfless. He knows how to score without the ball. I never ran any plays for him, he just knew how to be at the right place at the right time. In the NBA, there are going to be two people that shoot the majority of the time and you have to fit in around them in that, be part of that puzzle. For me, his upside projection of him is like Mikal Bridges. I think Majon is on that same track, same skill set. That kind of role.

“Defense will be the key to his game. Has potential to be All-Defensive First Team guy. Quiet, reserved kid. Never the loudest in the room but his game is loud. Easy-to-coach. Easy for teammates to like him. He will be able to join an NBA team no problem.”

A few years ago, Beauchamp seemed lost. He got near the top and then endured a sudden – and unexpected — fall from grace. Basketball was always Plan A. He was trying to figure out if he needed a Plan B.

Beauchamp isn’t setting lofty goals for his first season. He spoke about bringing energy to a team and doing whatever his coach needs. He knows an energetic, defense-focused role awaits and he won’t be putting up gaudy scoring numbers like in Yakima. He isn’t caught up thinking about how high he will go or which team will choose him either.

At some point Thursday night, one year later than anticipated, after a winding road with numerous detours, Beauchamp’s dream will become reality. It’s all that matters.

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