Murray State Star Ja Morant Selects Tandem Sports + Entertainment for Full-Service Representation
Morant has also hired Orin Mayers of OM Management as his business manager.
Arlington, VA, April 3, 2019 – Tandem Sports + Entertainment has signed projected top-two pick Ja Morant from Murray State University for full-service representation for the NBA Draft and throughout his basketball career. Morant will be represented by Tandem president, Jim Tanner. Tandem will handle contractual agreements, personal appearances, public relations services, corporate partnerships and community relations initiatives for the NBA Draft prospect.
Morant has also hired Orin Mayers, president of OM Management, as his business manager. Tandem and Mayers have a successful similar relationship with Basketball Hall of Famer Ray Allen, and continue to collaborate on Allen’s business initiatives. In addition to his experience as a business manager, Mayers worked with the Milwaukee Bucks for nine years in a number of roles including sales, promotions, marketing, and player programs.
Morant enters this summer’s NBA Draft as a highly sought-after prospect following an extremely successful sophomore campaign at Murray State. He led the Racers to the 2019 Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) Tournament championship, which punched the team’s ticket to the NCAA Tournament. In Murray State’s first round win over Marquette, Morant became the 12th player in NCAA Tournament history to record a triple-double, and the 8th to do so with points, assists and rebounds (17 points, 16 assists, 11 rebounds). The Racers faced Florida State in the second round and despite a loss, Morant finished the season as the Racers’ all-time assists leader (532) and single season scoring leader (808). He also ends his season as the first player in Division I history to average 20 points and 10 assists.
The 2019 OVC Player of the Year is the first Division I player in 20 years to record 40 points, 11 assists and five steals in a regulation game (1/19/19 vs. Southern Illinois University Edwardsville). He earned All-OVC First Team honors both his freshman and sophomore years.
“Ja is an incredibly talented basketball player and a future NBA All-Star,” Tanner said. “But what impresses us the most is his professionalism, maturity and engaging personality. It is with great pleasure that we welcome Ja and his family to the Tandem team. We are excited to work with Ja and look forward to putting him in position for a long and successful career on and off the court.”
“Ja is a bright, talented, high character young man,” Mayers said. “I marvel at his poise, confidence and tremendous abilities on the basketball court. He has a bright future as he begins his journey as a professional basketball player in the NBA. I am honored to be a part of Team Morant, and I am looking forward to assisting Ja with his goals and endeavors.”
ABOUT TANDEM SPORTS + ENTERTAINMENT
In addition to Ja Morant, Tandem’s roster of clients includes Tim Duncan, Jeremy Lin, Grant Hill, Ray Allen, Justin Jackson, Jarrett Allen, Michael Beasley, John Henson, Brandan Wright, Thaddeus Young, Marvin Williams, Gerald Henderson, Raymond Felton, Dominique Wilkins, Alana Beard and Tamika Catchings. Marketing and public relations clients include World Series champion pitcher Chris Young and three-time Olympic gold medalist LaShawn Merritt. Tandem has also provided communications services for and authors Jon Pessah (“THE GAME: Inside the Secret World of Major League Baseball’s Power Brokers”) and Lori Leachman (“The King of Halloween and Miss Firecracker Queen”).
BY Tandem Sports + Entertainment /
PUBLISHED April/3/2019 /
Hawks’ Jeremy Lin Supports Cincinnati Teenagers in Fight Against Racism, Bullying
It was another busy Saturday night for Jeremy Lin. The Atlanta Hawks guard had dinner plans lined up, and another friend in town to entertain.
But first, he had a stop to make at a P.F. Chang’s restaurant on Ashwood Parkway.
Jeremy could’ve waited until the next day, when the Hawks hosted the Milwaukee Bucks at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, to meet Nathan Stockman and Bobby Jefferson II. But given how hectic game days can get—and how diligent Jeremy is about his routine—he wanted to make sure he got some quality time with the two teenagers from Cincinnati, whose pain and triumph he knew all too well.
“For me, it’s a little bit difficult seeing them before or after the game because you can be so focused or fixated, or the game just ended or you’re at the arena and there’s just so many people and it can get so busy,” Jeremy tells CloseUp360. “So I wanted to really properly meet them and their families, and just have more of a chance to dialogue.”
Nathan and Bobby had plenty to talk about with Jeremy. Though their conversation was casual, with video games and basketball at the fore, the young men were there because of the bigotry and hate they had faced on the court back home—much like the kind that Jeremy had encountered himself on his way to the NBA.
