There were never enough hours in the day, not when the athletic club closed around nine o’clock and he could have stayed on the court all night. Not when every minute he wasn’t practicing was 60 seconds that passed without improving.
“In any given day, you either get better or worse. You never stay the same,” his AAU coach told him.
Noah Vonleh didn’t just believe that mantra, he lived it.
Vin Pastore met Vonleh when he was in the seventh grade, a tall teenager with length and noticeably large hands from Haverhill in northern Massachusetts. Pastore coached the Mass Rivals, an AAU team that Vonleh would join. He had seen plenty of height and athleticism over the years; Vonleh had to possess more than just physical attributes to stand out from the rest.
It didn’t take long for Pastore to realize Vonleh was different. He didn’t work out to play, he worked out to get better. With a long-term goal in mind, Vonleh was fiercely determined to put in the work make it to the NBA.
“Some people dream about it when they go to bed,” Pastore told Basketball Insiders. “Noah had an advanced type of dreaming. He would dream about it when he was awake.”
They began a routine when Vonleh was a freshman in high school and followed it for the next two years. Vonleh finished school around 2:15 in the afternoon, Pastore picked him up around 2:30 and drove him to the Rockingham Athletic Club a few minutes away over the New Hampshire border. Vonleh completed his homework in the lounge area. Pastore, a teacher, did his after school work as well.
After they were finished, Vonleh began practicing, usually by four. Once he hit the court, there was no telling him to stop. There was a first wave of kids who Vonleh would work out with. When they went home for dinner, he ate at the snack bar and waited for the next group to arrive after supper. Vonleh returned again on the weekends.
“He couldn’t get enough of the gym,” said Pastore. “He was literally a kid who would give up anything to be in the gym.”
Vonleh was a skills player. In spite of his soaring height (he now measures 6’9, 247 pounds), he wanted to work on his guard game as a power forward. Dribbling, ball handling, he focused on the details.
He let his game do the talking, as he was reserved by nature. He followed in his mother’s footsteps of being a hard worker. For as long as Pastore knew her, she held two jobs to support Vonleh and his two sisters. Vonleh didn’t have the most expensive of things, but he never went without. Work diligently to succeed, he saw at home, and he applied that same focus to basketball.
There was the time his mother organized a family trip to Disney World and Vonleh insisted on being dropped off at a gym instead to practice. After all, taking days off for vacation meant losing opportunities to improve. There were also nights when Vonleh felt he had to get to the facility after insisting he played poorly even though, as Pastore pointed out, it was still a good performance by many people’s standards. Just as his mother found him a gym in Orlando, Pastore would find him a court near his home. His simple request came from a good place; he just wanted to be better.
“The thing about Noah is, he never asks for anything,” said Pastore. “So it’s hard to say no because all he ever asks for is, ‘Can you take me to the gym?’ He didn’t care if he had the fanciest phone or those Beats on his head. He just needed you to take him to the gym. And if the gym was closed, he wanted to know if we could get in somewhere.”
Word of Vonleh’s potential had made its way to the prep schools. Peter Hutchins, the head coach at New Hampton School, learned of Vonleh when he was in middle school. There wasn’t a lot of hype at first, but his reputation as a gym rat began to spread.
Like Pastore, Hutchins immediately noticed Vonleh’s physique. And like Pastore, he was struck by his work ethic when he enrolled following his sophomore year at Haverhill High School.
“It was certainly conveyed regularly that he had a certain intangible, that he had a willingness to work,” said Hutchins. “[He was] someone who after school was at the gym. I think at that age if you find young people that are that driven and don’t have any distractions in their lives, ultimately I think that’ll probably yield some pretty good results, which has certainly been the case for him.”
School breaks and summers were spent focusing on basketball. He wanted to be a McDonald’s All-American and ranked nationally. Pastore told Vonleh early on there were other players out there who possessed the same level of talent, so it was up to him to outwork them. He attended the LeBron James Skills Academy and Amar’e Stoudemire Skills Academy, surrounding himself with high-caliber players to keep pushing.
After two years at New Hampton, Vonleh was recruited by Indiana University, where he played one season before declaring for the 2014 NBA Draft at only 18 years old. He is a projected lottery pick, impressing teams with his versatility and reputable work ethic. Even as he received positive feedback during workouts, he still focused on getting to the gym the next day to continue working. The routine from high school has been altered, but the end result is the same. There is still just one place he’d rather be.
“Basketball was for him,” said Pastore. “It was beautiful because every young guy grows up and their interests seem to change and he kept that — going to the gym was the most important thing.”
NBA Daily: The Winners Of The NBA Draft
Simon Hannig breaks down the winners from Thursday’s 2018 NBA Draft.
The 2018 NBA Draft has come and gone, and although many teams have improved coming out of this loaded draft, five teams seemed to have walked away as the biggest winners.
