Nikola Jokic shows love, gives high praise to March Madness darling and Final 4 hero

NC State v Duke
NC State v Duke / Lance King/GettyImages

The Final Four was settled on Sunday as the NCAA Tournament came within three games of crowning a champion. One team jumps off the page as a massive underdog and Cinderella story, that’s the 11th-seeded North Carolina State Wolfpack.

NC State upset Duke in the Elite Eight to win the South Region, cut down the nets, and punch their ticket to Phoenix where they’ll take on one-seed Purdue. The Wolfpack set a record for the most regular season losses ever for a team that made the Final Four with 14.

DJ Burns becoming a March Madness legend

There have been many impressive things about this run by NC State, but what sticks out most is the play of graduate Senior DJ Burns. Burns, the 6’9” 275 pound 23 year old has stolen the show with his jumbo stature, silky smooth touch, and incredible feel for the game.

He has soft touch around the rim for a big man, making savvy teardrops in the lane, and he has the floor vision and passing of a seasoned point guard. Burns is truly a joy to watch, and he’s quickly becoming a college basketball folk hero.

Nikola Jokic taking notice

In fact, Burns caught the eye of soon-to-be three-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic. While Burns was carving up the Blue Devils to the tune of 29 points, Jokic was dominating the Cavaliers, putting up 26 points, 18 rebounds, and 16 assists. 

But Jokic was late to the podium for his postgame press conference after reveling in the performance, and he wanted to gush about Burns. He praised the big man’s game, calling him “amazing” and admiring his skill, even suggesting it seems like teammates enjoy playing with Burns.

It’s cool to see the best big man in the world take the time to acknowledge a guy who’s killing it at the college level. Perhaps Big Honey even sees some of himself in the young big man with a versatile, dynamic skillset.

Burns and NC State will find themselves in familiar territory on Saturday as they’ll enter the Final Four as big underdogs yet again as they take on Purdue. Burns will have his hands full with another big man, the reigning Player of the Year Zach Edey. But with a stamp of approval from Jokic, there’s no telling what Burns is capable of.