Nathan and Bobby were more than teammates and classmates at St. Xavier High School, known in Cincinnati as St. X. For two years, from the start of football training camp in June until the end of basketball season in March, they spent almost every day together, forging a friendship as teammates on the gridiron and the hardwood.
“Bobby was kind of a bigger brother to me,” says Nathan, who was a grade below Bobby.
They both knew what it was like to stand out at a predominantly white Catholic school. Nathan was the only Asian-American on the basketball team. His mom, Susan, was adopted at birth from South Korea.
Bobby, meanwhile, was the only African-American on the squad.
Yet, even in Cincinnati, a city that’s come under fire of late for the prevalence of prejudice within its limits, Nathan and Bobby, by and large, had not encountered much overt bigotry while growing up there.
“I would say, I’ve been a pretty sheltered kid my whole life,” Bobby says.
That bubble began to deflate in December 2017, during a 56-55 win at Oak Hills High School. Whenever Nathan, then a junior, found himself in front of the Oak Hills student section, he could hear unnerving comments coming from a few hecklers in the crowd. Bobby could hear them, too.
You missed your shot because you can’t see, they said. This is the USA. Go back to China.
But officials in the building didn’t pay it much mind. Neither did Nathan.
“I just laughed at them,” he says. “I was like, if you have to go that far just to try to get to my head, that shows a lot of what you are. So I was like, I’m not going to let these few guys just destroy me over what I am. I’m proud of who I am and I’m not going to be ashamed of it ever.”
Then in February 2018, Nathan and Bobby once again found themselves in hostile territory in West Cincinnati. Two weeks after ending a five-year drought in the Greater Catholic League with an overtime buzzer-beater at home against Elder High School, St. X faced a revenge-minded Panthers squad—along with its salty supporters—on the road.
The atmosphere at Elder was tense, even before Nathan and Bobby took the floor with the Bombers. After exiting the tunnel—which both teams shared—Bobby, basketball in hand, heard an unfamiliar voice calling him from behind.
“Move out of the way,” the voice yelled.
“For what?” Bobby replied. He turned around to find a white uniformed police officer.
“I stood my ground and I started laughing because I’m like, this has to be a joke,” Bobby says. “Me and my teammates around me who witnessed it, we all thought it was a joke.”
But to the cop, that response was no laughing matter. As Bobby recalls, the officer then slapped the ball out of his hands and scolded him.
“You should learn a little respect,” the policeman said condescendingly. “I know it’s hard for you, though.”
“When that happened, I kind of looked around,” Nathan says. “I was like, does anyone else see this? Because I see it all over social media. I couldn’t believe my eyes when it happened in front of me, and the police officer had the audacity to say that to Bobby and get in his face.”
That’s when Nathan, Bobby and their teammates knew this would be no ordinary high school basketball game.
The taunts started early and came often from hecklers in the student section.
P.F. Chang’s, they said. 10 can’t see. 10 plays chess.
“I guess a stereotype of Asians is we play chess,” says Nathan, who was the only Asian-American on the court that day. “I didn’t really understand that one.”
Bobby, the lone African-American to play in the game, was bombarded by his own barrage of racially charged barbs.
Bobby sells crack, they said. Bobby smokes meth. Bobby’s on welfare. Bobby can’t read.
“If they had just done a little homework, they would have known that I obviously can read because I’m going to an Ivy League school,” says Bobby, who’s now a freshman on the football team at Dartmouth College.
But these weren’t just stray strains of hatred from a few ignorant fans, like the ones at Oak Hills. Rather, these were coordinated chants carried by the vast majority of Elder’s student section, regardless of race.
“The fact that the African-Americans were able to chant this stuff at Bobby and not do anything about it blew me away,” Nathan says.
Elder’s players, coaches and officials let it stand, as well. So, too, did the referees.
St. X’s student section did its part to support its squad with competing chants of “You are racist” at Elder’s offenders.
“Then the Elder student section came back at our student section,” Bobby recounts, “saying, ‘You guys are f******.’”
“At the moment, I didn’t really think much of it,” Nathan says, “because when I’m playing, I’m not focusing really on the student section or anything.”
Bobby, though, couldn’t stay quiet amid that antagonism. When he subbed out to join Nathan on the bench, he came off the court yelling at then-St. X head coach Jimmy Lallathin.
“Coach, this is more than just a game now,” Bobby implored. “They’re on some racist stuff.”
