To gain more insight on New Orleans second-round pick E.J. Liddell, Pelicans.com caught up with Adam Jardy, who covered the 6-foot-7 forward during Liddell’s three-year college career at Ohio State. Jardy is approaching his 11th year as a member of the sports staff at the Columbus Dispatch and his eighth season as the Ohio State men’s basketball beat writer.
Pelicans.com: New Orleans GM Trajan Langdon indicated that the front office was extremely surprised that Liddell was still on the board at No. 41 overall. What was your reaction to Liddell being a second-round pick?
Jardy: I was as surprised as anybody. After going through the NBA draft process following his sophomore season and facing the likelihood of going undrafted, Liddell returned to Ohio State and improved his game in every meaningful way. I had been told in the days leading into the draft that he could go as high as 20 but he was realistically a first-round pick, so to slide to 41 was certainly not something I expected to see.
Pelicans.com: Liddell seemed to make an immense leap in production from the start of his college career to his third season last winter. What were the areas he showed the most strides and what accounted for his improvements?
Jardy: Brutal, honest feedback from the draft process a year ago. Liddell significantly improved his body, developed his perimeter skills and blossomed into an elite collegiate player who had a real chance to become Big Ten player of the year heading into the final week of the season. Liddell shouldered a heavy load, particularly early, as the Buckeyes searched for a secondary scoring option and displayed a growing arsenal of weapons. He developed a consistent 3-point shot, continued to hit contested mid-range jumpers and got to the free-throw line as consistently as anybody in the country. He got there by simply putting his head down, taking feedback to heart and making himself better.
Pelicans.com: He’s been compared to some NBA pros who are versatile frontcourt players. How do you think his versatility will help him adapt to the league’s style of play at each end of the court?
Jardy: Liddell has often been described as a tweener and someone who might be undersized to play as a big or too big to play on the wing, but I consistently saw him get the better of bigger, more formidable post players at the collegiate level. He’s got great leaping ability, most of which comes from his mom, Michelle, who was a standout volleyball player at Illinois State. That allowed him to become the shortest player to ever lead the Big Ten in blocks for a season, and that will help him at the next level. I think he could realistically play three positions at the next level and is skilled and physical enough to hold down minutes as a small-ball 5.
Pelicans.com: What are some of the areas he’s continuing to try to improve?
Jardy: With Liddell, it’s always a goal of overall improvement. He’s still working on lateral quickness to help him guard in space and on the perimeter, and his skills around the 3-point line have come a long way but could still use some further growth.
Pelicans.com: What’s one thing fans might be surprised to know about Liddell?
Jardy: He’s a huge fan of Buffalo Wild Wings. He announced his commitment to Ohio State as a press conference at the restaurant located roughly a mile from his high school and then had the chain cater his NBA draft party. On the court, he is only the second two-time Illinois Mr. Basketball winner after Jabari Parker.