Since our season at the University of Utah ended in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, my life has been a whirlwind. Following our loss to Duke, I was pretty upset. All season, my goal had been to reach the Final Four and win a national championship. I felt we could have beat the eventual champs if we had only played a little better.
Once we returned to Salt Lake City in late March, reality began to start that I would never get to play with this close-knit bunch of guys again. I loved playing at Utah, and am grateful for the coaching of Larry Krystkowiak and his staff. I feel great pride in helping to play a part in establishing a winning culture at Utah, where future players know the expectation has become to make the tournament every year and contend for a national title.
After the season, I took two weeks off from basketball to rest my body and focus on finishing my classes. I wanted my academics in order before I began training and preparing for my predraft workouts. While finishing things at Utah, I traveled to Los Angeles for the college basketball awards show where I was presented with the Bob Cousy Award that’s given to the nation’s top point guard.
Winning the Cousy award was special and made even better because my family was able to attend the awards show. My older brother Dorell, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers, flew down and made it an even greater night.
Once I completed my classes, I headed back to Los Angeles to start the process of physically and mentally preparing for the draft. I talked to Dorell about what to expect on this journey and how to best prepare for everything awaiting me between now and the draft.
The first step was to hire an agent. After two weeks of meeting with agents, I decided to sign with Greg Lawrence of Wasserman Media Group. To reach my goals, he was the best fit for me. The fact that Greg represents my brother was a bonus, because he had already earned my family’s trust.
Since the end of April, I’ve been working out with trainers in Los Angeles to prepare for my predraft workouts. Greg set me up with Will Conroy, a former NBA point guard, to prepare me for what I’ll be expected to do during my team workouts – as well as what will be expected of me as an NBA point guard.
The pro game is very different from college basketball. Not only is the shot clock shorter, but a lot of the basic offensive sets are different. There’s much more isolation as opposed to the continuity offenses in college. Being around my brother, I’ve had the chance to be exposed to many pros and learned about a lot of different NBA philosophies.
Every day I have basketball training, strength and conditioning training, yoga sessions, nutrition training and business meetings. All of it will help me not only prepare for the draft but prepare myself for my first NBA season. My goal isn’t to just get drafted in June, but also come into the league ready to play and contribute.
One of the first major steps in that process came at the NBA draft combine in Chicago last week. Interviewing with NBA teams was the best part because I was able to meet the executives who shape the big decisions for franchises. It was a great chance for me to show them who I am as a person and inform them directly about what I can bring to their organization.
I was able to meet with GMs and coaches, some of whom are in the Basketball Hall of Fame. We discussed the positives and negatives of my college career, and they offered me good feedback.
While most of the questions were about basketball, teams weren’t afraid to throw you curveballs. One minute, you will be talking about defending a pick-and-roll; the next you are being asked about your favorite color.
One team asked me: When I go on vacation, am I happiest when I am at the airport leaving for the trip or at the airport coming home from the trip? Good question.
The final two days of the NBA combine are reserved for medical screening. Any team can request to have their trainer or doctor evaluate you as well as request an MRI or X-ray on any part of your body. I thought this would be quick for me since I have never had a surgery (knock on wood) and did not miss a single game or practice in college because of injury (knock on wood again). I was wrong. I spent most of Saturday and part of Sunday waiting to be inspected like everyone else. There was a lot of sitting around and talking with the other guys. This is all just part of the initiation to the NBA. Everyone has to go through it – I am glad I only have to do it once.
Now, it’s time to hit the road for team workouts.
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