Summer 2024

UCF's Taylor Hendricks puts 'God first' as he goes No. 9 overall to Utah Jazz in NBA draft

“Yes, I love this guy!”

Those were the words of ESPN analyst and former NBA player J.J. Redick when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Taylor Hendricks as the No. 9 overall pick of the Utah Jazz in the 2023 NBA Draft on Thursday.

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Redick lauded Hendricks’ abilities as a knockdown shooter, a rim protector, a rebounder and a defender, saying ultimately, “He’s a phenomenal pick at this spot.”

With Utah’s selection, Hendricks becomes the first player from the University of Central Florida ever to be drafted in the NBA’s first round. Yet despite making history, the 6-foot-9, 210-pound forward from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, didn’t have his own accomplishments at the forefront of his mind in the aftermath of the pick.

When interviewed with his mother, Danielle, and twin brother, Tyler (also a UCF basketball player), after exiting the stage, Hendricks was asked by ESPN’s Monica McNutt about his journey to becoming a first-round NBA draft pick.

“It took a lot of hard work — my mom making sacrifices for me and my brother,” he said. “And then just putting God first throughout my whole journey, it’s something that was really important through it.”

Danielle confirmed her son’s priorities.

“He works really hard. He always puts God first. I knew this day was coming.”

“God First” is also listed in Hendricks’ Twitter bio, while he lists the Bible verse Matthew 6:33 on Instagram. It says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Hendricks was the highest-ranked recruit in UCF history out of Calvary Christian Academy in Fort Lauderdale, where he won two state titles. Yet his basketball ability wasn’t the only thing to develop at Calvary Christian. It was his time at the school, he told His Huddle this February, where God began to draw him closer to Himself.

“Faith has always been important in my life,” Hendricks said. “However, attending a Christian school since my junior year has allowed me to heavily strengthen my relationship with God and understand His Word and my purpose even more.”

When the big-name schools in the state like Florida, Florida State and Miami noticed his talent and came calling, Hendricks spurned their scholarship offers in favor of UCF.

In Hendricks’ only season with the Knights last year, he averaged 15.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game while shooting 39.4% from 3-point range. Hendricks helped lead his team to a 19-15 record and the second round of the NIT.

As he saw his name climb up draft boards throughout the season, Hendricks realized his dream of hearing his name called in the NBA draft — a dream he’d been praying about ever since childhood — was inching closer toward becoming a reality.

In his social media post declaring for the draft, he made sure to thank “the Lord for guiding my steps.”

As Hendricks now steps into the world of being a pro basketball player for the Utah Jazz, the pressure to perform will ratchet up higher than ever before. Yet Hendricks is steadied by his faith, resting in the fact that all things are ultimately in God’s hands.

“My trust in Him helps me feel assured that no matter what happens on or off the court, I will be just fine,” Hendricks told His Huddle, “because He already has a plan that will leave me blessed at the end of the day.”

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