Prospect Quote Roundup

Several top prospects in Thursday’s 2014 NBA Draft assembled at the Westin New York at Times Square on the day before the festivities to take questions from assembled media.

Below is a transcription of selected comments:

Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Q: How are you feeling about everything right now?
Smart: Calm. A lot of people have been asking me that. My family’s been asking me. I’m calm right now. I really can’t say how I’ll be feeling tomorrow night, but whatever I’m feeling, I’m gonna go with it.

Q: Which teams did you go back to for a second workout?
Smart: I’ve been back to L.A., the Lakers. I’ve been back to Orlando. And, I’ve been back to Boston.

Q: Do you agree that this is one of the better Draft classes in recent memory?
Smart: Definitely. It’s pretty crazy. Everyone knows from the top through the end of the Lottery, there’s a lot of talented guys in there. Beyond that, you can go down to the late first and early second round and still find a lot of really talented players. This class is definitely one of the better classes.

Q: A long time scout said one of the best things about you is that if you were drafted and they said you were going to be the starting small forward next season, you would just embrace it and go to work. What does that say about you as a person and player?
Smart: I think it says a lot. I think it shows how willing I am to do anything to help the team, that I work hard and never back down from a challenge. I was able to play one through four this year in college. I’m not saying I can play one through four in the NBA. That’s a whole different level, but if a team drafted me and asked me to play there, I’d definitely take it on.

Zach LaVine, UCLA
Q: What’s going to be going through your mind when Adam Silver calls your name tomorrow night?
LaVine: I’m just going to be so ecstatic and my emotions will be all over the place, but I know it’s going to be fun.

Q: It seems like you’ve been moving up lately, especially once workouts started to kick into high gear. Did you think that would happen?
LaVine: Yeah. During the season, I thought I was pretty high. I think I was kind of around seven or eight, and then it dropped, which I didn’t understand, because you’re the same player when you’re put at eight. Coming into this process, I knew I’d have to prove some doubters wrong. I’m a confident person. I feel like I had a really, really good Pre-Draft Camp. I’m just thankful to be here. Thankful that I put in the hard work.

Q: Did you feel like you were maybe held back a little at UCLA?
LaVine: Maybe I didn’t get to show everything I can do. But, I had a great season at UCLA. We had a team that had five potential draft picks. We were really good. Coach (Steve) Alford had a really good idea for us. We went to the Sweet Sixteen, and probably could have gone even further. I’m happy about the way my freshman season at UCLA went.

Doug McDermott, Creighton
Q: What was it like to lead the nation in scoring?
McDermott: You can’t really express the feeling. Just looking back, I still have to pinch myself reflecting on what all happened. It was a really cool experience.

Q: What have you done to prepare yourself for the NBA game and lifestyle?
McDermott: It’s different. I’ve been in college for four years, so all of a sudden I’m going to have a lot more free time. I’m definitely going to be in the gym even more than I was. Obviously I’m getting paid money to do it now, so it is a job and you have to take it real seriously because there are a lot of good players in this world that could come up and take your job at some point. I think for me, just adjusting to a new team will be real important and getting into the right system and playing for the right coach.

Q: What specifically have you been looking to work on over the last couple of months?
McDermott: Ball-handling a lot. I feel like there is a lot of space in the NBA, and the more you can create for yourself the more successful you’re going to be. I think a lot of people label me as just a spot-up shooter, but I think I’m a lot more than that. I feel like I can put the ball on the floor and also come off screens really well, so I’ve been working on that a lot.

Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette
Q: Do you think your length gives you an advantage?
Payton: I think my length can help me. A lot of guys in the NBA are great at scoring and I think my length can help affect that.

Q: Who are some players in the NBA that you have studied?
Payton: My coach gave me a lot of articles on Damian Lillard. We watched some workout videos of Damian Lillard. That is someone that my coach really introduced me to. I saw how hard Damian worked, some of the things that he went through with going to a small school, and how he became successful in the NBA.

