In today’s media session (click here to read the log from Day 1), I was able to speak with Evan Turner amongst the media, as well as speak with Paul George, Patrick Patterson one-on-one, and Larry Sanders.
Could you talk about the rich basketball culture in Chicago, given that you’ve grown up in an area that’s produced talents like Isaiah Thomas, Quentin Richardson, and others?
Yeah, I just think basketball has always been a big thing in Chicago. It’s a competitive sport. Kids have a ball before they can walk. Everybody grows up playing it. It’s the thing to do during the summer. I used to play basketball from like 11 a.m. all the way to [midnight], so I think it’s a very competitive sport and just the way life is out here.
How did Thad Matta help prepare you for the NBA?
I think just mentally. He’s really big on the mental aspect of the game. He says everybody has talent but not too many are mentally tough and they crumble. I think he’s gotten me prepared for being positive, always have confidence in myself, and just preparing right. Working hard and not letting a day go by or an opportunity go by.
What makes your play-style so conducive to the next level?
I think I was blessed with the ability to slash. I picked up the game and learned how to find my teammates quicker … use the ball screen. I think it’s just a players’ game. I play basketball and I just work on different type of things to be ready for the NBA game and it’s a players’ game. I feel like it’s just basketball.
The NBA has become more of a league dominated by wing players. How do you think you’ll take advantage of the game in its present form?
Being in the Big Ten where they could carry you up the court pretty much and not getting any fouls called, I think I’ll adapt to it well. Definitely I have to get used to it on the defensive end because you can’t use your body or your hands. These are pros now. It’s their job to make shots. It’s their job to attack and everything, just have to be smart, really use your technique, and really use your fundamentals.
Some of the players I spoke with yesterday said that the college game is more physical, so how do you think you’ll adapt yourself to the league where it’s more spread out and what not?
The pace is going to be faster and the length of people [is different]. Somethings it’ll be tougher to finish at the rim and that’s pretty much it. The pace is going to be way quicker. Better athletes … you might face a guy your height or taller, as opposed to facing a guy who’s a little bit shorter.
What makes your play-style a nice fit for the NBA?
I think I can just adjust. A lot of players can’t really make that jump. I feel like that’s one of the things I can do is make that jump to the next level. I just think I have a feel for the game.
How’s the interview process been going for you?
It’s been going good. I mean, I’ve come across some teams that’s really tough. I’ve come across some teams that’s laid back, so you never know what you’re going to get when you walk in the door.
What’s a question you’ve been asked in the interviews that stood out to you the most?
Well, it’s always tough answering a question … with my team being so talented [at Fresno State], why we didn’t do so well. It really is a hard question to answer, because we were pretty talented and we just didn’t make out to what we could have been.
How do you think you’ll take advantage of the hand-checking rule in the league, given it’s a rule that’s strictly enforced?
I think that’ll be much more better because the floor itself is wider [in the NBA] so you kind of get more room to operate and I felt like, in college, being a premiere scorer for my team, it was kind of tough to get going because defenses could pretty much do what they want if it’s one player that they’re trying to shut down. In the NBA, every player is good so I think I can adjust real well in that aspect.
How did you feel John Calipari help you prepare for the NBA?
I think he prepared me on the court from my perimeter play. I never played on the perimeter and I think by his style of offense and then pushing me everyday along with my teammates, I was always used to playing with my back to the basket my first two years there [at Kentucky] and I never got the opportunity to play on the perimeter and step out. Coach Calipari wanted me to do that, pushing me everyday. It improved my game and I thank him for that and it allowed me to show areas of my game that no one ever seen before. It allowed me to shoot the three and it allowed me to drive to the perimeter and guard on the perimeter, as well. It’s something I haven’t done all year so definitely by playing under Coach Cal, it improved my overall game.
What makes your style of play apt for the next level?
As far as myself goes, I’m a [power forward], 6’9” … so I can bang down low with the big guys. That’s what I’ve been doing my whole life and I feel totally comfortable doing that. Not only can I go down low and turn around and face up, I’m working on my perimeter game like I did this year so I’m comfortable knocking down 15-foot to 18-foot jumpshots and all the way to the NBA three, so I think I’m a versatile four who could be shaped into a three if necessary and working on guarding on the perimeter like I did all year this year and just trying to improve my game overall. I think that my competitive nature and my heart sets me aside from everyone else.
How’s the interview process been going for you?
It’s been going great, so far. I had some great conversations with teams and just letting them know a little about myself and where I come from, my family history, and my basketball at Kentucky so they’ve been great, they’ve been respectful, and it’s just been a great process.