At the time, Coach didn’t pay Bobby’s entreaties much mind. He was as caught up in—and blinded by—the passion of the game itself as Nathan had been before his first breather.
Nathan, though, knew something was amiss, and kept an ear out for it when he went back in.
“I started listening,” Nathan says, “and I was just blown away.”
At the next timeout, Nathan voiced his concerns in the huddle.
“Coach, you’ve got to listen to this stuff they’re chanting,” he said. “This is getting out of hand.”
With two of his starters now put off, Coach Lallathin shared his concerns with Elder’s staff. But the vitriol persisted, with clear words and full throats, into the third quarter, when the home fans added Coach Lallathin to their verbal hit list.
One of St. X’s assistant coaches, Halsey Mabry (who’s African-American), was ready to take matters into his own hands.
“For you two, I’m willing to go up into the stands and punch one of them,” Coach Mabry told them, “because I grew up with the same stuff and I’m not going to let this come onto you.”
“Bobby and I loved it a lot because it shows that the whole team and the whole staff was behind us through it all,” Nathan says.
Before Coach Mabry could act on those intentions, Coach Lallathin threatened to pull his team off the floor if the nasty chants persisted. That got Elder’s administrators to take action, though the damage had already been done. A shaken St. X squad wound up losing big, 67-46.
“I was just shellshocked,” Nathan says. “I grew up playing basketball against a lot of those kids on the basketball team [at Elder]. I was friends with some of them, and I just really couldn’t believe that they were willing to even say that in front of a sold-out crowd and just continue it on.”
The gravity of what had happened in that gym didn’t really hit Nathan until he walked onto the floor after the game. He saw his mom “broken down in tears, just bawling her eyes out in the middle of the court” as she told her son about the times that she, too, had been harassed for being Asian.
That night, Nathan was laying in his room when his mom walked in, once again bawling.
“I’m so sorry I had to make you Asian,” she told him. “I never wanted this.”
“That hit me hard,” Nathan says. “I was, like, my mom should never be ashamed of what she made or who I am.”
That’s when he knew things had gone too far.
Jeremy Lin has faced many of the same in-game epithets that Nathan has. There were occasional racist remarks from the stands during his days playing for Palo Alto High School in the Bay Area, but the worst came when Jeremy was at Harvard. As a senior for the Crimson, he heard that kind of hatred first-hand from an opposing player on the court, in the midst of a critical Ivy League game at Cornell.
“He was repeatedly calling me a chink,” Jeremy says. “His teammates could hear it. The refs could hear it. My teammates were about to fight him.”
Jeremy, meanwhile, couldn’t quite keep his composure. While he finished with a game-high 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting (7-of-8 on free throws), he dished out just one assist against eight turnovers as the Crimson crumbled at Cornell, 86-50.
“It put me off a lot just because if it’s someone from the crowd, that’s one thing,” he says. “When it’s coming from another player and he’s doing it so openly in front of his teammates who had nothing to say, in front of the refs, who did absolutely nothing about it, it was just absolutely disgusting.”
As far as Nathan and Bobby were concerned, Elder’s response to the incidents from that fateful day in February left much to be desired.
Immediately after the game, some parents of Elder’s students came up to them to apologize for their children’s hateful words. A week and a half later, the two schools held a lunchtime meeting at St. X attended by basketball and football players, along with student council members from both sides. But to the offended parties, those gestures largely rang empty.
“I truly don’t believe [the meeting] would have happened had it not received news attention, parents being upset about it,” Bobby says. “[But] I feel like most of the responsible parties weren’t even there.”
Indeed, the incident became headline fodder for media outlets around Cincinnati. But as February moved into March 2018, the memory of that day seemed to fade. The police officer who had confronted Bobby was ultimately reprimanded. Beyond that, little else seemed to change.
The Bombers finished the season, 17-8 overall, as Division I sectional runners-up. In May 2018, Coach Lallathin resigned from St. X to later join the coaching staff at Oak Hills. And in June 2018, Bobby walked at graduation before moving on to Dartmouth.
In the fall of 2018, Nathan returned to St. X to captain the basketball team. Even though Bobby and Coach Lallathin were gone, Nathan couldn’t quite shake the memory of what had happened at Elder.
Rather than let that pain control him, he decided to empower himself with it. He told his mom he wanted to customize his sneakers for the upcoming season with the P.F. Chang’s logo, to take ownership of that taunt away from his tormentors.