Q: Does going to a smaller school matter anymore?
Payton: I learned that going to a smaller school means nothing at this point. We are all no longer in college and we are all on an even playing field. I realized this when I was 19 years old in the summer trials. There were a lot of great players at the trials. I always felt that I could play with them.

Nik Stauskas, Michigan
Q: We’re now hours away. How much research have you done on teams that may draft you?
Stauskas: You do a little research on teams that you work out for and the guys that have your position. Their strengths and weaknesses. I’ve done a little research but at the end of the day I will leave it up to them. It will be their decision and I feel like I’ve done all that I can do to impress them in the workouts and the rest is up to them.

Q: Did you notice a more positive reaction based on what you did in the workouts?
Stauskas: Teams seem to have liked me and that may have been why the mock drafts are saying what they are saying but I’ve showed my game. I’ve showed what I have been doing the last two years at Michigan and teams like that.

Q: Do you care about mock drafts at all, because clearly over the last few months your stock has risen?
Stauskas: I’m used to the internet so people are going to write what they want to write but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. That’s why I took the workouts very seriously and just tried to do my best in all of those.

Jabari Parker, Duke
Q: What makes your game NBA ready?
Parker: Right now, I’m in the process. I don’t think that I’m prepared as soon as possible. I think the summer league will get me better adjusted with the new rules and the defensive changes. Then I’ll be able to prove myself.

Q: What kind of conversations have you had with Coach K about the transition to the NBA, since he’s coached the Olympic team so much.
Parker: To remain professional. Everywhere they let you go, it’s a business. It’s your responsibility to represent yourself, represent that character that he taught me at Duke.

Andrew Wiggins, Kansas
Q: How’s the whole draft process been for you?
Wiggins: It’s been going good. I’m just enjoying my time, enjoying the city, and enjoying being here with the other players. You only go through it one time, so you have to make the best of it. There are no comebacks at the draft. I don’t want to look back two days from now and be like ‘I should have done that.’ You just have to live for the moment right now.

Q: Do you have a feel on which of the top teams really want you?
Wiggins: You never really know, especially from team-to-team there are a lot of trades that could happen. You never know what could happen at draft day.

Q: Does that unknown make it exciting or confusing for you?
Wiggins: It’s anxious. You want to know what’s going to happen because tomorrow is the day that you find out your destiny and everything changes. You find out the city you’re going to live in and where you’re going to spend the next four years.

Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
Q: Do you feel like you have an extra responsibility to be a role model for kids in Canada?
Ennis: As a professional athlete, you have a responsibility regardless to be professional off the court and work hard on the court. I’m going to act the same way and hopefully that’s a role model for kids.

Q: Where is Canada in terms of producing basketball talent?
Ennis: I think the foundation is being built as we speak. To have, potentially, two No. 1 picks is something that I don’t think five years ago people would’ve believed. To have eight people in the draft; I don’t think anyone would’ve believed that as well. We have a bunch of programs and coaches that are doing well for the kids. I think as we move forward in the next couple of years, we’ll have a foundation and the grassroots system that you’re talking about.

Q: You’ve dreamed about playing in the NBA when you were 14 or 15. Has it been easier or harder than you thought to get to this point?
Ennis: It’s definitely been tough. Not only basketball, but off the court. Coming from Canada, it’s not the same as American players who grow up in front of the eyes as these scouts and analysts. We kind of show up on the scene when we’re 15 and have three summers to get our name out there. That could help you or it could definitely hurt you.

Dante Exum, Australia
Q: How would you describe your game for those who haven’t seen you play?
Exum: I’m quick off the dribble. I like to take my man off the dribble and get to the basket, but I’m also unselfish and will make some plays for teammates.

Q: How was playing in Australia prepared you for this next challenge?
Exum: It definitely helped me develop as a professional athlete, learning how to take care of my body, the importance of nutrition and all the things you do off the court. And on the court, I’ve had some of the best coaches working with me.

