2018 Draft Workouts: Elie Okobo

June 19, 2018 - French point guard Elie Okobo talked to Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss about his positional versatility and what skills he feels will translate best from Europe to the NBA.

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2018 Draft Workouts: Elie Okobo

June 19, 2018 - French point guard Elie Okobo talked to Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss about his positional versatility and what skills he feels will translate best from Europe to the NBA.
Jun 19, 2018  |  01:54

2018 Draft Workouts: Rawle Alkins

June 19, 2018 - After his pre-draft workout with the Pacers, Arizona guard Rawle Alkins discussed his versatility and comparisons to Lance Stephenson with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss.
Jun 19, 2018  |  01:57

2018 Draft Workouts: Arnoldas Kulboka

Lithuanian forward Arnoldas Kulboka talked about the strengths of his game and what he's aiming to improve on as Thursday's draft approaches.
Jun 19, 2018  |  01:54

2018 Draft Workouts: Theo Pinson

June 19, 2018 - After his workout with the Pacers, North Carolina's Theo Pinson discussed it with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss.
Jun 19, 2018  |  01:40

2018 Draft Workouts: Marcus Derrickson

June 19, 2018 - After his workout with the team, Georgetown's Marcus Derrickson discussed his breakout junior season with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss.
Jun 19, 2018  |  01:48

2018 Draft Workouts: Kelan Martin

June 19, 2018 - Butler forward Kelan Martin speaks with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss about his pre-draft workout with the Pacers and his prolific college career.
Jun 19, 2018  |  01:36

International Flavor to Final Pre-Draft Workout

Athletic College Wings Round Out Tuesday's Prospects
by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor
@Wheat_Hotchkiss

The Pacers hosted their sixth and final pre-draft workout on Tuesday morning, putting six more prospects through drills at the St. Vincent Center two days before the 2018 NBA Draft.

Butler's Kelan Martin garnered most of the local media attention in a workout filled primarily with wing players.

There was also a decided international flavor to Tuesday's workout, which also featured French point guard Elie Okobo and Lithuanian forward Arnoldas Kulboka. While those may not be household names to fans in Indiana, both could hear their name called on draft night.

Okobo could even be an option for the Pacers in the first round on Thursday night. Several mock drafts in recent weeks have had him going to Indiana with the 23rd overall pick. ESPN.com ranks Okobo as the 21st-best prospect in this year's draft class. The only player the Pacers have worked out that is ranked higher is Bosnian forward Džanan Musa, who ESPN ranks 19th.

A 6-3 guard with a 6-8 wingspan, Okobo has a reputation as a talented scorer. A lefty with NBA range, Okobo exploded for 44 points on just 17 shots last month in the first game of the French playoffs.

He began his career as a shooting guard before sliding over to point guard within the past couple of years, so he's still learning the intricacies of running a team. But in the modern NBA, where teams play multiple ball-handlers with great frequency, he could be an offensive asset without having to shoulder too many playmaking responsibilities early in his career.

Okobo tested the draft waters a year ago, working out for four teams before withdrawing his name from the draft. He said on Tuesday that he has made great strides over the past 12 months.

"I improved a lot," Okobo said. "I think I'm more confident right now. I had a really good season this year in France and I keep improving.

"My dream and my goal is to play in the NBA, so I will do everything possible to make it happen."

That includes a grueling pre-draft schedule. Okobo has crammed 12 pre-draft workouts into the past few weeks after the conclusion of his club season. He admitted on Tuesday that he was feeling fatigue from all the travel, but still believes it has helped him improve his draft stock to audition for NBA executives and coaches.

Okobo keeps close tabs on the NBA and was well aware of the Pacers organization and where he might fit in if he were to be drafted by Indiana.

"They had a really good season this year," he said. "They played really well. They play hard defense and on offense they play all together as a team. I really like that. They push the ball hard.

"I think I can bring energy, playmaking, and shooting."

Backup point guard Cory Joseph has decided to pick up his player option on his contract for next season, but Indiana has team options for both starter Darren Collison and third-string point guard Joe Young. None of the three point guards are under contract after next season, meaning the Pacers could be in the market for their point guard of the future.

Might that be Okobo? We won't have to wait too long to find out.

Kulboka is a bit more raw, but it's easy to see the potential in the 20-year-old. A 6-10 wing with a 6-11 wingspan, Kulboka knows what will be his ticket to the next level.

"I'm a versatile wing who can dribble the ball (and) pass the ball," he said Tuesday. "And for sure my biggest weapon is my shooting. I'm showing that every time I can."

Rail-thin at just 213 pounds, Kulboka knows he needs to add a lot of muscle to his frame to play in the NBA. He believes he took the first step in that regard over the past year, when he moved to Italy to play in a top-tier European league for the first time in his career.

"I wanted to get more experience to play against grown men," Kulboka said.

Basketball has always been Kulboka's first love, as it is for many in his home country. There are currently only two Lithuanians in the NBA (including Pacers center Domantas Sabonis, who Kulboka worked out with a few weeks ago in Los Angeles), but the country has a long history of producing NBA-caliber talent, from Arvydas Sabonis to Zydrunas Ilgauskas to Jonas Valanciunas.