In October 2018, Susan reached out to the Chinese restaurant chain to request permission to use its logo. That set in motion what would become a “magical moment” for Nathan and Bobby.
“As soon as we heard that, we were, like, ‘Wow, what a story,'” says Mike Gervais, P.F. Chang’s regional vice president of operations, “and what honorable young men to stand up that way with integrity, and stand up for yourself without going down some ridiculous path.”
Word of the incident—and Nathan’s inspiring response to it—spread to the P.F. Chang’s marketing department, which rustled up some contacts in the sports world, who then got ahold of Jeremy Lin’s business team.
When Jeremy caught wind of Nathan and Bobby’s situation, he “wasn’t surprised.”
“I’m used to this now sadly,” Jeremy says. “Sadly, I’ve come to kind of expect it.”
But beyond that resignation, Jeremy identified with Nathan’s decision to repurpose the P.F. Chang’s put-down in a positive way.
“That’s been something for me as well where, in the past, it’s been, like, ‘Oh, you think I’m this or that, or you call me this or that,’” Jeremy says. “I’m going to turn that negative energy and use it as fuel and motivation.”
That kind of harassment has largely subsided for Jeremy since he entered the NBA in 2010, though it hasn’t vanished entirely.
“College games, you have a lot of student sections where everyone gets drunk and saying whatever,” he says, “versus pro games, you get a little bit more of a refined crowd.”
In 2013, months after “Linsanity” took the world by storm, he established the Jeremy Lin Foundation, which has since come up with an anti-bullying curriculum for young students through EverFi’s online education. His foundation has also offered scholarships and basketball camps to kids in need, while Jeremy has personally written letters and autographed photos for those who have shared their stories with him.
“The thing I always say is if you allow them to throw you off your track and get distracted and get overly angry or upset, then they’ve won,” Jeremy says. “That’s their goal. So make sure that you don’t compound their mistake by adding your mistake onto it. If you learn how to deal with it the right way, you can use it as a positive for yourself and you can actually better yourself and motivate yourself, and inspire yourself through something that they’ve meant to be harmful for you.”
So when Jeremy’s business team approached him with the chance to help Nathan and Bobby, he didn’t hesitate.
“They shared it with me and they were, like, ‘Do you want to do something about it? This is a cool opportunity,’” Jeremy recalls. “And we were, like, ‘Oh, we should definitely do something and get involved.’”
Within 24 hours, word got back to Mike and his colleagues at P.F. Chang’s that Jeremy was in. All they had to do was figure out a date that would work for everyone.
Meanwhile, Nathan’s mom kept him in the dark.
“My whole family hid it from me,” he says. “They never told me I was going anywhere. They just said, we might go on a work trip somewhere, and every time I asked where, they said we’re still deciding.”
It wasn’t until a few weeks before the actual trip that Nathan’s mom started sharing details with him.
“I didn’t really know how to respond to it because I was like, I can’t believe this is going that far,” he says. “This is going to be just unbelievable.”
What Nathan calls “the best weekend ever” began before he and Bobby landed in Atlanta with their families for the experience of a lifetime.
On Friday, January 11, Nathan returned to Elder for a road game as both the Greater Catholic League’s top scorer, and St. X’s captain and emotional leader.
“There’s no way I’m letting us lose this game,” Nathan told his coach, Brian Kellett. “This game means so much to me. I’m not going to let this team beat us.”
Though the Panthers bottled him up defensively, Nathan guided St. X to a resounding 48-33 win, as much with his passing (four assists to go with seven points) as his passion.
“My coach said after the game he thought I had the best game of the season for myself so far,” Nathan says, “because I led with such positivity and I didn’t let anything of last year affect me.”
Nor were there any disparaging chants for him to block out, thanks to initiatives taken by the Greater Catholic League to curb offensive speech from student sections. Whenever Nathan touched the ball, the student section that once harassed him now fell silent.
The next day, victory in hand, Nathan and his family flew from Cincinnati to Atlanta. That Saturday night, they gathered with Bobby—who had flown in from New Hampshire—and his family at P.F. Chang’s, where Jeremy popped in to surprise his visitors.
“It just seemed like they were much more adultish and mature than I was when I was their age,” Jeremy says.
“Just sitting across from Jeremy was something else because, since everything has happened with Linsanity, I had followed him,” Nathan says. “As an Asian basketball player, that’s what we do. We just followed him.”
