Michael Beasley ready to rock in the NBA
Kansas State forward averaged 26.2 ppg and 12.4 rpg as a freshman
Beasley, widely expected to be a top-2 pick in the NBA Draft on June 26, will workout for the Miami Heat this week.
Interview and photos by Adam Fluck
Posted June 17, 2008
It is said that history tends to repeat itself, and basketball is no exception to that rule.
It was just one year ago when everyone was raving about a phenomenal freshman out of the Big 12 conference who dominated in his lone collegiate season, recording more double-doubles than anyone could have predicted and establishing himself as a virtual lock to be a top-2 NBA Draft pick. In more than one way, the story of Kevin Durant is very familiar to Michael Beasley, who visited the Bulls for a private workout at the Berto Center on Tuesday.
It was Beasley who put the unlikely Kansas State Wildcats on the map and carried them to their first NCAA tournament birth in over a decade, shining the national spotlight on tiny Manhattan, population 50,737. Given that he was named National Freshman of the Year by The Sporting News and earned unanimous First Team All-American honors before deciding to turn pro, Beasley’s time on campus may have been brief, but he certainly made his mark.
Bulls.com sat down with Beasley following his workout to discuss preparing for the draft, his “rock star” freshman season, and his long-time friendship with the aforementioned Kevin Durant.
Bulls.com: How did you feel your workout went?
Michael Beasley: “I thought it went well. I didn’t make quite as many shots as I hoped I’d make, but oh well. I had fun, and they didn’t tell me how tough some of these drills would be. Overall, I definitely enjoyed it. You’re pretty much in the dark in terms of what to expect, so you just hope to come in here and play well.”
Bulls.com: Do you have any plans to workout for the Miami Heat or any other NBA teams?
Beasley: “I actually leave tonight for Miami so I’ll be there tomorrow morning. I’m not sure exactly when they’ll have me workout, but I’ll be there Wednesday and Thursday. Right now it’s just the Bulls and Heat for me.”
Bulls.com: You took a long look at some of the championship banners at the beginning of your workout. What’s it like to be here in the position that you’re in?
Beasley: “It’s a special feeling. Everyone knows about the history here—two three-peats and the greatest player ever and another one in the top 50. Everyone knows about this team, and now to be here and see it in person only adds to the excitement.”
Bulls.com: What kind of workout schedule have you been on since declaring for the draft?
Beasley: “I’ve been working out three times a day, every day during the week. I’ve made weekends a little more optional and usually I take Sunday off. But Monday through Friday, I’ve been lifting once and working out on the court twice every day.”
Bulls.com: Is it more of a challenge to workout without any competition on the floor?
Beasley: “I think it’s fun to have somebody to go up against, and you can pace yourself a little more if the other guy is doing a drill or something like that. But I like working out on my own. It’s cool with me and it will work out better in the long run, I think.”
As a freshman at Kansas State, Beasley led NCAA Division I in rebounding (12.4 rpg).
Bulls.com: As the draft approaches, you’re fielding more questions than ever about your character. What have you learned throughout high school and one year at Kansas State, and how far have you come as an individual?
Beasley: “I’ve learned to just be me. I’ve made a few mistakes in my lifetime and I’m not perfect. I live and learn. But I’m going to continue to be me. I’m not going to change who I am. I know when to be serious and I know when to have fun. I like to see smiles; you can’t take things too seriously all the time. I like to see people have fun and I like to smile and that’s just my personality.”
Bulls.com: How would you describe your acclimation to college life at Kansas State?
Beasley: “Manhattan was great. When I first got there, I had my doubts. The city wasn’t as big as I was used to and it took some time to adjust. But everyone in the town and on campus treated me like family. I loved it. I can honestly say that I found a new home in Manhattan and it will always be a part of me.”
Bulls.com: You truly became a star in Manhattan. Was that tough to get used to, being a guy who seems to prefer to keep a low profile?
