‘Glad to be a Piston’

Drummond soaking it all in as Pistons orientation unfolds

ORLANDO – Solicit opinions on early impressions of Andre Drummond and the responses are all over the map: Freak athlete, Kim English says. Incredible athlete, Austin Daye adds. Unbelievable athlete, Charlie Villanueva chimes in.

No matter their modifier of choice, the word “athlete” comes before the midway point of the first sentence from nearly every respondent when the subject is Andre Drummond. Drummond bristles with athleticism, evident in astounding bursts – dashing out to blunt a pick-and-roll play, then recovering back to the paint in a flash, or snaring rebounds above the crowd – which makes it easy to forget that he’s a mere 18 and a long way from where he will eventually get as a basketball player.

Drummond has struck those around him as introspective and inquisitive – he has a keen curiosity for the way computers work, for example – and has impressed with his attentiveness when plays or principles are explained.

“He really has a desire to learn,” Pistons assistant John Loyer, serving as the team’s coach in Orlando, said after Sunday’s final practice before Monday’s opener with Utah. “He has very good hands, he’s got very good athleticism to run the floor, but the best thing I really liked about him is he was very open and very into getting coached. He really wants to be a good player. He had a great attitude all week, had great energy all week, and our veteran guys did a nice job bringing him along.”

A frequent sight in the opening days of Orlando Pro Summer League practices during pauses in action? A teammate – Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, fellow rookie Kim English, Jason Maxiell – with an arm around Drummond, explaining the nuances of a defensive switch or the angle at which a pick should be set.

“Some of the guys, they’re looking out for me because I’m new to the team and I’m the youngest person on the team,” he said. “I have a whole lot more to learn physically and mentally. They’re definitely taking the time to help me out, to get me up to speed to where they’re at.”

Drummond clearly conveyed his elation with being taken by the Pistons on draft night, despite what some saw as a precipitous plunge to No. 9 for a player many regarded as a top-two talent, saying he felt a family vibe in his conversations with Joe Dumars and his staff. The opening days of wearing a Pistons uniform have only cemented that feeling for Drummond.

“I was definitely correct,” Drummond grinned. “It’s a brotherhood here. We all look out for each other. It’s the best coaching staff I’ve been with. We all just look out for each other and we all just have one goal, which is to win a lot of games.”

Monroe, who despite his stoic front has a playful side, called across the court to Drummond on Saturday, “Hey, Happy Feet!” after learning earlier in the day that Drummond, who says his favorite animal is a penguin, lists his three favorite movies as “March of the Penguins,” “Happy Feet” and “Happy Feet 2.” For as physically imposing and mature as Drummond might appear, there’s an almost childlike quality to him that reminds those around him that he really is just 18.

Even a four-year college veteran like English said the first few practices were overwhelming as he absorbed new terminology and defensive principles foreign to him. Imagine the transition for Drummond, whose only year of college basketball came without benefit of much orientation; Drummond didn’t enroll at UConn until the last minute after originally planning to attend prep school. He said his head was swimming for the first few days.

“But I sat down and started writing down some of the plays and went over some of the stuff with Roy (Rogers), so I’m starting to get it gradually.”

Monroe won’t play in the five games this week that comprise their Summer League schedule – he’s headed to Georgetown for summer school and workouts with some of his ex-college teammates – but he and Drummond were lined up next to one another for the six practices that wrapped up Sunday. Drummond is getting to know Monroe both on the floor and away from basketball.

“I think it’s going to be great,” he said of their pairing. “It frees him up a little bit to move around the perimeter and do some of the things he’s used to doing. It leaves me down low to do a lot of the body banging, so it frees him up to get a little bit more loose. We’re interchangeable, too. I think we’ll definitely be a great combination.

“He’s similar to how I am – very laid back. And when you get to know him, a really good person – silly, likes to laugh a lot and a really good person altogether.” Knight, Drummond says, is “like a church mouse. He doesn’t really talk much unless we’re on the floor, but he’s a great guy as well. He’s funny. Just the whole team has been great. I’m glad to be here – glad to be a Detroit Piston.”