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Shake Milton Looking To Prove Defense Comes With His Sharp Shot

SMU’s Shake Milton is looking to show he’s more than a one-skill player, writes Spencer Davies.

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In today’s world in the NBA, one-dimensional will not cut it—especially if you’re a rookie.

You’ve got to make a name for yourself in different ways. From a hustle play saving the ball from going out of bounds to finding an open man in a crucial moment, there’s a multitude of possibilities to find your niche in the professional ranks.

For Southern Methodist University standout Shake Milton, he sees his best role as a two-way combo guard.

“They’re not gonna ask me to come in and get 25 shots and have all these isolations, so it’s just about doing what you do well,” Milton said at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. “And for me, that’s gonna be (the ability) to knock down shots and then play defense.”

Hitting threes was Milton’s bread and butter at the collegiate level. In 87 games with the Mustangs, he converted on 42.7 percent of his triple tries.

Furthermore, in the 2017-18 season, Milton was one of five players in the NCAA (min. 20 games) to shoot over 43 percent from three and average 18 points per game.

While you see the consistent shooting numbers, some folks don’t buy into his effort on the other end of the floor. Milton wanted to put the kibosh on that right away at the combine.

“I felt like people are saying—you might hear that I’m not engaged or defensively I’m lacking,” Milton said. “But I think that’s what I’m trying to show out here is just that I can be a pesky defender—active, long and get after people.”

Unfortunately for Milton, his season was cut short before he could fully prove those detractors wrong.

A hand injury sidelined the junior guard for the last 11 games of the year. SMU missed the big dance and went 2-9 without him. Along with it, he missed an opportunity to showcase his individual talents during a potential conference tournament run.

“I can’t control any of that,” Milton said. “I mean, it’s just dealing with the situation that I have and dealing with the cards that I’ve been dealt. It’s unfortunate that I wasn’t able to finish out the season, but I feel good about it.”

Looking at SMU’s track record in the league recently, three of Milton’s former teammates are off to a solid start to their pro careers, so he made the choice to forego his senior year. Ben Moore is a part of the Indiana Pacers roster. Sterling Brown provided a boost to the Milwaukee Bucks when they needed one.

Semi Ojeyele, a key member of the Boston Celtics rotation, is probably the most recognized name of the trio. Milton says that he hasn’t spoken with him recently, but knows what he’d be in his ear about during the pre-draft process.

“I kinda already know what Semi would say, honestly,” Milton said. “He would just tell me to take it a day at a time, have faith in it and give it your all, really. Those are just kinda the principles that I try to use going forward.

“I was ready to go, really. Looking at Ben Moore, Sterling Brown, (and) Semi really reaching out their dreams and of course being in the NBA being a goal of mine since I was a young kid, I just felt like my time was now.”

So what’s the next step for Milton? At the risk of sounding cliché—just more hard work.

He mentioned improving his play off ball screens, sharpening his IQ by understanding his spots on the floor and adjusting to the change in speed at the NBA level as his primary concentrations at this point, noting that he can always get better.

“I feel like I’m never really satisfied,” Milton said.

With that understanding, Milton’s mindset is in the right place, and it could certainly draw the attention of teams lacking versatile players in the backcourt.

Spencer Davies is a Deputy Editor and a Senior NBA Writer based in Cleveland in his third year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past five seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.

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