“Large individuals with large platforms like Jeremy Lin definitely help to affect change,” Bobby says. “And it means a lot that he’s willing to stand up for things such as racism and bullying.”
Jeremy rarely breaks his pregame routine, even for family and friends. But on that Sunday in January, with Bobby and Nathan watching warmups from courtside seats and high-fiving Hawks players in the tunnel at State Farm Arena, Jeremy made an exception so he could share a word, pose for photos and give his guests signed No. 7 Lin jerseys.
“Even though other people may be hating from the outside, I wanted them to know that I’ll always be supportive,” Jeremy says.
“The fact that he did that for us, and went out of his way to come and talk to us and take pictures with us,” Nathan says, “that was amazing.”
“I got to crack some jokes about Dartmouth beating Harvard last night in basketball, so that was pretty cool,” Bobby says. “But yeah, he’s a real cool dude. I enjoyed talking to him and I’m just so grateful for him and this experience.”
Once Jeremy returned to his pregame ritual, Mike and his colleagues from P.F. Chang’s presented Bobby and Nathan with another gift: pairs of James Harden’s latest signature sneaker from adidas. Bobby got his in plain white, per his request.
Nathan, on the other hand, opened up his box to find a bright red pair of Hardens with Jeremy’s signature on the front, and the P.F. Chang’s logo emblazoned on each side by sneaker artist Salvador Amezcua, better known as “Kickstradomis.”
“The fact that [Salvador] took time out of his day to make that for someone he doesn’t even know just meant so much to me,” Nathan says. “And he did such an amazing job on them, and I just can’t wait to show them off.”
Nathan plans to wear his customized Hardens for one game and one game only: February 1, for his senior night at St. X’s Berning Gym, against Elder.
BY Josh Martin /
PUBLISHED January/21/2019 /
Close Up 360
Luke Kornet gives David Fizdale just what he wanted
MILWAUKEE — Knicks coach David Fizdale rolled with young center Luke Kornet, placing him in the starting lineup over Enes Kanter for Thursday’s game against the Bucks.
It didn’t result in a victory, but Fizdale liked the move even better afterward. Kornet notched a career-high-tying 23 points, making 7-of-11 3-pointers as the Knicks got off to an early lead.
“That’s what I was hoping for, a guy that was going to space the floor for us,’’ Fizdale said following the 112-96 loss. “He opened up the floor for us to be able to attack the paint.’’
The Knicks haven’t won since beating Charlotte on Dec. 14 when Kornet was a key cog. That triggered Thursday’s move to see if he could help get the team out of its malaise. It could turn into a permanent promotion if Kornet produces like he did Thursday. Fizdale said he wants to give Kevin Knox and Emmanuel Mudiay the opportunity play with more space on the floor.
Kornet posted his career night in the city where his father, Frank, played as a Bucks forward.
“It’s definitely special — I’m sure my parents are proud,’’ Kornet said. “[Starting] was quite a bit different. I got used to it and tried to get into a rhythm in the beginning.’’
The coaching staff believes Kornet, 23, can act as a better rim protector and defender than Kanter, too. Kanter, who bristled last time he got yanked from the lineup for Mitchell Robinson, said he would address the issue after the game but instead got caught up in another controversy after his altercation with Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Kornet revealed he has been playing with a broken nose, wearing a mask the past week after knocking into Sixers center Joel Embiid on Dec. 19. Kornet also has a black eye from the break. The Knicks announced last week Kornet’s nose was not broken.
“I’m just trying to come out and make the most of it, create some offense and be solid on defense,’’ Kornet said before the game. “I’m taking the opportunity for what it is and make the best of it.”
Fizdale’s move is a risk as it could alienate Kanter, who is a free agent after the season and his situation at the trade deadline bears watching.
Fizdale said Kornet’s addition wasn’t about matching up with Brook Lopez, who has taken to shooting 3-pointers.
“I just thought going on the road, good time to look at a change and want to see how Mudiay, Kevin and even Noah [Vonleh] operate in space,’’ Fizdale said. “And I went back to our last win. That’s what coaches do during a tough stretch. Luke was instrumental. Maybe we can duplicate it.’’
Kornet made just one start last season as a rookie when he was on a two-way contract.
“I’m trying to make the most of what I have and establish myself and gain confidence and do what I can to show coach I can keep it,’’ said Kornet, who played in 10 G-League games earlier this season. “I’m hoping to help us win in this role.’’
BY Marc Berman /
PUBLISHED December/28/2018 /
New York Post
The 16 teams of the competition give their own battles each week in order to climb as high as possible in the rankings and get a step closer to their goals.
