INDIANAPOLIS — Chris Duarte is a rookie on the rise.
The newest member of the Indiana Pacers is dedicated to his teammates, opening doors and inspiring others. He also showed promising results in his debut Wednesday against the Charlotte Hornets by scoring 27 points.
"This is what I've been working for, and it's finally here," Duarte said. "I look forward to staying in the league a long time."
Duarte, the 13th selection in the 2021 NBA Draft, knows this is a big moment for him and his family on the Caribbean island, the Dominican Republic. He moved New York in high school before playing college basketball at Northwest Florida State University and the University of Oregon.
His preference is to speak Spanish, but in English, he is just as comfortable in encouraging others that learning a new language, like most things in life, involves hard work.
"I used to go to the dictionary to learn 10 words everyday," Duarte said. "Talking to my teammates and talking to people helped me a lot. I'm still learning."
I sat down with Chris before the Pacers' home season opener. He began playing club ball, much like AAU, when he was 13 years old.
The 24-year-old comes from an island known for it's baseball players. Sammy Sosa, "Big Papi" David Ortiz and Albert Pujols all came from the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic is known for filling MLB, not NBA rosters, but that could be changing.
"The NBA was my dream. Today, it's my reality," Duarte said in Spanish. "In the future, God willing, I'd like to host basketball camps, play for my country and provide hope for the youth and the open the door of opportunity. There's so much talent there, but no opportunities."
Watch more of our interview in the player above.