What’s a question you were asked that, perhaps, was off-the-wall?
Just basically teams trying to get the player to say something negative about another player, especially someone on your team who’s been known or who’s image people are trying to portray him as a bad person or a tough guy off the court. A person that is not understanding, so teams just trying to get you … not necessarily rat on somebody but just try to get you talk negative about a teammate.
You talked about extending your range to the NBA three-point line earlier and certainly there’s a stretch four phenomenon going on in the league right now, do you think your shooting game will help you be a complete player?
Yeah, I’ve been working a lot — just day in and day out — with my workouts, with my trainer, shooting the NBA three and I’m starting to feel more comfortable with it. I want to shoot it at the next level as need be, so it’s always good to be able to have something like that.
Do you think your ability to shoot the basketball may transform your position in the NBA?
I think so, it could. At my height, I’m 6’9” and the power forwards are starting to be 6’10” and 6’11” now and if need be, knowing that I’m working on the perimeter part of my game and my jumpshot, I could move to the three easily and play that position, as well as the four position and I could also play off the perimeter more as a four if we have a big, powerful guy down low to post up in situations like that so I definitely think what I’m working on hopefully will help me out in the future and our team, as well.
Could you talk about the subtle differences you anticipate you’ll experience as you make the jump from college to the pros?
The floor is spread out. You have more room to operate. The three-second rule in the paint … you can’t camp out in the paint like you can in college basketball. There’s no five-second rule and also, just the way you guard in the post. You can’t put hands on someone or on the perimeter, you can’t put your arm on somebody unless you got your back to the basket or else you’ll get a foul called, so definitely there’s a lot of changes from college to the NBA level so there’s definitely a lot of things I look forward to try to get more comfortable in the future.
What do you think will allow your play-style to mesh with the pro game?
Well, I think there’s certain things a guy has got to be blessed with. My ability to learn. My hands … just things like that. I think that will help me make the transition.
What do you foresee being some of the differences you’ll experience transitioning from college to the NBA?
More physical. It’s a fast-paced [game] … stronger … I mean, you’re out there every night with the best players in the world. The level of talent is going to be ten times better so I’m excited. It makes me excited because one thing about me is that I love to work so the challenge is there and I love to compete, so I’m just going to try to get more physical, to get stronger, to get bigger, and I know I’ll be ready.
Have there been any guys in the league that have reached out to you and help you throughout the draft process?
Yeah, Eric Maynor was my point guard for two years at VCU. We talk constantly. I constantly talk to him. I talk to Amar’e [Stoudemire] sometimes. He reaches out and drops some little things in my head.
How’s the interview process been going for you?
It’s going really well. I was excited because I think just seeing me from the outside, I don’t know what perception you get of me but once I get the interviews, they really get to know me and it makes a world of a difference.
Any questions that stood out to you during the interviews?
I mean, I think I was well-prepared. Eric told me they’re private eyes, man. *laughs*
They know everything. There’s nothing they don’t know, so I wasn’t thrown off by anything.
Were there any basketball-related questions that you felt you impressed people with your answer?
I don’t know. They don’t let you know if you impressed them. They just keep a straight face. *laughs*
But I don’t know … maybe I did, maybe I didn’t. I think there was a question they asked about basketball … they were talking about Kevin Garnett, and I was just saying how mental it is. Basketball is way more mental than anything. I believe that intensity and that mentality that Kevin Garnett has or Pau Gasol … it makes them great players.
How did Tim Grover help prepare you as you begin your professional career?
He was really focusing on my body and things that I needed because I always wanted to put on weight so I always wanted to get bigger and get stronger, I just didn’t know how. That was good for learning things like that. Learning about what areas of my body were tight or my hips, I needed to open my hips up, things like that and then that kind of carried over to IMG. I started doing yoga, things like that. Eating more and more and more and within those four weeks, I gained ten pounds. Just knowing my body, so that’s good.
In terms of eating, did they educate you on the right foods to intake?
Yeah, exactly what to eat. What kind of fats I should stay away from. I thought all fats were good. *laughs*
I thought all fats were good for me but they’re not, and get to a weight that I can run with. I think running is one of my strongest aspects.
How do you think that knowledge of knowing more about your body will help you as you progress in the NBA?
It helps me because someone’s not going to have their eyes on me 24 hours a day. I’m going to have to make my own choices on food, things I need to eat, how much I need to eat, and just knowing for sure and then seeing the progress happen helps a lot on and off the court.
That concludes the 2010 NBA Draft Combine media sessions.