"It's the biggest thing," Kulboka said. "It's like a religion in Lithuania. Since I was a little kid, I was watching my favorite team play. My parents are watching, my brother is watching, everybody.

"If you are born in Lithuania, you must play basketball."

Rawle Alkins, Marcus Derrickson, Theo Pinson

Arizona's Rawle Alkins (left), Georgetown's Marcus Derrickson (middle), and North Carolina's Theo Pinson (right) all worked out for the Pacers on Tuesday.

Athletic Wings Embrace Final Audition

The final three prospects at Tuesday's workout were all athletic wings from prominent college programs: Arizona shooting guard Rawle Alkins, Georgetown small forward Marcus Derrickson, and North Carolina small forward Theo Pinson.

Alkins is generally considered the best prospect of the three. The 6-4, 217-pound guard turned pro after his sophomore season at Arizona, where he averaged 13.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game.

An explosive athlete, Alkins tested well at the 2018 NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, where his 40.5-inch vertical leap tied for the sixth-best measurement and he also managed 10 repetitions of 185 pounds on the bench press.

He was generally the third offensive option while at Arizona, often deferring to probably number-one pick DeAndre Ayton and all-conference guard Allonzo Trier, but he has the offensive skills to succeed in the NBA, something he's trying to show in workouts.

"I have the ball in my hands a lot more, especially in like these one-on-one situations, two-on-two, three-on-three," Alkins said. "They all want to see you create shots for yourself and for others."

A self-described "jack-of-all-trades," Alkins said he has the versatility to play both guard positions and to defend bigger players at the next level, attributes he believes the Pacers could use.

"They switch a lot of ball screens, a lot of hand-offs and a lot of off-ball screens," he said. "The ability to be versatile and switch everything and guard multiple positions is a big key for this team and for the NBA right now, too. That's something that I try to do."

A playmaking guard and a native of Brooklyn, Alkins has long dealt with comparisons to Pacers guard Lance Stephenson, a former New York City high school phenom. When the comparison came up in his post-workout interview, Alkins burst into laughter.

"I was just talking about that with the coaching staff," he said. "They told me that they like my motor like he has and the competitive nature. I feel like personally — I'm dark-skinned, he's dark-skinned; I'm from New York, he's from New York. You put those two together and we're compared to each other.

"But at the end of the day, he's a great player. I love his game, I love his mentality. And he's fearless, and that's how I like to look at myself, too."

Derrickson turned pro after a breakout junior season at Georgetown, where he made major strides across the board. After averaging just 8.3 points and 4.4 rebounds while shooting 43.2 percent from the field and 34.4 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore, the 6-7 forward improved his averages to 15.9 points and 8.1 rebounds last season while converting 50.5 percent of his field goal attempts and 46.5 percent of his 3-pointers.

The biggest reason for Derrickson's growth could be the influence of a name well known by Pacers fans. Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing took over as head coach of his alma mater last season and Derrickson says Ewing helped him tremendously.

"(He) went through a lot of attention to detail and film and that helped me out a lot, just seeing the mistakes I was making," Derrickson said.

"You want to try to take in as much information as possible. So even when he's talking to other people like (our center), I'm right there listening, trying to learn and get that little advantage on the court."

Though his offensive skills should translate to the pros, Derrickson knows he needs to get into better shape to keep up with NBA wings on the perimeter.

While he was listed at 250 pounds last season, Derrickson said he has dropped around 20 pounds over the past two months and is focused heavily on lowering his body fat while also adding muscle mass.

College basketball fans are likely familiar with Pinson, who helped North Carolina reach back-to-back national championship games during his four seasons in Chapel Hill, capturing a national title as a junior in 2017.

Pinson is best known for his defensive prowess. Standing 6-6 with a 6-11 wingspan, he believes he can guard four positions at the next level, a skill en vogue with NBA scouts.

"I think that's the way the game is going now, so I think I'm coming in at the right time," he said.

But the thing preventing Pinson from being a first-round pick is his shooting. In his four years in North Carolina, Pinson never shot better than 29 percent from 3-point range, including a paltry 22.6 percent as a senior (albeit on just 53 attempts).

So Pinson has been working hard on showing an improved stroke in pre-draft workouts. He said he made some minor mechanical adjustments to his shot, keeping the ball higher through his release.

Other than shooting, Pinson was able to do a little bit of everything in college. Out of necessity, he slid over to power forward as a senior, matching up with bigger players. He averaged 10.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in his final college season, but perhaps most impressively, he led the Tar Heels in assists, dishing out 5.1 per game.

"You don't have to be nervous with the ball in my hands, I can make a good decision with it," Pinson said.

Pinson's playmaking ability has convinced his college coach, the legendary Roy Williams, to pitch him to NBA teams as a non-traditional point guard option.

"Whatever position I need to play," Pinson said. "I didn't really want to be a (power forward) when I went to college, but it ended up working out for me. Whatever I'm called to do, I'll do it."

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