Of course, everything will be decided by the big protagonists: the players themselves! Some shine more than others, they are the contenders for the MVP award on a weekly basis and they skyrocket their value.
Eurohoops presents the Top 3 players in every position with the main criteria being each player’s individual performance and his contribution to the team’s progress…
The following players were left out of the list at the last minute: Georgios Printezis, and Adrien Moerman.
1. Derrick Williams
Stats: 13.5 points, 4.1 rebounds, 14.2 PIR
Derrick Williams’ transfer to Bayern caused a lot of noise and, as it turns out about three months later, it wasn’t just a move to impress but an essential addition. The second overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft came to Europe and the EuroLeague with a large appetite and his presence on the court fully vindicates the Germans’ management.
The American forward has managed to shine with performances that combine spectacle and great solutions for Bayern. After becoming familiar with the new style of play in the first few games, Williams skyrocketed his performance levels and, with 13.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and lots of energy on both ends of the court, he takes the team from Munich to a higher level.
Of course, he’s a characteristic value-for-money choice! Everyone at the German club describes him as an excellent professional who spends extra hours on the court every day and who influences all of his teammates with his mentality. It will be interesting to see in the future whether he will stay with Bayern or cash in his performances at a bigger club or return to the NBA!
BY George Orfanakis /
PUBLISHED December/26/2018 /
On March 16, 2018, UMBC defeated Virginia in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament, becoming the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed in men’s tournament history. And with the upset, PressBox’s Sportsperson of the Year was set. This year, PressBox honors two Sportspersons of Year — guard Jairus Lyles and head coach Ryan Odom.
Lyles scored 28 points in the 74-54 win against Virginia, shooting 9-of-11 from the field and 3-of-4 from 3-point range. He also sank the game-winner against Vermont to send the Retrievers to the Tournament.
Glenn Clark talked with Lyles in March shortly after UMBC’s season ended and in November as Lyles pursued his NBA dream with the G League’s Salt Lake City Stars.
Those interviews have been edited for clarity and content.
PressBox: What does it feel like to know that you’ll always be the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament?
Jairus Lyles: It’s an incredible feeling, a very special feeling knowing that you’ve done something that nobody else has done, that no other team has accomplished. Until it’s done again, it’ll always be that special. … It’s always going to be that historical, that moment that we created.
PB: When the bracket was announced, even though Virginia was the No. 1 overall seed, was there a part of you that felt they might be the best path to allow you to do this?
JL: At first, we were like, “Damn, we got Virginia?” We knew they were the No. 1 defense in the country, so we were like, “It’s going to be a struggle all game.” But it was funny because the day before we even found out who we were going to be playing or what seed we were, we were like, “Watch [us] get Virginia. Watch [us] get Virginia.” So we kind of spoke that into existence, but once we realized who we were playing and got to practice and everything, we were like, “Yeah, we can go in here and we can win this game. We can make history.” And, you know, it happened.
PB: When did you know you were going to pull off the upset against Virginia?
JL: Coming into the game, we all had that confidence, we were all talking about it before the game. As long as we play defense, we know how hard it is for them to score, so as long as we play defense, we’ll have a chance to score because we can score with the best of them in college. We came into the game with that confidence, and I think going into halftime being tied, knowing that we were right there. When we came out for the second half and [UMBC guard Joe Sherburne] went on a [6-0] run by himself and then we were like, “Oh yeah, we got this.” If we keep it close, then I’m going to take over and we’ll win the game. So we had that mindset coming into the game.
PB: For yourself as a great scorer, did the challenge of going against the No. 1 defense get you geared up?
JL: Yeah. I watched a lot of film by myself the night before and a couple of days before just to see how they guard, the spots that we can beat them at, and I sent it to a couple of my guys, so I was studying them a lot. Happily I was successful in getting my shot off and getting other people involved. We did a great job with that.
PB: Coach Odom talked about hearing the crowd go crazy from the locker room when UMBC took the floor for the game against Kansas State in the second round of the Tournament. What was that feeling like?
JL: Even during the Virginia game, the whole crowd was rooting for us. And then once we won that game, coming out to play Kansas State, just the energy that was in the crowd — because people wanted to see another upset, you know? Once you’re an underdog, people want you to succeed no matter who you’re playing. It was a very special moment for me and my teammates and the coaches just to get that welcoming and that energy that came out.
