Today and tomorrow at the Attack Athletics facility on the West Side of Chicago near the United Center, the 2010 NBA Draft Combine will take place. Nearly all of the top prospects (53, to be exact) hoping to be selected in the 2010 NBA Draft, whether it’s in the first or second round, will interview with teams, participate in basketball drills, undergo athletic and medical testing, and much more. No competitive games, though. In any case, the combine will give every team in the NBA a chance to start getting a first-hand look at the prospects, given that they’ll watch the workouts and, as has been mentioned before, interview them to get to know more about a player’s personality. For two days, the prospects will also be available to the media throughout the late morning and early afternoon.
In today’s media session, I was able to speak with John Wall amongst the media, as well as talk with Dominique Jones one-on-one, James Anderson, Xavier Henry, Luke Babbitt, Jarvis Varnado one-on-one, Travis Booker one-on-one, and Solomon Alabi one-on-one.
Part I contains my questions for Jones, Anderson, Henry, and Babbitt.
How did your training go in Atlanta?
It’s good. It’s just where I’m based out of right now when I go to these workouts so I got the training down and everything is good.
A lot of people say that you’re style of play is very conducive to the NBA. Why is that?
I think that I’m strong and the contact is good, things like that. Getting to the basket and being able to knock down that wide-open shot, I think I can do that and I guess that’s where it translates at.
Specifically, what are you trying to improve in your game?
My ball-handling and getting inside the lane. I mean, I can get inside the lane basically wherever I want to go but keeping my ball-handling a little tight and my defense. I can defend but I just need to get it a little better.
What type of team would you like to play for? Up-tempo? Structured?
It don’t matter. I can go anywhere and play. I prefer an up-tempo team because then I can get up and down [the court] like I like to do.
Do you feel you’re an open-court player?
Yeah, that’s what I’m best at. Transition, open-court, off deflections, off defense, I’m the best at that.
Which teams have you worked out for?
Yeah, I’ve worked out for Boston, San Antonio, Washington, Indiana and Chicago.
The NBA is becoming more of a perimeter-oriented league. How do you think that will help you succeed as a player in the league?
Yeah, I think that’ll help me get to the basket more and make my drives a little easier so I can get that contact at the basket. I mean, I think it’ll affect me on defense too because I won’t be able to be as physical as I want but I’m satisfied with the rules so I like it.
With the NBA becoming more of a perimeter-oriented league, how do you think that will help you succeed as a player?
I think it will help a lot in that college was more … you could touch a lot and be more physical than with the hand-checking and all that. But in the NBA, you could only touch so much so you won’t get dragged down so much. You won’t get worn down as much as you did in college because of the physical play of the games. In the NBA, you just have to be patient and make your move instead of rushing and playing through contact from the get-go.
In terms of your skill-set, what is something people don’t know enough about that they should?
I think I can be more of a defensive stopper than some give me credit for, but I think I’ve improved more as a defensive player. I think I can also create for others.
What teams have you worked out for?
It’s tough to say what team will pick you, but is there a certain style of play that you feel meshes with your skills the best?
Just any type of team, really. Just any team I can get on and come right in, do whatever I can to contribute with the team. For any team that will pick me, I think I can fit in with an up-tempo or structured team so I’m just willing to get on any team and go right to work.
Before the 2010 NBA Draft, what are you trying to work on with regards to your game to improve as a player?
I just need to continue to work on my shot so that I can be more of a knockdown shooter and my ball-handling and still just becoming a better defensive player. But really, just improve my overall game and do whatever I can to become a better player.
How do you think you’ll try to take advantage of the style of play in the NBA, when it comes to the strict enforcement of the hand-checking rule?
I’m going to play my regular game. I’m a shooting guard. I’m a perimeter player, obviously. I like to shoot. I like to drive it, but I also do everything else. I always show 100% effort and I’m always enthusiastic. I think any team would like that, instead of just a knuckle-headed kid. I’m actually smart. I like playing the game. I can definitely help a team.
What are some things that you do as a player that people don’t know enough about?
That they don’t know? It seems like they know everything. *laughs*
I don’t know. They just want to come away with … I show effort in every part of the game, not just my offense. I play defense as hard as I can, I go for loose balls, I do everything I can to help the team win. I’m not just a one-dimensional player.
How did Bill Self, your coach at Kansas, help you develop as a player?
He helped prepare me to make sure to give 100% effort all the time in all facets of the game, not just focusing on one part of my game. Everyday in practice, when we’re doing these drills [at the combine], focus on that as hard as I can, then when I move to the next thing, be able to adjust and focus on something else. He made the game come a lot slower to me. I was more aware on offense and defense, my positioning [on the court], and where I should be at. I think he helped me a lot with that.
What teams did you work out for?
Do you feel you’re more conducive to playing an up-tempo style of basketball or more in a half-court setting?
I can play either one. I’m just … I’m aggressive. If we’re running up and down, I have the conditioning and cardio, that’s not a problem, to play up and down, attack, and do all that. In the half-court setting, that’s more of a team-oriented type of play setting. That’s how we did it at Kansas. It was a real systematic thing, so I can play either style. There’s no difference.
Do you think Self’s system at Kansas will help you transfer your abilities to the NBA?
Yeah, I had a lot of work on pick and roll plays. A lot of stuff with his system is pick and roll, hi-lo stuff, so I had a lot to work with in his offense so I liked that.
What position do you see yourself playing in the NBA? Are you a three or a stretch four?
Well, I feel like I can do both. I feel whatever a team’s philosophy is … there are all different types of styles, from the Phoenix Suns to the San Antonio Spurs to all kinds of different styles in the NBA and I feel like I fit in well with a lot of different styles, whether it’s at the three or the four. You see players like me being successful.
What do you think people have overlooked about you, when it comes to how you play the game of basketball?
I feel like I can make players around me better. In the NBA, you got to have guys that can stretch the floor and I can do that. Also, just distribute the ball and make plays for other people as well as myself. I think in college I was known to be just a scorer but I’d like to be known more as a creator. Not just for myself, but for other people too.
With your skill-set, what are you trying to work on right now?
Well, I’m just trying to work on all aspects but defensively, everyone has to improve and that’s an area where I want to work on. Being more of a prototypical [small forward], knowing all the nuances because the NBA is completely different from college. More spacing and what not, more wide open game. In college, it’s just clustered with all the double and triple teams so it’s a completely different game so I decided to learn all that stuff
Could you talk about the subtle differences between being a small forward and being a power forward?
It’s different for every team. A stretch four is on the perimeter a lot, like a Rashard Lewis or a Channing Frye. Those guys are facing the basket pretty much all the time but you’re guarding a four in the NBA and I’d say you’re facing the basket more. A three probably handles the ball a bit more and is asked run the lanes wide and make more plays and create.
Stay tuned for Part II.