Pro Prospects Leaning on NBA Mentors for Pre-Draft Advice
BOSTON – Going through the NBA draft workout process is one of the most demanding and chaotic periods of a basketball player’s career. To alleviate the stress, prospects often seek guidance and support from athletes who have been through it all before.
For University of Southern California product Kevin Porter Jr., there are options aplenty when it comes to veteran players to whom he can confide. The 19-year-old wing is close to many current and former NBA players who all hail from his hometown of Seattle, or nearby. Those mentors include three-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award-winner Jamal Crawford, Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine, San Antonio Spurs All-Defensive guard Dejounte Murray, and a trio of former Celtics in Nate Robinson, Isaiah Thomas and Terrence Williams.
“Everybody from Seattle, we’re like one,” Porter explained Tuesday afternoon following a workout in Boston. “So, IT, Jamal, Terrence, Nate, Zach, all of them guys, we just stay together. They come back in the offseason; in the summer we play 5-on-5 at Rainier Beach. Jamal’s got a pro-am (tournament) too, so we all play in that. Dejounte, he was a senior when I was a freshman at Rainier Beach. We all just stay together, really, and they give me advice, me being the youngest one. So, I’m just grateful and blessed.”
In Porter's view, Crawford has been his greatest mentor. That should come as no surprise to anyone who’s familiar with Seattle-based players, as J-Crossover has mentored so many players on so many different levels, including each of the players listed above.
“He’s my big brother,” said Porter, who is widely projected to be a first-round pick on the night of June 20. “He definitely helped me since I was young in high school. He just gave me little pieces to the puzzle, really. He just told me how it was and how I gotta prepare mentally and just be me and go at my own pace and show what I’m capable of doing.”
Porter was one of six players who worked out for the Celtics Tuesday, as he competed alongside Nickeil Alexander-Walker (Virginia Tech), Lu Dort (Arizona State), Skyler Flatten (South Dakota State), Tyler Herro (Kentucky) and Talen Horton-Tucker (Iowa State). Porter wasn’t the only prospect in attendance who emphasized the importance of mentorship during the pre-draft period. Alexander-Walker also discussed at length the impact that his cousin, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, has had on him, particularly of late.
Having gone through the exact same process one year ago, Gilgeous-Alexander, who was selected last June by the Charlotte Hornets with the 11th overall pick before being traded to the LA Clippers, has been the perfect shoulder for his relative to lean on.
“It’s like I’ve already been through it,” described Alexander-Walker, a 6-foot-5 combo guard who is also expected to be a first-round selection. “It’s kind of like you’ve been able to study for a whole year. I try to pick his brain a little bit, but the good thing about our relationship is that we don’t always really have to talk basketball and so I feel like just having him be in that position, but still be able to talk as fans of the game, really helps because you get to see all aspects from a different perspective.”
The Toronto natives were classmates, teammates and roommates during their high school hoops days in Chattanooga, Tennessee, before becoming opponents in college (Shai played for Kentucky). There’s a good chance they are about to become on-court foes again, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stop leaning on each other’s support.
That support is particularly important throughout Alexander-Walker’s draft workouts.
“Enjoy it, trust it and have fun,” is what Gilgeous-Alexander tells his slightly-younger cousin. “Not too many kids from where we’re from get to make it here, so to have this experience, to take it all in you can’t really get consumed in what’s happening and how you’re performing, because then it can start to go downhill, or it can start to go really good. So, you just want to stay even-keeled and focus on what you can control.”
Alexander-Walker proved to be locked in during Tuesday’s workout as he tied the Celtics’ infamous three-minute run record with 29 lengths from baseline to baseline.
Porter also felt “satisfied” with how things went and said he planned on getting in touch with all of his mentors later in the day to discuss it.
“I’ll definitely be talking to them to tell them how it was, and ask them how Boston is, stuff like that,” Porter said with an eager smile. “And IT, of course, him too.”