PB: When you came to UMBC, you certainly had a vision of what you wanted to accomplish, but if somebody would have told you then that you’d go from a seven-win season in 2015-16 to not only make the NCAA Tournament but pull off the greatest moment in the history of the NCAA Tournament, what would you have said?
JL: I’d have been like, “Man, you’re crazy.” … But even during that seven-win season, I knew how good we were as a team. I had to sit out that first half [of the season]. We had a lot of young guys in the lineup starting to play, so I knew we were young, inexperienced and we didn’t really have a lot of chemistry. So I knew that next year, no matter what, we were going to be good.
PB: Coach Odom wasn’t the one who recruited you to UMBC. What made that relationship work so well with the two of you?
JL: I just think coming in, you’ve got to buy into what the new coaches want. It’s not only a new situation for the players, but it’s a new situation for the coaches, too. So I wouldn’t say it was just me — it was a team, collective effort, just buying into what Coach wants. That first year, we had a lot of ups and downs, but that next year, just creating a better relationship with Coach Odom …. and the whole coaching staff. The players just followed my lead. It took us a long way.
PB: You were such an integral part of what happened, but in winning a championship and winning a game in the NCAA Tournament, how important was it that everybody was buying into Odom?
JL: You know, everybody has to be bought in for you to win championships and for you to go that far in NCAA basketball, you have to be bought in. We’re a mid-major school, so we don’t have the same talent that a high-major does or those types of schools, so we have to be bought in at every single aspect of the game — not just for practice but off the court, doing school work and getting everything done, making sure you’re not getting in trouble. That plays a long way in getting to where you want to be.
PB: You and Coach Odom have stayed in touch as you’ve gone the pro route. How important is that relationship for you?
JL: You always want to create great relationships with people that you’ve done special things with. Coach Odom’s an important person in UMBC history just like the players are. So you always want to have that relationship with your coach that goes beyond basketball because you always need somebody to lean on and somebody you can talk to about basketball, ups and downs that happen outside of UMBC when you end up graduating and going on to pursue different things.
PB: Have you had a moment where it’s struck you how significant it is to have been the first to accomplish this?
JL: I don’t think I’ve had a moment yet where I just got to appreciate it as much as I should be appreciating it. I just enjoy that it happened and enjoy that I got to be a part of history.
PB: When they make the movie about UMBC’s historic upset, what do you want to make sure they get right?
JL: I just think our togetherness, how connected of a team we were — not just on the court but off the court. There were really no rifts between the team and the coaches. So I think they’ve got to show how connected we were as a team — and how much fun we had. It wasn’t just always business with us. We were a real goofy team. I think they need to show that, too.
PB: Who do you want to play you in the movie?
JL: I would say Michael B. Jordan.
BY Press Box Online /
PUBLISHED December/19/2018 /
Press Box Online
The ‘Old Soul’ of the Nets Is Steering the Team in a New Direction
Jarrett Allen stood outside a Key Food Supermarket in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn and handed 25 local children a grocery list and a calculator. Their task was to use math, and a calculator imprinted with Allen’s name and Nets jersey number, to fill their grocery carts and stay within the $100 budget he gave them.
Plenty of N.B.A. stars have their own shoe, clothing, underwear and eyewear lines — often vanity projects for oversize fashionistas. Allen is different. And not just because his name is stretched across a calculator instead of kicks.
“Math is the future,” he said.
“He’s so different from everyone usually in the N.B.A.,” said Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie, his closest friend on the team. “Everybody else is like, ‘Wow, he’s weird.’ When everyone was referencing him as weird, or just kind of different, I was like, ‘Man, that’s my guy.’ He’s extremely smart. I love having conversations with him on that level.”
In the N.B.A., one man’s weird just might be another man’s love of STEM. “It started with destroying stuff,” Allen said. “I would break things apart, then put them together. Then my dad gave us one of his super-old computers, and I’ve really been on that track since I was probably around 5.”
In high school, he built his own computer, which he still uses today. Like most 20-year-olds in the N.B.A., he loves gaming, particularly Overwatch, but he doesn’t play the ubiquitous NBA 2K. “I don’t play sports video games,” he said. “My whole life revolves around sports.”
After finishing his freshman year at Texas and declaring for the draft, N.B.A. teams had questions about his commitment. Did he love the game enough? Or did he play just because he’s tall? (He’s listed at 6-foot-11, but he’s more like 7-foot-3 with hair included.) Some N.B.A. talent evaluators would prefer their prospects have a singular interest, a life spinning on the axis of an orange ball.
