Throughout the course of last week, NBA hopefuls gathered in Chicago for the 2015 NBA Draft Combine. They competed in scrimmages, ran through drills, recorded measurements and met with teams for what is essentially a job interview. Learn about this process with firsthand accounts from those chasing their basketball dreams (and check out all of Basketball Insiders’ video interviews from the Combine here).
1. Willie Cauley-Stein was asked a lot of personality-based questions in his team interviews, ranging from, “What kind of person are you going to be in the locker room?” to, “Why do you have so many tattoos?” When asked why he dyed his hair blonde, he replied with a laugh, “Young, dumb. You live and you learn. It was cool for 30 minutes and then had to live with it for the rest of my life.”
2. Playing in the Big Ten prepared D’Angelo Russell for the NBA. “It’s not the NBA but it’s almost there,” he said. “You never know who you’re going to get every night, the coaches are trained to prepare for players like myself every night, so it’s an adjustment at the age of 18, 19 years old.”
3. Justise Winslow attended a New York Yankees game with Carmelo Anthony where he picked his brain about the NBA, not the Knicks specifically. “It was more about trying to help me adjust to the pro game, just kind of being a mentor for me,” Winslow said.
4. Cameron Payne didn’t hold back when asked by a team which guard shouldn’t be ranked in front of him. “I said Tyus Jones, even though we’re really right there together,” Payne said. “He was on a great team and he got a lot of exposure through that team. He didn’t have to carry his team like I did. I felt I went through a lot of adversity and he had one of the best big man that played college basketball around him, so he wasn’t the focal point.”
5. One area Stanley Johnson is working on improving is his decision making. “I’m not talking about turnovers,” he said. “I’m talking about whether to shoot a layup or to pass, or a jump shot or a floater, or a three or drive the ball, maybe not try to thread the needle all the time, stuff like that.”
6. Frank Kaminsky is preparing to adjust his shot selection according to the 24-second NBA shot clock, compared to 35 seconds in college. “That first look you get that’s open, you’ve got to let it go,” he said. “There were a lot of times in college where I passed up a good shot to try to work for something better. In the NBA, you can’t necessarily do that.”
7. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has already received advice from a handful of NBA players, including Jabari Parker, Tyreke Evans, Jameer Nelson and Nick Johnson. “(They told me) be ready to work, be ready to go hard, whatever a team needs you to do, whatever you’ve to do to succeed at the end of the day, you’ve got to do it,” he said.
8. In spite of the long list of University of Kentucky alum who have gone on to the NBA, Andrew Harrison plans to keep his advice seeking to those close to home. “To be honest, I just lean on (twin brother) Aaron,” said Andrew. “He’s the strongest person I know besides my dad and my grandfather. I just lean on those three. Although they’ve never been on that level, they definitely are wise.”
9. R.J. Hunter doesn’t forget those who recognized him on the way to the NBA. Hunter, who played high school basketball in Indiana, gave a shout out to former Butler University head coach/current Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He was the only Indiana school besides my Pops who recruited me, so I always have respect for Brad,” said Hunter.
10. Terry Rozier has improved the arc on his jumper, explaining he is shooting the ball “up instead of out.” To help with the process, he watched film of Steph Curry and took note of his fluid shooting motion.
11. Cliff Alexander said has been drawing comparisons to Amar’e Stoudemire since he was in high school. Alexander likes the versatility of Stoudemire’s game, including his abilities to “shoot the 15-foot jumpshot, can attack the rim, can score off either block, can score over either shoulder.”
12. George de Paula took high school English classes in Brazil, but the NBA Draft combine was only the second time he had conversations in the United States. “I’m trying to learn English as fast as I can,” he said. “It’s a long process for me.”
13. Christian Wood is looking forward to defending Kevin Durant in the NBA. “I know the guy is a killer, but I really actually kind of want to guard him to see what it’s like,” Wood said. “(I would ask him), ‘How do you do it?'”
14. Kelly Oubre strives to be a two-way guard in the NBA. When it comes to the offensive end, he sees similarities between himself and James Harden, noting, “I love his game actually.” So can Oubre drop 50 in a game like Harden? “I’ve had that in me since I was young,” he said. “It’s going to come back out.”
15. Myles Turner has set his sights far beyond being drafted. He doesn’t just want to be an NBA player, he wants to be a winner. “I consider myself a student of the game, a visionary,” he said. “I won’t settle for failure, I want success. I want NBA championships. Teams need to know that.”
16. Even though he weighs 242 pounds, Richaun Holmes has been told he has a “thin build.” He believes he plays stronger than some may think. “I can hold my own against fours or fives as well,” he said. “I’m not going to just back down, not going to get bullied.”
17. Sam Dekker emphasized his versatility, saying he can see himself playing the two, three and four positions. “I have the ability to get up and down and run like a guard and handle the ball, but I like playing on the wing and as a four,” he said. “But sometimes I don’t realize enough that I’m 6’9 and I can play inside. That’s one thing I’m really trying to add to my game.”
18. Jarell Martin considers his ability to attack the basket as his biggest asset for an NBA team, which he described as “being able to use my ball handling skills and my quickness to get past other bigger defenders and finishing by the rim.”
19. At 22, Jerian Grant is one of the older players in the draft. He sees his age as an advantage over his younger counterparts. “Me being this old just means I’m more ready right now,” he said.
20. Having older brother Dorell in the NBA has helped Delon Wright avoid being overwhelmed by meeting basketball greats during the interview process. “I’ve kind of been seeing all these guys within his 11 years,” he said. “I’ve seen Pat Riley for six years straight, so I think I’m kind of accustomed to seeing him and not getting star struck.”
21. Corey Hawkins plans to stick to his game and what has gotten him to this point. “You just work on the things you’re good at,” he said. “I don’t try to do anything out of my comfort zone or outside of my game. I stick to my floaters, things like that, making plays for other guys, and just being a good teammate.”
22. While many NBA prospects model their games after star players, Rakeem Christmas has been influenced by a glue guy. “I try to model myself after Taj Gibson,” he said. “He just goes out there, he gives it his all, he does whatever it takes for the team, he does all the little things, rebounding, blocking shots, and just being a good teammate.”
23. Quinn Cook has already picked out his Draft Night attire. He will be watching from his home in Washington, D.C. with his family, where he isn’t going the flashy suit route. “I’ll have some Duke sweats on probably, a National Championship shirt, and some flip flops,” he said with a smile.
24. Anthony Brown considers himself an underrated passer. “I’m going to bring it every day,” he said. “I’ve been in college long enough to know how to play this game. I have a high basketball IQ and I can space the floor.”
25. Larry Nance Jr. was asked why a manhole is round instead of square during the interview process. “That one kind of threw me for a loop. I didn’t know what to say,” he said. “My guess is they’re looking for me to stay level-headed, stick to my guns. I’m a good kid. I’m a high character kid, that’s really what you’re going to get.”
26. Brandon Ashley wears number 21 for Tim Duncan. “Just for the simple fact that he may not necessarily be the most athletic guy, especially now in his old age, but he’s always been able to get it done with his skill set,” said Ashley.
27. Even though Treveon Graham played the power forward in college, he wanted NBA teams to know he can also play the guard position. “I played more two than anything (during games at the Combine), showing I can shoot from outside and be consistent and also guard big men and guards,” he said.
28. Chris Walker approached the interview process as an open book. “It was an easy to do,” he said. “I just looked them in the eyes and I told them straight up everything they wanted to know.”
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