Oregon State forward Drew Eubanks enjoyed playing baseball growing up because running wasn’t a key part of the game. Now, he’s established himself as one of the best big men in the Pac-12 and is on the verge of a professional career playing basketball.
While he may have grown up playing baseball, he’s fully committed to playing basketball now and appears to be heading toward a career in the NBA. The 6-foot-10 forward made huge improvements from his first year at Oregon State to his second year and has put his name on the NBA radar in the process.
Eubanks is coming off of his best season with the Beavers after averaging 14.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 1.2 assists per game. Eubanks led Oregon State in total points, rebounds and blocks this season. He also finished 18th in the Pac-12 in points, eighth in rebounds and fourth in blocks.
Eubanks’ successful sophomore campaign was a complete transformation compared to his freshman year. In his first year at Oregon State, Eubanks averaged 7.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 21.4 minutes per game. He worked hard last summer to improve his game and his numbers from this last season reflect that hard work.
“I knew I had to gain weight this past offseason,” Eubanks told Basketball Insiders. “I knew I had to get a lot stronger, get my ball handling up a lot more and learn how to finish shots against Pac-12 players. I just learned a lot more.
“I practiced a lot of my hook shots with my right and left hand shooting over people. I already had a college season under my belt so I knew what to expect going in. I feel like just learning the game and learning how to play at the college level is going to help me.”
Eubanks sees Blake Griffin as a player that he’d like to one day become. After watching Eubanks play for two seasons, it’s easy to see that resemblance. Eubanks puts on a dunk show in virtually every game and he possesses great athleticism for his size. He uses his quickness to his advantage and is very active on the boards and will often blow past defenders off the dribble.
“Blake Griffin is still my favorite player and that’s who I try to be like,” Eubanks said. “He’s just a freak and can do a lot of crazy stuff with the ball. The way he jumps and the way he handles the ball as big as he is, I feel like I could relate to him because he’s really athletic. I feel like we play [a lot alike].”
Admittedly, Eubanks wasn’t very good when he first began playing basketball during his freshman year of high school.
He had grown up with baseball in mind and didn’t even follow an NBA team. In fact, he didn’t know much about the sport when he began playing so he was forced to spend the first few years of his basketball career just learning the rules.
Standing at 6-foot-5 as a freshman, Eubanks caught the eye of some fellow students heading to the gym to play a pick-up game. Since he was the tallest person on campus, they asked him to join because they needed a center for their team.
As a pitcher in baseball, Eubanks figured running up and down the basketball court could help his baseball game. He could build his leg muscles, which would help him push off of the mound harder and increase the velocity of his fastball.
So, he went and played.
That trip to the gym turned out to be the first time he had played basketball and he admits he didn’t play well. It took him awhile to finally understand the sport and begin to get the hang of it. It was in that moment that he realized why he grew up playing baseball instead of playing basketball.
“Part of the reason I didn’t want to play basketball growing up was because I hated running,” Eubanks said. “Baseball was the happy-medium; it’s like see how fast you are running 90 feet and that’s it. There is not a lot of running in the offseason to get in shape because baseball isn’t really an endurance game. It’s like a bang-bang play here and there and that’s about it.”
It started to click after he began playing some AAU basketball teams. He had a good outing against an AAU team at a tournament in Las Vegas and caught the eye of a couple of college scouts. Once he returned from Las Vegas, he received a phone call from a college with an offer and knew it was time to start taking basketball seriously.
“I put baseball on the backburner, but I still played and did well,” Eubanks said. “I tried to focus on basketball and I got to play my first year in AAU the next summer. Toward the end of the summer, I started doing really well against really good AAU teams. That’s when I started to really get recruited.”
Eubanks said one benefit of playing baseball that helped him transition to basketball is the mental side of things. Baseball prepared him to be locked in at all times during the extended time in between plays and that helped him focus on things a bit more in basketball.
“Baseball is a very slow game,” Eubanks said. “In a three-hour game, you probably only experience a minute to two minutes of live action in a game so you’re locked in all of the time.”
Although it has been a few years since he last played baseball, he can still throw some heat off of the mound.
“I hit 90 mph a couple of times in high school,” Eubanks said. “I’ve already gained 30 pounds and have gotten a lot stronger since my senior year in high school so I’m probably up a lot higher now.”
Eubanks plans to take advantage of a new rule established last season that allows underclassmen to test the NBA waters. Players that declare for the draft without hiring an agent can earn an invitation to the Draft Combine and workout for NBA teams and still maintain their college eligibility.
Players have until 10 days after the Combine on May 24 to withdraw their name from draft consideration and still have the option to return to school. Some players opt to enter the pre-draft process to gain feedback from NBA scouts and executives to further improve their game.
Participating in pre-draft workouts and attending the Combine can prepare players for what to expect at the next level. Many players are happy with this new rule that allows them to test the NBA waters and see if they’re truly ready to play in the NBA. After getting such a late start to basketball, Eubanks is just thrilled to even be in this position.
“I’m more excited than anything because not everyone gets this opportunity,” Eubanks said. “I’m lucky I even have this chance. If you would have asked me six or seven years ago when I started playing basketball if I’d be where I’m at, I’d say no way.”
Players that perform well at the Combine and in workouts may also opt to stay in the draft as well. Isaiah Whitehead is a prime example of a player that declared for the draft last year but didn’t immediately hire an agent.
Whitehead began the pre-draft process projected to go undrafted, but performed well during workouts and was ultimately drafted 42nd by the Utah Jazz. Players know that a great showing in front of NBA teams will help their draft stock and Eubanks will certainly be ready to show off his game.
Eubanks will surely use this process to gauge where he stands among all of the other draft prospects and make a decision following the Combine.
Not many are able to make the transition from baseball to the NBA, but Eubanks appears more than capable of making that leap.
Considering how far he’s come in such a short amount of time, don’t be surprised if that happens.
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