Q: Do you kind of view yourself as the international man of mystery?
Exum: Yeah, it’s funny. I didn’t understand it at first, being the international mystery guy, but being in the States now walking down the street, people start to notice who you are. It’s a good thing. You get those people who say, “Hey, is that Dante Exum?” It’s good to be known, but it’s also good to be the mystery man also.

Aaron Gordon, Arizona
Q: Now that this process is wrapping up, how are you feeling about things?
Gordon: I’m getting there man. I’m excited as each minute goes by. The realization is setting in that one of my lifelong goals is finally here.

Q: At what pick will you start to scoot forward on your chair and think ‘this is the one?’
Gordon: No. 1. I’m just going to be so excited the entire time, scooted forward on my chair, just waiting for my name to be called. I don’t really care what number it is, I just want to get it called.

Q: Is there a certain message you’re trying to get across to teams as you meet with them?
Gordon: I’m coming in to contribute right away, 100 percent. I’m here to win, I’m here to play defense. That’s pretty much my main message, I’m here to contribute right away.

Q: Is your passing something you’ve had to develop?
Gordon: I suppose so. I think that passing and dribbling are two things you have to have to play basketball. That’s just me. My entire life it’s been dribbling and passing as some things you do when playing basketball.

Q: What do you think separates you from Noah Vonleh and Julius Randle?
Gordon: Motor and defensive intensity. That’s pretty much it. Those are the two main things I believe.

Julius Randle, Kentucky
Q: Where do you think you’re going to get picked tomorrow?
Julius Randle: I have no clue. I’ve gotten good feelings from teams, and I’m not going to say who, and I feel confident. But with these things you never know who may make trades. Trades up, trades down, you can never be 100 percent sure. A team can tell you they want you there but you can never be 100 percent sure. I don’t put anything into it. Tomorrow I will go in with an open mind and wherever I go, I will be blessed regardless.

Q: What has this opportunity meant for you and your family?
Randle: It means a lot. We’ve been through a lot and they’ve seen all the hard work I put in and all that I’ve been through. They’re just excited for me and the time to come.

Q: What does being drafted into the NBA mean for you?
Randle: It means a lot. You grow up as a kid with a dream of maybe to play in college and maybe play varsity basketball in high school. As I got older my dreams kept getting bigger and bigger. I learned not to put a limit on things no matter what the situation is and that’s what I did. To be 24 hours away from a lifelong dream is pretty amazing to me. It’s pretty surreal and I still can’t comprehend it all right now.

Q: How frustrating was it to deal with the reports that you needed foot surgery?
Randle: It was frustrating when I initially heard it but I could care less. I don’t put anything into it. I know what teams are saying and what’s the deal and I have no idea how it got out there but it’s something that’s out of my control.

Noah Vonleh, Indiana
Q: When did you know you were ready for the NBA?
Vonleh: It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the NBA. I always thought I was going to be ready, I just wanted to get a feel for how college basketball would be. Everything worked out the right way and I was able to be a one-and-done player.

Q: What’s the biggest thing you’ll have to adjust to off the court?
Vonleh: Off the court, adjusting to the lifestyle. So many people will want to be your friend, coming at you for different things.

Q: How do you think Indiana prepared you for this?
Vonleh: Indiana’s prepared me with Coach Crean pushing me every day. My work ethic too, being in the gym every day. A lot of the managers up at Indiana were pushing me too.

Q: Did Indiana’s struggles ever worry you about how scouts might look at you?
Vonleh: I thought about it a little bit. I thought they were going to question and say ‘oh, he’s not a winner.’ It doesn’t look like it’s affected me too much, though, it still looks like I can go top 5, top 10. I think it all worked out pretty well.

Q: Is your length and athleticism the best quality you bring to the table?
Vonleh: No, I think I can rebound the ball and I’m real versatile. I can play inside and out.

Q: What’s your thought on the idea of playing a stretch-four?
Vonleh: I think that would be a great spot for me. I like to face-up, shoot the ball, take guys off the dribble. I think the stretch four would be a great position for me. At Indiana, I had to play the five because there was really no other option, so I just played within the system and had to do what was best for the team.

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