By Adam Lockley
It was my first year of covering NBA draft media day; my first year of getting the perspective of a new generation of NBA prospects. It was an interesting way to see what these players will become when their careers begin. Many players had typical responses to questions I gave and some had unique answers.
For instance I asked Arizona’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who he looks forward to playing against in the NBA; ‘’Lebron, Lebron, Kobe, all those guys in the great category.’’ He also gave me an original answer when he responded to the question who he compares his game to; ‘’I don’t know if I say comparison is the right word, more similarity. I am similar to a Bruce Bowen, or a Kawhi Leonard.’’ Also was asked how he can improve a struggling team; ‘’I would say bringing my defense, hard work…. Being able to make plays in transition, just those type of things.’’ This was unique because it’s very rare when a young player thinks defense first.
Duke University prospect Justise Winslow had a different answer to who he compares himself to, ‘’To be honest I don’t compare myself to anybody; I have a style of play that’s very unique.’’ His answer was similar to Hollis-Jerfferson’s in terms of who he wants to play against; ‘’Kobe Bryant; it would be nice to play against him as his career comes to a close.’’ I also noticed what many people notice about Justise when they watch him play; his chiseled physique. Since I noticed it I asked if he ever played football. ‘’Yeah I did play football…. Stopped playing in middle school.’’ I believe he could have made a good NFL Wide Receiver, just saying. Also I asked how the legendary coach K prepared him for the NBA; ‘’He really helped me grow as a person and player… helping me understand the approach of the game mentally, so a lot of it is how he helped mentally.’’
I also asked Arizona’s Stanley Johnson how he could improve a struggling basketball team? ‘’Just being myself, just controlling the process, and hoop; I’m good at playing basketball so I just have to be myself, that’s about it.’’ Also I asked what the strongest aspect of his game was? ‘’My versatility, that’s about it.’’ Also I asked who he compares himself to as a player, he had a simliar answer to Justise. ‘’Myself, I can’t compare myself to anybody else.’’
I had the same question for Wisconsin prospect Sam Dekker. His response was, ‘’He’s (Bo Ryan) got me very disciplined, I came into college kind of skilled, I thought I had all the answers when I did not; I had to realize I was not the man and that I had a lot to learn. Coach Ryan helped me by not taking it easy on me. I think you guys even saw last year coach (Bo Ryan) was pretty hard on me on the court because he cared so much. He saw me as a guy that could be really, really good and taught me how to be involved in a game besides scoring.’’
I also asked Karl-Anthony Towns how his coach (Calipari) prepared him for the NBA; ‘’He prepared me tremendously giving me a much more refined low post game and just the mentality that allows us to be out best.’’ I also asked Towns about the possibility of being another big man in Laker history and if he would feel the pressure; ‘’No because I am just trying to put my stamp on the league, having a ball with the whole draft process, wherever I go I want to contribute to the team’s success as much as possible and possibly lead them to a championship.’’ I also wanted to know if there was any particular player he looked forward to playing against. ‘’you know there are a lot of players, this is the greatest league in the world, and the best players in the world… maybe Hall of Famers like Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant or Lebron James. Those are Hall of Famers and legends playing in the greatest league in the world.’’ He gave a mature answer when asked which aspect of his game needed the most work. ‘’well you know what I actually don’t think its just one aspect I want to keep working on all aspects because every aspect has to stay sharp in order for me to be the best player I can be.’’ Also asked what his favorite basketball memory was; ‘’College when I played on a team that was so great with so many great brothers, who had a ball playing together, I believe that’s the best experience I’ve ever had.’’
Also I spoke with international prospect Kristpaps Porzingas. I asked how he would adjust to NBA play? ‘’Its hard to say, wherever I land, different teams play different styles of basketball, I think these last two and half years have helped me since I had different coaches.’’ Also I asked which aspect of his game needed the most work? ‘’Just being more physical.’’
I asked Arkansas big man Bobby Portis who he would compare his game to? ‘’I would say Kevin Garnett because he is a good big that does a lot of things with the basketball and plays with that log on his shoulder that I also play with.’’ Also asked him the aspect of his game that needs the most work? ‘’Just me getting stronger, every kid that is 20 years old is not going to be the strongest in the world, I feel like strength comes over time.’’ Also I asked how his workouts have gone so far? ‘’They’ve gone great… I have had 10-11 workouts. I felt like I have done my best for every single workout, I put my time and effort into the gym to be the best basketball player I could possibly be.’’ I also asked him how he feels about an NBA scout saying he plays below the rim? ‘’I don’t play below the rim I play in a system where I was double and triple teamed so I could not do anything above the rim.’’
I also spoke to UCLA prospect Kevon Looney, who had the same answer as Bobby Portis regarding where he needs to improve. ‘’I would say improving my body, I can get better in my skill set such as far as becoming a better shooter, passer, ball handler, but improving my body would be the biggest key for all of that.’’ I also asked how the college game prepared him for the NBA? ‘’Just having that structure, coach Alford ran a lot of post sets so when I got these workouts I kind of new what to expect, so that was probably the biggest thing I learned in college. Also the travel while playing at UCLA and dealing with the media. Just dealing with yourself as a professional.’’ I also asked who he would compare himself to as a player? ‘’I don’t think there is anyone I would compare myself to, but I like to watch Anthony Davis, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Kawhi Leonard.’’ Also I asked about his favorite basketball moment? ‘’My favorite basketball moment was in my senior year of HS when I scored my 2000th point and I gave the game ball to my parents that was probably my favorite moment, or this year in college when we won the first tournament game, that was a big game for us, everyone said we were not supposed to make it and how we won was real controversial because we won on a goal tend, anytime you win on a goal tend its going to be controversial.’’