The next Penny Hardaway? 2025 NBA Draft prospect Dink Pate channels all-time great

G League Ignite's Dink Pate wants to follow in the footsteps of Penny Hardaway.

Feb 18, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Team ELY guard Dink Pate (1) of the G League Ignite shoots
Feb 18, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Team ELY guard Dink Pate (1) of the G League Ignite shoots / Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

When Dink Pate decided to join the G League Ignite, he became the youngest domestic professional basketball player in American history. He took the Scoot Henderson route, signing up for two years of G League basketball before becoming NBA Draft eligible in 2025.

It has been a steep learning curve for Pate. It's no small feat to jump from high school competition to, as he calls it, men "trying to feed their families." The 17-year-old has appeared in 20 games for the Ignite, averaging 6.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.9 assists on .354/.132/.667 splits in 20.5 minutes.

He has started nine games for the Ignite, gradually making his presence felt on an older team highlighted by several notable 2024 prospects, such as Ron Holland and Matas Buzelis.

While Pate's journey is different as the young kid on a two-year path, he has learned a lot from the process and exhibited a great deal of maturity. He is expected to factor extensively into next year's draft conversations and is currently projected as the No. 36 overall pick on ESPN's 2025 mock draft.

Pate spoke to FanSided from the Panini Prizm Lounge at All-Star weekend in Indianapolis. He set the bar for his own expectations rather high.

When asked which NBA player(s) he models his game after, Pate immediately named an all-time classic at the point guard position.

"Penny Hardaway. He will forever be my favorite point guard to ever touch a basketball. I talk to Penny pretty much every other month. He was a big point guard, a 6-foot-8 point guard who passes, dunks — pretty much the same things that I can do."

But, in a rather bold statement, Pate says he wants to take it up a notch.

"I plan on taking what I can do to another level."

There is no knocking Pate's confidence. Whether you believe in him or not, it's clear G League Ignite's youngest player is fully comfortable in his own skin.

Dink Pate channels Penny Hardaway with 2025 NBA Draft on horizon

Pate wants to play to his unique strengths. At 6-foot-7, he's an athletic playmaker who perfectly fits the mold of today's league. Every team is looking for the next tall, athletic wing who can check multiple boxes. Pate can create off drives, shoot off the bounce, and defend multiple positions.

He is raw, there's no doubt about it. But, the base-level skill set and athletic profile are extremely tantalizing. Pate wants no misconceptions about his position either. He considers himself a point guard through and through.

"I’m a point guard, I don’t to go out and do other things I know I’m not good at. I’m a very good passer, so that’s one thing I showcase, whether scouts are there or not there. I just want to showcase the things I know I can do well."

The Penny comparison is apt. That is a high bar to set — Hardaway made four All-Star teams and earned All-NBA honors thrice. He was 6-foot-8, a walking highlight reel who could dazzle with flashy passes, vicious crossovers, and rim-rocking slams. But, it's generally good for top prospects to aspire to greatness. If the goal is to thrive as an athletic, jumbo-sized playmaker in the NBA, it's hard to think of a better role model.

Pate also has a few modern stars who he holds in particularly high esteem.

"I like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He’s another 6-foot-7 point guard. I think his game is way more finesse than mine... I like [Paul George] too."

Again, Pate is spot-on with the influences. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has mesmerized the NBA fandom with his dizzying finishes and unmatched gear-shift ability. He can change speeds on a dime, generating space with sheer creativity and length. If Pate can adapt even a sliver of SGA's on-ball elusiveness over time, he is going to drastically outperform draft projections.

Paul George has become a popular role model for the younger generation, too. Both SGA and PG earned a shoutout from Matas Buzelis in our conversation with the projected 2024 lottery pick. George is not a point guard, but he's a similar size to Pate on the wing, with enough craft as a self-creator and a past of explosive slashing — especially in his vintage days with the Indiana Pacers — to draw the parallels. With George, if there's an attribute Pate should strive especially hard to mimic, it's the defense. The learning curve has been particularly steep for Pate on that end, but he's a rangy athlete who should be able to cover a lot of ground at the next level.

To his credit, Pate has been completey unphased by the G League level of competition. When asked if he has experienced a "welcome to the league" moment, the Texas native was honest and to the point — no, he hasn't.

"I don’t want to say I’m cocky, but no. Not really. I’m a fast learner, I can adjust to anything. So there has never been a moment where, like, somebody has bodied me to the floor or anything. Those are the types of stories that I hear, but that has not happened to me. I don’t know if it has not happened to me yet, but I just know I can control what I can control. That has not happened to me."

Pate has more than a year until he is officially within reach of the NBA, but his goals are sky-high, as is his self-belief. If the 17-year-old can put the pieces together, there's no doubt that he can channel his idols and perform effectively in the league.

Panini America hosted Dink Pate along with other NBA players and legends at the Panini Prizm Lounge in Indianapolis during NBA All-Star Weekend.

Panini is the Exclusive Trading Card Partner of the NBA. You can get Panini NBA Trading Cards at Walmart, Target and hobby stores nationwide, and you can also start collecting your favorite NBA players as Digital Collectibles on the Panini America platform at

2024 NBA MOCK DRAFT. Updated first-round projections after trade deadline. Updated first-round projections after trade deadline. dark