The 2016 NBA Draft is set for Thursday, June 23rd. As the stars of the college game get ready to find out where they will begin their NBA journey, CBS Local Sports’ “My Life As” series will give them an opportunity to talk about how they got to this point and what they expect from the future in their own words.
My dad played professionally for 13 years (NBA and internationally), so when I was little I just always had a basketball in my hand. Every single year since the third or fourth grade I got a little bit more serious about basketball. I played it just for fun when I was younger but once I got to high school, I started taking it very seriously and everything just took off from there.
My high school experience was very surreal, I just tried to stay in the moment and get better every year. It was such an honor to be named a McDonald’s All-American (2011) and playing in that game. When I was going through the process of picking a school, I really wanted to play with some of the other top players and at the time Kentucky had a really good recruiting class, so I made my decision based off that. I wanted to surround myself with some of the best and really push myself.
Once I got to college and I had some really bright spots my freshman year in practice and games (24 points against Loyola Maryland), I knew I could have a really good future and I just wanted to keep working towards it and see what happened. I had a great first two years at Kentucky but decided to make a change and decided to go to Gonzaga because they have such a great tradition there. For myself, it was really good to have that red-shirt year to really work on my game. From there it was just a really good offense tailored to my game, a lot of inside-out style and versatility, which suits how I play.
That said, the red-shirt year was tough at first because you don’t get to play any games and all you’re doing is just working out every single day. But, Mark Few and the coaching staff did a great job of keeping me in the moment and I just got lost in the process. As I started to see results, my game started to take off from there.
My favorite memory of college was that next year, my first year back from the red-shirt season. I worked really hard during that year away and getting back on the court felt great. Plus, we had a lot of doubters that season with us being from Spokane and I think we really just put Gonzaga on the map even more. That was just an amazing run for us to the Elite Eight and I had a great time in the tournament, it’s one of the best times of the year. I had a blast in making it to the tournament the past two years.
Since ending my college career, I had the opportunity to be invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, which was an honor. That event is something that I really wanted to be a part of just so that I could showcase my skills. To be included in that elite group of players was an honor and I had a blast that week.
Sometimes with the interviews at the draft combine you get some odd questions, but I didn’t get any really out there questions. I did hear that some teams threw some trick questions at you at the end. One of the ones I heard about from one of the other guys wasn’t even anything about basketball. It was a trick question: “If a baseball bat and a ball equal up to $1.10, and the baseball bat is $1 more than the ball, how much does the ball cost?” It’s funny because I heard that some kid just froze because it caught them off guard. The teams are really just trying to see if you can problem solve your way through it.
As far as my performance goes, I think I performed pretty well. I have been working hard these last couple of months, really working on my numbers that they test. I think I did a lot better than people thought I would. Once the actual scrimmages started, I think I did a good job of just knocking down shots as well as mixing it up inside – getting some steals, rebounds and playing good defense.
I’ve had workouts with teams since the combine, and being a West Coast guy, I’ve always been a Portland Trailblazers fan so getting the chance to play for them would be cool. That said, people always ask where I would want to play and for me, if there’s any team – it doesn’t matter how far away from Portland it is – I’ll be honored to play for them. I can honestly say I’d be happy to play for any team because it’s my dream to play in this league.
The biggest thing I’ve worked on in preparation for the next level is being alert defensively and moving my feet. I’ve had a lot of time to work out and get ready for each team’s workout session, so I’ve been trying to show them that I can do more than just shoot. When it comes to my game, I want to be as versatile as possible on the offensive end and also be able to use my length defensively to alter shots and make it tough on opponents.
That’s where I think I fit in to the NBA game. A lot of teams are looking for good shooters in the NBA, and I’m one of those guys that stretches the floor at that four position. I consider myself to be one of the best stretch four’s out there and I just have to continue to bring that confidence. I think that my skill set can really help a team because shooting is at an all-time high right now, and I know I can knock down shots.