2019 Draft Workout: Ignas Brazdeikis

June 7, 2019 - Michigan forward Ignas Brazdeikis speaks with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers at the St. Vincent Center.

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2019 Draft Workout: Ignas Brazdeikis

June 7, 2019 - Michigan forward Ignas Brazdeikis speaks with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers at the St. Vincent Center.
Jun 7, 2019  |  01:49

2019 Draft Workouts: Admiral Schofield

June 7, 2019 - Tennessee guard Admiral Schofield speaks with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers at the St. Vincent Center.
Jun 7, 2019  |  02:21

2019 Draft Workouts: Miye Oni

June 6, 2019 - Yale guard Miye Oni speaks with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers at the St. Vincent Center.
Jun 7, 2019  |  02:18

2019 Draft Workouts: Luke Maye

June 7, 2019 - North Carolina forward Luke Maye speaks with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers at the St. Vincent Center.
Jun 7, 2019  |  01:31

2019 Draft Workouts: Aric Holman

June 7, 2019 - MIssissippi State forward Aric Holman speaks with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers at the St. Vincent Center.
Jun 7, 2019  |  01:51

2019 Draft Workouts: Jon Elmore

June 7, 2019 - Marshall guard Jon Elmore speaks with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers at the St. Vincent Center.
Jun 7, 2019  |  01:52

Brazdeikis Out to Prove He Made the Right Move

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

Someday, Ignas Brazdeikis will reunite with his college coach, John Beilein, both of whom have recently, independently, and abruptly departed the University of Michigan in search of greener pastures.

Greener as is wealthier. Whether or not they prove to be more enjoyable remains to be seen.

They'll meet up again, as a matter of fact, in a couple of weeks, when Brazdeikis endures his 12th and probably final pre-draft workout for the Cleveland Cavaliers, where Beilein now is surprisingly the head coach.

"I'm excited to see how he will do in the league," Brazdeikis said Friday after his pre-draft workout for the Pacers. "It's kind of funny we're both taking this step together."

It's not funny for Michigan fans, who had good reason to be excited about a team that went 30-7 last season and reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament before losing to eventual runner-up Texas Tech. It was a team with a strong core of returning players and a proven head coach that was worthy of optimism, even by the standards of a program that routinely delivers.

Full Draft Coverage: Pacers.com/Draft »

Not so now. Brazdeikis and two teammates — Jordan Poole and Charles Matthews — have entered the NBA draft and Beilein has signed on with the Cavs, a mass exodus that has left the Wolverines in a rather decimated and precarious state. With an unproven head coach in Juwan Howard and an uncertain roster, all of those exclamation marks have been bent into question marks — except of course among the fans of other Big Ten teams, who can revel in the giddy anticipation of a potential setback for one of the conference's premier programs.

Brazdeikis can't concern himself with that now. He's waist-deep in the process of trying to fulfill his NBA dream. Friday's session at St. Vincent Center was his seventh. He has five to go, starting in Boston on Saturday. He, like Poole and Matthews, are generally regarded as candidates for the second round of the June 20 draft at best, which must be a source of further irritation to Michigan fans. They left early for this?

But if upside and bravado can translate to ultimate-level production, Brazdeikis' future is promising.

He entered his freshman season at Michigan uncertain if he could earn a starting position, but started every game and wound up his team's leading scorer (14.8). He was a second-team all-Big Ten selection, the league's Freshman of the Year, a first-team All-Big Ten Tournament honoree and an honorable mention All-America choice.

Of more interest to NBA scouts is whether this 6-foot-7 wing player is athletic and skilled enough to survive the league's perimeter warfare. He hit 39 percent of his 3-point shots for Michigan, showing an ability to make them from a standstill position or on the move. He lacks length, given his 6-foot-8 wingspan, but turned in a 36.5-inch vertical jump in testing at the NBA Combine in Chicago last month.

Doubts about his athleticism seem to amuse him.

Ignas Brazdeikis

Photo Credit: @Pacers

"There's no doubt in my mind I'm athletically good enough," he said. "Maybe I wasn't athletic in high school early on, but I feel athletic for sure."

The pre-draft workouts at St. Vincent Center aren't open to the media other than shooting drills, so verification of Brazdeikis' analysis is impossible to offer. But he's confident, to say the least. He also champions the other major question about him, his versatility. He's ambidextrous, playing basketball as a left-hander but doing most things right-handed.

"Having both hands definitely helps a lot," he said.

"I think I've proved I can play on the perimeter. I can handle the ball really well, I can shoot the ball really well."

Brazdeikis' outlook, whether it's justified or not, can be explained by his competitive spirit. He embraces the harsh, clinical nature of the workouts in which no more than six players participate, believing they enable him to show off his skills and aggression better than in a games or scrimmage.

He comes by that spirit naturally. His father, Sigi, was an amateur boxer, and introduced that sport to his son before all others. But Ignas, who was born in Lithuania, latched on to basketball as a six-year-old while living in Canada. He maintains his Lithuanian roots and hopes to play for the country's national team someday. The link to his native country was restored when he played for a Lithuanian club team as a youth in Toronto.

"I loved every second of it," he said.

Growing up, he also latched on to certain NBA players. Kobe Bryant first and foremost. Then Carmelo Anthony for a while. And then, as he grew older and more of a student of the game than a fan, he followed the likes of James Harden, Gordon Hayward, Kawhi Leonard, and Draymond Green.

"Just a lot of players who can do it all," he said.

They are his role models. Forecasting whether he can become that kind of NBA player, though, is impossible to predict, which makes him a dangerous but intriguing draft pick. He's 20 years old, after all, a veteran of just one college season. Team representatives often ask him who in the NBA he sees as a valid comparison, and he struggles to come up with a response.

"I really don't know yet," he said. "I'm not even the player I'm going to be. I'm going to improve a lot.

"Time will tell with that, but I'm very confident I'll be a great player in the league one day."


Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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