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.
The hardest adjustment I had to make from high school going into college was that I was a big fish in a small pond and then went to being a smaller fish in a bigger pond in college. I think naturally I have such high expectations for myself and I really want to do well and I kind of have that relentless pursuit to do well. But I just had a sort of false sense of reality coming into my freshman year at Northwestern, especially with guys like John Shurna and Drew Crawford there.
It definitely humbled me and it showed me that, you kind of have to wait your time and I’m kind of in a similar process now as I try to make it at the NBA level.
Every part of the process has been going well so far. It started at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament where I thought I had a really good showing. Then I thought I did a pretty good job at a workout with the Chicago Bulls and I thought I did an even better job at a workout with the Clippers.
Coming into these workouts I didn’t know what to expect. Coming out of the Bulls one I kind of worked on some situational stuff with the people at Priority Sports and also on my own. Especially certain situations I’m going to be in and the shots I’m going to get in those situations, whether it be high ball screen action, split action off the high post; I think I worked on those things a lot more and I think it made me just more hungrier overall. Just knowing the level of competition that was at those workout made me push myself even harder after that Bulls workout for the Clippers workout.
At this stage I’m just trying to prove that I’m better than what people think. To be honest, at this point, not a lot of people consider me to even be an NBA prospect but I just try to use that to my advantage and just prove that I’m a capable scorer. I feel like I can make a lot of plays in a small amount of time since most rookies at the highest level don’t get a significant amount of playing time. So I just think I can be really efficient with the time that I do get. Right now, I’m just trying to prove that I belong and that my name should be in the conversation.
One person that I definitely have a lot of respect for is Jeremy Lin because a lot of people didn’t think he was an NBA player. But to go out there and take advantage of every opportunity with summer league and eventually end up with the Knicks, then have the ‘Linsanity’ thing, and then he kind of faded off a little bit but now he’s back. That relentless pursuit that he has, I definitely admire and look up to.
One thing that I do well is just overall a fearlessness that I have. I don’t care who I’m playing against, I think I embrace the high stakes and the best competition. I feel like I do even better against better competition.
I feel like when I’m playing I’m constantly on the attack and I’m constantly trying to make plays. I’m a fearless scorer and I can get into the lane and make floaters. Or I can shoot the three. And I also feel like I’m an underrated passer as well. I feel like I can create for others with the ball in my hands.
I’m not the most skilled guy in the world. I don’t have the best handle, I’m not the fastest, I’m not the strongest but I’ve got just a relentlessness and just being in constant attack mode is what defines my game.
When I was growing up and my dad was with the Spurs, being able to be around NBA level talent at that age opened my eyes to a new world. Just seeing the best of the best, guys like Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen training early in the morning, running sprints, doing weight training and then doing hardcore workouts for an hour, that just kind of instilled in me a relentless work ethic because I just followed their lead.
From time to time they would let me hop in some of the conditioning stuff and I think it just instilled in me a work ethic that a lot of players at my age didn’t have. I was just fortunate enough to get that opportunity and bring it with me through high school and college and I think it’s helped me get to where I’m at.
Sometimes I think my relentless pursuit can be both my biggest strength and can be my biggest weakness. That was one of the most important things Coach Collins taught me at Northwestern. I was always just going, going, going and in basketball sometimes you just need to slow down and calm your mind down and that a lot of times helps you to play better. He taught me to slow down, trust in the process, and to work hard but just go out there and play and not try to prove so much. Just go out there and play and compete and worry about winning.
I definitely have a lot of great memories at Northwestern with coach Collins. I’d say the one that stands out is the first year that coach Collins was there when we won three straight road games and two of them were against very good teams. We beat Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota all on the road in a row and I think that was significant. That was kind of the first time I was able to be a key contributor and make big plays down the stretch, something I think I can do at the next level if I’m given the opportunity.
Thanks to my dad’s experience around the league, he’s really helped me out with giving me an understanding of the process and just assuring me that my opportunity is going to come and my time’s going to come to show what I can do. Things like when to be at my best and obviously with summer league coming up, I think that’s going to be a huge opportunity. He’s been there for me and just kind of reassuring me and telling me to stay patient and wait for that opportunity to come.