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 II contains my questions for Varnado, Booker, Alabi, and Wall.
I know that the whole draft experience can be exciting for prospects but tense, too. How’s everything going for you?
It’s going real well. I’ve been getting good training out in Los Angeles, so it’s been going good.
What are you trying to improve on as the draft looms closer?
The offensive end of the court. I’m known as a defensive player, so I’m just trying to improve on the offensive end and knock down 15-footers.
You were well-known as a shot blocker and rebounder in college. Do you think those skills will translate for you to the NBA?
Oh yeah, there’s a lot of players in the NBA that can score but there’s quite a few that can play defense so whatever team drafts me, I’m just going to come in there and bring energy and the defensive presence that I have.
What do you think is something that’s overlooked about you that people should know more about?
I think I can knock down the 15-footer real well. I didn’t show it in college because I was doing what the coach asked me to, so I think I can shoot it real well.
What goes into blocking a shot?
Just timing, instincts … I try to be the second guy off the floor and use my long arms and be quick. My leaping ability allows me to do that.
Do you think you’ll be able to block as many shots in the NBA as you did in college?
Oh yeah. I got a lot of shots blocked off the weak-side. If one of the guards get beat, they know I got their back so I’m looking forward to that, as well as get some [blocks] from other people.
Is there a guy that you try to model your game after?
I say a Marcus Camby. He’s a great defensive player. He’s able to knock down his jumpshot.
How’s the combine experience working out for you?
In Chicago? It’s been a great experience, so far. The interviews went well last night. I had a pretty good workout today.
What did you do specifically in the workouts?
We shot a lot of jumpshots, we did running drills, one dribble pull-ups, and they would play some one-on-one.
I know there’s a lot of players that decided not to do the basketball drills. Why is that?
It’s probably not their decision. Their agent probably told them not to do it. So I’m pretty sure that if it was up to them, they wouldn’t mind doing it but I think some players … some agents say they’re a lottery pick, maybe they don’t want them getting hurt or something like that.
What would be the benefit for the players that do everything in the combine?
People just see how hard we go and our skills. A lot of people that go through the drills, they’re probably not going to the lottery or anything like that but some maybe are going in the lottery. It can improve your stock.
What teams have you worked out for?
Just the Bucks.
What do you think is something overlooked about you?
I can move to the outside some. I played four years in the post but I slowly expanded my game to the outside and I showed some of that today.
What position do you think you are in the NBA?
Somewhere in between a three and a four. I’m not really sure. It probably depends on what team, so I’m really not sure right now.
What type of play-style in the NBA do you think you’d strive in?
In college, we had an up-tempo team. We liked to press and we liked to get the ball out and run, but I think I’d have success in any offense.
In terms of your skill-set, is there anything that you feel you do that people don’t know enough about and they should?
I’m a good shot blocker. I love to block shots. I think I’m pretty good on offense, too. A lot of people didn’t know about it but I can shoot the ball … mid-range shots. I’ve been working on that to show the people what I can do.
How’s your low post game been progressing?
I try to get better every year. I never stop working on that. I still work on my low post game, my turnaround jumpshot, and my moves.
Could you explain what you do to set yourself up to block a shot? What are some techniques you use?
The main technique I use is that I try to make eye contact. If I make eye contact, I can tell if the guy really is … sometimes they’ll make a pump-fake, so if I try to look at his eyes, I can tell if he’s going to attack the basket. Sometimes if he’s not really looking to attack the basket, you can tell that. That’s one of the main techniques I use to block shots.
You went to Montverde Academy in high school in Orlando. Have you been in contact with Luc Richard Mbah a Moute?
Yeah, I’ve talked to him. I’ve talked to him a lot of times before we made the decision to declare for the draft and besides that, I’ve hung out with him when he comes back to visit.
Has Mbah a Moute given you advice on the draft process?
He advised me that I need to keep working hard. There will be a lot of people that come and talk to me, so I just got to be careful who I listen to and have to choose who I’m going to listen to and stuff like that. If I’m going to decide if I’m going, if I think it’s good, I should declare. If I don’t think it’s not good enough, I shouldn’t go. But whatever decision I’m going to make, I should decide on it. I shouldn’t be 50/50. Just go with the flow and whatever I think is best for me.
What was the college life for you at Florida State, given that you’re from Nigeria?
It was fun, man. I had tons of fun. There were a lot of people that loved me out there. I had good teammates. They were fun to play with. We had great team chemistry. The coaches were great. I thought, to be honest with you, they did a good job with me out there. I think they’ve helped me a lot with my game. Coach [Stan] Jones, coach [Andy] Enfield, coach [Leonard] Hamilton, they did a really good job with me. I really had fun playing in college and they loved me out there.
How important do you think the interview process is?
I mean, it’s important because playing in the next level, it’s a huge, huge step. The organization … they want to make sure they get the best guy. That’s why the interview is good because you have to ask questions and get to know someone better. By knowing someone better, you make sure you get the best guy you want to play with your team so that’s why I think the interview process is very good.
What’s the craziest question they asked you?
Crazy question? *laughs*
I don’t think there was any crazy question. They asked me most stuff that I think is funny because I know I’ve been telling stories about me being from Africa, from Nigeria, and it’s just a joke. They thought I was a hunter or something, and I’ve killed a lamb before. I don’t know how they found out, but they asked me that and I told them that’s funny.
With the NBA being such a perimeter-oriented league, how will you try to take advantage of that with your skill-set?
It’s key. You see guys like Rondo and Derrick Rose. They’re using their speed and their ability. It’s kind of hard for teams to run zone and help-side so much because you have three seconds [in the lane]. Things like I’ve said, you work on your game to get better and you got to be able to knock down the mid-range shot. Teams are going to change up their defense but it’s basically just sit back and just watch your film, just picking away parts, that way you can find your open shooters and people on your team.
How did John Calipari help you develop as a player?
He helped me a whole lot. You see the things that Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans were doing to get ready for the league, that’s what he did for me. Maturing as a player and showing me different things that I can get better at.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s media log.