The Phoenix Suns Got Their Guy
The Suns made a couple of splashes in the draft, selecting DeAndre Ayton with the first overall pick.
The Suns then drafted Zhaire Smith, but later traded his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers for Mikal Bridges.
In the second round of the draft, Phoenix selected Frenchman Elie Okobo and George King from Colorado, each of whom should be able to contribute right away. Ayton should be the starting center come opening night and Bridges could also start for the team immediately. If not, Bridges will be a valuable weapon coming off the bench for a team who is trying to win games and get back into the playoffs.
Does Mo Bamba Have The (Orlando) Magic?
The Orlando Magic got a stud in Mo Bamba, whom they surprisingly selected with the sixth overall pick in the draft. They later drafted Melvin Frazier in the second round. It was a bit surprising that the Tulane product lasted that long, but the Magic benefitted.
Orlando got a player who can contribute right away and could compete for a starting job. Frazier is a great rebounder and defender and could change the team’s defense all by himself. The club now has two young core pieces they can build around in Jonathan Isaac and Bamba and a young contributor in Frazier.
Although the team’s offense will likely be work in progress, they can be very scary on the defensive end.
Now, we’ll all wait to see if Bamba, the New York product, can carry the Magic back to respectability.
Atlanta Hawks Will Let It Fly
After drafting Luka Doncic with the third overall pick, the Hawks ended up sending him to Dallas in exchange for Trae Young and a future protected first round pick. The pick is top-five protected the next two years, top-three protected in 2021 and 2022 and unprotected in 2023, according to Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson.
With their second first round pick, the Hawks took sharpshooter Kevin Huerter from Maryland and, with the 30th overall pick, selected Omari Spellman from Villanova.
Atlanta appears to building themselves in the way of the Warriors, getting sharpshooters in Young and Huerter. It is no surprise they are doing this as their current general manager, Travis Schlenk, worked with Golden State before taking the job with the Hawks.
The Rich Got Richer In Boston
The Celtics once again got a steal in the draft, as they were the beneficiaries as it relates to Robert Williams from Texas A&M. He is an athletic big man who plays great defense and rebounds the ball very well. Williams has lottery talent but ended up falling to the Celtics, who selected him with the 27th pick of the draft.
Williams averaged 2.5 blocks per game at Texas and should also be able to provide second chance opportunities for the team. Williams, as he averaged three offensive rebounds per game in college.
Luka Doncic Found A Good Home
The Dallas Mavericks walked away from the 2018 NBA Draft with two foundational pieces in tow, Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic. Their other moves were also tremendous, as they drafted Jalen Brunson from Villanova, acquired Ray Spalding from Louisville in a trade with the Sixers and drafted Kostas Antetokounmpo (Giannis’ younger brother) with the last piece in the draft.
For Mark Cuban, it may take time to develop the pieces, but if things could go well, the Mavs might have some productive years ahead.
Doncic was thought to be one of, if not the best player available in the draft, so getting him at the expense of a protected future first round pick seems like a fair trade. Depending on how ready he is to contribute at the NBA level, the sky could be the limit.
Of course, every year, there are surprises. Some good, and some bad. However, walking away from the 2018 NBA Draft, these five teams all appear to have improved themselves immensely.
NBA Draft Night Trades
David Yapkowitz breaks down the trades that took place during the 2018 NBA Draft.
Another NBA Draft has come and gone. With rumors swirling all week about possible pick/player movement, the night remained relatively uneventful. There were a few trades that occurred, however. Here’s a quick breakdown of the movement that happened on draft night.
1. Atlanta Hawks/Dallas Mavericks
The Hawks and Mavericks completed the first trade of the night early on in the draft. Leading up to the draft, there were questions about how high Luka Doncic was going to be drafted. It was widely assumed that he wouldn’t slip past Dallas at No. 5. The Mavericks weren’t going to take that chance as the Hawks drafted Doncic with the intention of trading him to Dallas for Trae Young.
Both teams ultimately get what they need. It’s been reported that the Hawks might move on from Dennis Schroder this summer and they’ll need a point guard to replace him. Young is an explosive scorer who will fit in nicely with Atlanta’s rebuild. He can score from anywhere on the court and he’s a great playmaker as well.
For the Mavericks, they get a guy to add to their own young core with Dennis Smith Jr. and Harrison Barnes. Doncic has the size to play next to Smith in the backcourt. He’s quite possibly the best playmaker in the draft with a solid offensive game as well.
2. Charlotte Hornets/Los Angeles Clippers
The Hornets and Clippers consummated the second move the night by swapping their own draft picks. The Hornets took Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with the 11th pick and then immediately traded him to the Clippers for Miles Bridges, whom Los Angeles selected at No. 12.
