As Joe Chealey put pen to paper Thursday afternoon at TD Arena on his first contract with the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, his mind began to drift to all the people that helped him get to this point in his life.
There were plenty of people to thank. His parents, Willie and Dianne, were at the top of the list. Then College of Charleston head coach Earl Grant, the Cougars' assistant coaches, and of course, his teammates.
They all played their parts in Chealey’s journey from Orlando, Fla., to the Lowcountry, and now to the brink of playing in the NBA.
Charlotte signed Chealey to the Hornets’ training camp roster after a strong showing during the club’s summer league season.
“It was a blessing, a surreal moment for me,” Chealey said. “It’s not the end goal because there are still things I want to accomplish, but it’s another step toward my goal of making an NBA roster and getting to play in the best league in the world.”
Chealey joined Charlotte’s summer league team just two days before the Hornets left for Las Vegas. Chealey played in four of the five games for the Hornets, averaging 6.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting 42 percent from the field. In the final game against Toronto, Chealey was inserted into the starting lineup and finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
“I’ve told every NBA team that has called me that Joe can play in the league,” Grant said. “I’m really excited for Joe. He’s worked for five years and now he’s reaping the fruits of his labor. He’s chasing his dream, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.”
With the addition of Chealey, the Hornets have 19 players signed for the team's training camp, which will start at the end of September. Charlotte can have as many as 15 players under contract during the regular season, plus two, two-way developmental players projected to spend the majority of the 2018-19 season in the NBA’s G-League with the Greensboro Swarm.
“Right now, I’m focused on the things that I can control,” Chealey said. “I’m focused on working out and staying prepared for training camp. I’m going to trust the process. Thankfully, I got my foot in the door with the summer league and thankfully the Hornets wanted to bring me back in. I got another chance. That’s all I want is another opportunity.”
G-League players make $7,000 a month for the five-month season. Chealey could have opted to play overseas where the salaries and perks can get into six-figure money.
“Going overseas was an option, but for me playing in the NBA has been a lifelong goal," he said. "For where I’m at right now, I’m confident in my abilities to make an impression on the coaches here in the states. I told myself if the opportunity presented itself I would take advantage of it and chase the league and that’s what I’m doing.”
Chealey said he’ll spend the next two months shuttling between his hometown and his adopted home in Charleston in preparation for the Hornets’ training camp.
“I’m going to go off the grid here in a week or so and get to work and keep my head down and do the things that helped me get to this point,” Chealey said. “I’ll work out some in Charleston with the guys I trust and I’m comfortable with.”
As a senior at the College of Charleston in 2017-18, he averaged 18.0 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 34 games played, earning both All-Colonial Athletic Association First Team and All-Tournament Team honors for a second consecutive season.