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.
I’m the kind of guy who always gets nervous before these workouts. I’ve been to three workouts so far: Boston, San Antonio and Phoenix. It’s definitely the most I’ve traveled in my whole life in such a short period of time but it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been great working out with other guys who are really good and going up against them on the court to see how I match up, but I’ve definitely been going in feeling very nervous.
Once you start talking to everybody you realize just how down to earth they are and how nice everybody is. It’s always fun to meet all the different coaches, maybe the owners, the general managers and see the different facilities and different teams. It’s a really cool experience to get to know them a little bit and I’ve had the feeling that I’d love to play for all three of the teams I’ve worked out for so far.
Still, I mean, it’s every kid’s dream to play for the team they grew up watching and grew up loving. I was a huge Celtics fan growing up in Massachusetts and a huge Kevin Garnett fan, too. It would just be a dream come true to play for my hometown team.
Basketball was very important to me growing up and I’ve played my whole life pretty much. My mom played basketball at U Maine so basketball was always a big part of my life. I always just loved sports all around. I played basketball, baseball, football and soccer growing up, so it wasn’t really just basketball I loved. I think it was sophomore year of high school when I kind of just started to focus on straight basketball and I gave those other sports up.
Going from high school to college ball at Maryland was still a huge adjustment.
After my freshman year at Maryland, I realized how much I was getting pushed around out there on the court. I think at every different level you go to, the speed of the game definitely gets a lot faster. So I think getting to college and seeing the speed of the game and seeing how strong these guys were was definitely a big adjustment period for me. I went to my trainer in the offseason and he kind of came to me, too, and I said ‘I need to get stronger and bigger.’ That offseason was all about me gaining weight and being in the weight room and getting stronger.
While some guys were doing more speed stuff I was doing more power stuff. Eating wise I was just trying to get as many calories as possible a day, whether it was just protein shakes or four to five meals a day and trying to get 4-5,000 calories per day and it made an immediate difference.
It was also between my freshman and sophomore year that a handful of our starters decided to leave Maryland. I didn’t really put any thought into leaving because I didn’t have any reason to. All those guys had their different reasons for leaving but I thought about it and decided I don’t really have any reason to.
I decided to stay loyal to Maryland and coach Turgeon and you know, it was kind of a core group of guys that decided to stick around. It was me, Dez Wells and Evan Smotrycz and we kind of stuck together and decided we needed to turn this program around.
Then the next year we ended up having a great year and after my junior year I was definitely thinking about leaving for the NBA. But I spoke to my parents a lot and my parents reached out to a lot of people who work in the NBA and who work in the sports industry to just try and get different opinions on what they think I should do. Based on the feedback, it was the best choice for me to go back to school and it definitely worked out for the best.
I also think my relationship grew with coach Turgeon each and every year I was there and especially with the things we went through as a program. Me deciding to stay my sophomore year brought us closer, me deciding to come back to school after my junior year brought us even closer. He was kind of right there with me for each one of my decisions.
On top of that, I graduated in May and that was a very important part of the decisions to stay, too. Off the court, school was the hardest thing to adjust to going into college because school doesn’t come easily to everybody and I’m one of those people that it didn’t come easy to. It was definitely a journey over these last four years to get to this point. Everyone involved with the Maryland program is proud of me and my parents are especially proud of me.
My parents have meant so much to me through this whole process. They’ve done so much for me whether it’s helping decide if I want to come back to school, or picking an agent, they’ve just been helping me all around for my entire life.
To hear my name called on draft day would be a dream come true. A lot of guys have that same answer, but it’d be a dream come true because it really is my goal to play in the NBA and be a really good NBA player.
If there’s one thing I want coaches to know about me, it’s that I’m a very hardworking guy and I’m loyal. I want them to look at my experience at Maryland and see how that translates to me as a person. And I think on the court I want them to know that I’m a guy who can guard 1-4, I’m a great shooter and I’m athletic.
I don’t really know what my plans are going to be for draft day just yet, If it’s a possibility, I’d definitely love to go to New York and get a picture up on stage. But if it works out the other way where I’m at home with friends and family, that’d be just fine for me.
Either way I’m excited to have basketball be my full-time job, so no matter what happens, it’s going to be really, really special.