For the Hornets, they get a guy who can play both forward positions. Bridges is more of a small forward but in small ball lineups, he can slide over to the four. Offensively he is at his best when he puts the ball on the floor and attacks the rim. He’s a decent shooter too.
The Clippers get a point guard who was rumored to climbing up many draft boards as the night approached. Gilgeous-Alexander is a solid pick for them provided both Patrick Beverly and Milos Teodosic’ injury history. He can also play off the ball if need be. He’s got the physical tools to be a very good defender at the NBA level. It’s not at all far-fetched to imagine him as the future long-term starting point guard for the Clippers.
The Hornets also got two future second-round picks from the Clippers.
3. Philadelphia 76ers/Phoenix Suns
The Sixers and the Suns had the next move of draft night, also swapping their picks. The Sixers selected hometown hero Mikal Bridges with the No. 10 pick and later traded him to the Suns for the No. 16 pick, Zhaire Smith.
Bridges made a lot of sense for the Sixers. Not only is he a local guy, but his mother works for the team as well. He was a talented player who fit their team. He gave a post-draft press conference raving about being a Sixer all the while he had been traded already. But such is life in the NBA. Instead, Phoenix gets a guy that’s ready to contribute in the NBA right away. He’s the prototypical 3&D type guy.
For the Sixers, Zhaire Smith is another guy who was steadily climbing the boards in the days leading up to the draft. He’s a very athletic prospect with good defensive instincts. He probably won’t play much right away, but he does have the potential to end up being one of the better rotation players in this draft.
The Sixers also get a 2021 first-round pick from the Suns via the Miami Heat. It’s highly likely this ends up being a lottery pick and thus giving the Sixers the chance to add a high-end talent to an already potent group.
4. Second-Round moves
There are a few second-round moves that were made as well.
For one, the Hawks selected Devonte Graham with the 34th pick and traded him to the Hornets for two future second-round picks. Graham is another NBA ready guy who can come in and immediately contend for backup point guard minutes behind Kemba Walker.
The Sixers were involved in another deal sending the No. 38 pick Khyri Thomas to the Detroit Pistons for two future second-round picks. Thomas is a player that many projected to go in the first round. For a team that didn’t have a first-round pick coming into the night, the Pistons essentially picked one up. It’s possible he turns out better than Detroit’s most recent first-rounders Henry Ellenson and Luke Kennard.
The Sacramento Kings drafted Gary Trent Jr. with the 37th pick only to trade him to the Portland Trail Blazers for two future second-round picks. Trent was one of the better shooters in the draft and that’s what he projects to the be in the NBA. He’s probably a few years away from earning a spot in the rotation but he was also a possible first-round pick. He’s more NBA ready than Anfernee Simons who the Blazers took in the first-round.
The Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets swapped second-round picks with the Magic sending the No. 41 pick Jarred Vanderbilt to the Nuggets for the No. 43 pick Justin Jackson and a future second-round pick. Vanderbilt is a project in every sense of the word. He’s extremely raw and probably needed more time in college. But he’s got long-term potential and could pay off in the future. Jackson, on the other hand, was possibly a first-round talent had he entered the draft last year. He’s going to have to make the roster but could be a 3&D guy.
In the final move of the night, the Hornets traded the No. 45 pick Hamidou Diallo to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Diallo is a guy that had he come out last year, probably would’ve been a first-round guy. In any case, he is also very raw and will need seasoning in the G-League. He’s got all the physical tools and skill to be a good rotation NBA player.
#28 – Jacob Evans – Golden State Warriors
With the 28th overall pick, the Golden State Warriors selected Cincinnati Junior Jacob Evans.
Evans represents a solid pick for nearly any NBA team. Evans fits in the mold of a potential 3-and-D role player. Evans improved in his time at Cincinnati, culminating in his junior year, where he scored 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Evans spent three seasons at Cincinnati and rounded himself into a versatile two-way player who can bring a lot of value at the NBA level.
Evans is a very cognitive player, especially on the defensive end. He has a better grasp of his limitations than most players at this stage of their respective careers and is able to maximize his individual defensive ability within a team concept. Evans generally makes the right rotations, double-teams at the right times and funnels his opponents to where his teammates are when he cannot contain the ball-handler on his own. With the right coaching, he could become a valuable defensive wing in an NBA rotation sooner than some anticipate.
Additionally, Evans is more than just a shooter. He led his team in assists last season and has some skill as a playmaker. Evans will be more of a shooter and finisher in the NBA, but the ability to make the right pass, swing the ball when he isn’t open and take the ball off the dribble when necessary make him an intriguing prospect. This is especially true when you consider how valuable a player like Khris Middleton has become over the years, adding layers to his 3-and-D skill set each season.
The Warriors aren’t in need of an influx of talent but are happy to add Evans regardless.