Magic Gaming picks local guy in NBA 2K League draft’s first round

It’s not like Julian “Jboolin” Manzanares would have been upset had another team called his name at the NBA 2K League draft, held last week at Full Sail University.

Playing in the digital equivalent of the show is why he threw his hat into the ring for the league’s 2024 draft class in the first place.

But that it was Magic Gaming and that he would be able to stay close to his Ocala home made it especially gratifying.

“I was hoping and praying,” Manzanares, originally from Kissimmee, said shortly after hearing his name called as the third overall pick in the league’s 2024 draft. “Now that I know I get to stay home, I’m just grateful for everything.”

The NBA 2K League hosted its annual draft in person in Orlando last week.

The event brought some of the league’s top players to Full Sail’s production studio.

Magic Gaming’s #1 2024 pick, Julian Manzaneres

Magic Gaming selected Manzanares and Justin “Snubby” Stemerman during the three-round draft.

As expected, Wizards Gaming selected Benjamin “Benzo” Bernstein as the overall No. 1 pick.

“The goal (is) to get to the NBA but when that went left, this is like the next best thing,” Bernstein said in Orlando. “So, I just put my all into this and I worked my butt off.”

Wizards Gaming finished 20th in the 25-team league last season.

Bernstein said the effect that playing in the league goes beyond the games.

“Seeing people make a lot of money, building a bigger brand outside of the game motivates me to be the best I can be,” he said. “You can branch out to a lot of different things off of just being in the league. I know some people who have gotten good jobs because they play in the league.”

New season, new structure

The NBA 2K League begins its seventh season of play in early March.

Magic Gaming has been part of the league since its inception.

For the team, 2024 will be another year of evolution, as it tries to sustain a winning program.

The team certainly has a personality and talent to build on.

Joshua “Unguardable” Hunter comes off a season during which he won multiple All-Star Game MVP awards.

He was a bright spot for the team.

“The game theory behind competitive 2K has surprisingly evolved and continues to be pushed to a point where it’s constant learning and a chance to further personal knowledge,” GM and Head Coach Jonah Edwards said. “We are a team that has lacked the ability to finish in our best moments and the goal is still in sight of being a perennial contender in this league.”

The league plans to announced soon its 2024 structure, which tends to evolve from year to year.

Those details, however, don’t matter much to Manzanares.

His goal is to step into the team’s structure and help the team win some ballgames.

 “I just want to contribute and make this a winning organization,” he said. “I have a lot to learn from (this team) and they will just make me better overall.”