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.
I just want to play this game for as long as possible. Wherever the game takes me, whether it’s an NBA team here, overseas, I’ll be happy to go. I love this game. I just want to play as long as possible because this is all I really know. I’ve known basketball my entire life and to have the opportunity to make money to play it? That’s a blessing for sure.
My grandpa played basketball, my dad played basketball and my brother did too so I was always around the game growing up as a kid in Ohio. My earliest memory getting out on the court with my family is from when I was about five years old. My grandpa was rebounding for me and I was just shooting it as hard as I could just to try and get it up to the basket.
I’m a Cavs fan, so I always watched them growing up. I think LeBron was drafted by the Cavs when I was in third grade, so I got to watch him play for the Cavs and really try to model my game after him. I always wore number 23 when I played because he was an idol for me along with pretty much everyone else in Ohio.
Going into my senior year of high school I did well in the AAU circuit and really made a name for myself. It was at that point that I took my visit to Northeastern and I committed on the spot. Coach Coen is a great guy and he made me feel like part of the family when I went for my visit and I wasn’t even a part of the team yet. The rest of the coaching staff and team all made me feel like part of the family during that visit. That, combined with the city of Boston where there’s so much history and Northeastern being a great school with great fans all played a part in getting me to go there for my college career.
Stepping into the college basketball world was definitely a transition. Having practice every day with the coaches helping me through it along with the older guys on the team giving me tips on how to improve helped me through the transition. I was fortunate enough to play in all 33 games for the team as a freshman which helped me feel very comfortable by the end of the year.
My favorite memory from my time at Northeastern is when we got to cut down the nets at the CAA tournament my junior year. The school hadn’t had a conference tournament champion in 24 years so just to be a part of that was awesome. Getting to celebrate with the fans, the coaching staff and my teammates was a special moment.
As I started to prepare for the NBA Draft, some teams had heard of me while other hadn’t. So, when I went into the team workouts I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder because I came from a smaller school. I tried to go into every workout with the mentality that they don’t know who I am and tried to be the hardest working guy in each workout so that they would learn who I am. In the end I just wanted to show teams that they could draft me and that I would fit well on their team.
The biggest thing I have going for me is my versatility. With my size and length and my athleticism I can play the one, two or maybe even the three. In college, I was the primary defender for our team so I guarded the best player on the other team, whether they were the one, two or three. It varied per team, so I feel comfortable doing that. I’m pretty quick side to side and combine that with my height and length I feel I can guard multiple positions at the next level which I think is what teams are looking for in today’s game.
As I get ready for the professional level, I am working hard on getting stronger. When you get to that level, you’re not going against 18-22 year-olds anymore, you’re going up against who are 30 years old. They’re grown men. So, I’m trying to put on some weight which will help with defense as well in guarding those bigger, stronger guys.
It would be incredible to hear my name called on June 23rd. Everybody dreams of hearing their names called on draft night, and I’m going to be with my family so it would be amazing to be with my family for that kind of moment. After all the work I’ve put in over the years and the support that my family has given me, it would be a dream come true to hear my name called that night.