Beasley: “I felt like a rock star at times, but it was cool. It was crazy because I’d just be walking to class or something and a random person would throw my name out. At first, I was like, ‘Who are you?’ But I got used to it and enjoyed it.”
Bulls.com: How did Frank Martin help your progress as a player and what was your relationship with him like?
Beasley: “I consider Frank to be one of my best friends. He’s just that type of coach. He wants to help you in life, not just in basketball. He taught me to bring it every single day and he also encouraged me not to change for anybody. He told me every day to just be myself and work hard every day.”
Bulls.com: What did it mean to you to lead the Wildcats to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1996?
Beasley: “It means a lot, especially now when I look back on the season. To know the history, to know we hadn’t beaten Kansas at home in 25 years, to know we hadn’t made it to the tournament in 12 years and we hadn’t won there in 24 years, it just made the whole season that much more special for us all. We didn’t go as far as we wanted to in the tournament, but overall we accomplished a lot and we did better than a lot of people expected.”
Bulls.com: Was there one particular game or moment that sticks out?
Beasley: “Beating KU at home. It was a great win for us and one that I’ll always remember. They came in 20-0 and expected to win, but we had nothing to lose. We played our hearts out and got the victory.”
Bulls.com: You go way back with Kevin Durant. What’s your relationship with him?
Beasley: “Kevin is another one of my best friends. We played on the same AAU team together, the PG Jaguars, and then we kind of parted ways. But I talk to him a lot, every couple days. We’re from the same area so we workout together from time to time. We’ve taken a similar path—both from the D.C. area, went to the Big 12, and played one year of college ball—and he gives me a lot of advice. Stay humble; that’s his main thing. Kevin is the most humble, grounded guy that I know. He tells me to stay humble because everything can all be taken away. So work hard and treat everyone with respect.”
New Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro works with Beasley during his visit to the Berto Center.
Bulls.com: Do you think your style of play is similar to his, or is there another NBA player you have tried to resemble?
Beasley: “It can be, but I tend to play with a little more power. I like to knock a guy over when I go to the basket, whereas Kevin can shoot it from about 85-feet. I like to think I can shoot the ball too, but I also like to bang a little bit down in the post. Carmelo [Anthony] is a guy I’ve watched for a few years, but it’s tough playing like him. He’s got one smooth game and he plays a lot more fluid than I do. I’d rather just play like me.”
Bulls.com: What do you feel your position will be at the NBA level? Do you feel you will be more of a small forward or power forward?
Beasley: “I think I’ll be able to play both depending on where a team needs me to play. I’m just ready to get out there and compete, no matter what position and whether it’s starting or coming off the bench. I can’t wait.”
Bulls.com: Does being left-handed give you any kind of advantage?
Beasley: “I think it does. I dribble a lot with my right, and guys sometimes forget I shoot with my left. They stop paying attention and think I’m going to go to my right, so they play me that way and then I can take them going to my left. It’s one of those things that sometimes makes it a little easier to get by my man.”
Bulls.com: What elements of your game do you feel you need to address the most in order to be a success at the pro level?
Beasley: “When you’re my age, you’ve got to work on everything. For me, it’s probably the mental adjustments more than the physical ones. From my shot to my ballhandling to my free throws, I need to get better in all those areas.”
Bulls.com: What’s your impression of John Paxson and Vinny Del Negro now that you’ve had the chance to meet them?
Beasley: “They’re real cool. I didn’t think they’d be as down to earth as they are. We had dinner [Monday night] and we’ve talked quite a bit. We talked some basketball, but it was more of a get to know you kind of thing. They had questions and I had questions. It’s been fun, and I’m taking away a lot more than I expected.”
Bulls.com: How do you think you would fit in with the current Bulls team?
Beasley: “I think I could be a good low post presence, but I can also bring that inside-outside balance. I think I’d take some pressure off the guards and grab my share of rebounds too. I’d love to come here. Chicago’s a great city with an amazing history and tradition and hopefully they’ll have a great team again soon.”