Though Allen professed his love for the game during predraft interviews, he made it clear he was more than just a basketball player. The Nets saw the big picture, selected him 22nd over all in 2017, and hoped he, at center, would become the cornerstone of their rebuilding project.
Allen opened this season with back-to-back double-doubles, and added another, plus several near-misses, before sitting out two games because of an illness. In his first three games back, he averaged 17.7 points, 12.3 rebounds and nearly two blocks a game.
“He has everything you want. He’s athletic, he can run the floor, space the floor vertically, shoot, finish with both hands and protect the rim,” Dinwiddie said. “Right now, the only thing you can knock him for is not being physically imposing, but he’s only 20 years old, and all of that is going to come with time. If that’s all you’re missing in your game, you’re doing really well.”
Allen’s father, Leonard, was a standout center for San Diego State from 1981 to 1985 and held a school blocked-shot record that was broken in 2015. The Dallas Mavericks picked Leonard Allen 50th over all in the 1985 draft, but he didn’t catch on with a team. After playing in Europe, he returned home to Texas and transitioned into a career at Dell computers.
“Basketball wasn’t the main focus,” Jarrett Allen said of his childhood. “For my dad, he played his whole life. His life revolved around it. He just wanted us to be normal kids.”
Growing up in Round Rock, Tex., Allen was blissfully unaware of the intensity of elite youth basketball. “I didn’t know about that whole crazy A.A.U. scene,” he said.
Allen and his older brother Leonard played basketball in church and community rec center leagues for fun. “We were clueless about organized basketball, at least on an elite level,” said his mother, Cheryl. “We didn’t even know it existed, and I’m glad we were oblivious to that world.”
Free from the demands of travel team sports, Allen pursued other interests. “Jarrett from an early age has always had an interest and curiosity about the world around him,” Cheryl Allen said. “That is why his transition to Brooklyn has been an easy one. I’d like to think that not starting elite basketball so young helped. He was able to be a kid as long as possible before becoming consumed by it, which unfortunately happens.”
At the end of Allen’s sophomore year in high school, it became clear that college basketball might be an option. “I didn’t know the college scene was that big. I didn’t know the N.B.A. was that big,” he said.
On some nights after games at Barclays Center, Allen walks home, which usually takes 25 minutes. “It’s nice to just enjoy the night,” he said.
Nicknamed the Fro, his hairstyle isn’t some tribute to Dr. J and the A.B.A. of decades past. “I’m not trying to show it off, show that I can make it round,” Allen said. “I’m not even wearing it because it’s old school. It’s just how it is. I’m just wearing it because it’s my hair. I’ve had it for five years. I’m in too deep now.”
His hair was one of many topics that came up when he did an “Ask Me Anything” online chat on Reddit (he considers himself a Redditor) just before the season started. He was asked questions such as: “What is the coolest celebrity experience you’ve had since getting to the NBA/New York?”
Answer: “I got a free slice of cake for dessert at a restaurant one time.”
And: “How do you achieve that amazing Afro? How much time do you spend on it a day?” Answer: “45 seconds every morning.” Shampoo? “Herbal Essence.”
Allen continues to field questions from the intrigued, though most recently the askers were the children he had given calculators for a pre-Thanksgiving shopping trip and math lesson.
During the nearly two hours in the grocery store for his event, Allen shopped for his own groceries, helped the children with their calculations, grabbed the occasional box of penne off the top shelf for customers and answered no-filter questions.
“Can you cross Allen Iverson?” an 8-year-old boy asked.
“Given he’s about 50 years old, yes,” Allen said.
“Can you dunk on LeBron?”
“I’ve never tried,” he said.
After locating some hard-to-find items — “Where’s the crescent rolls?” — Allen checked out $40 under budget.
The feat seems to be more reflective of a lifestyle than one good day at the grocery store.
“He doesn’t have a car,” Nets forward Jared Dudley said. “He doesn’t care about materialistic things. He cares about playing basketball, family and doing what he loves to do.”
However varied that may be. So far, Allen has splurged on just one big purchase. “A part for my computer,” he said.
BY Kelly Whiteside /
PUBLISHED November/25/2018 /
The New York Times
Joel Berry chosen for USA Basketball World Cup Qualifying Team
EL SEGUNDO (20 November 2018) – South Bay Lakers guard Joel Berry II was chosen for the 12-man USA roster for the November second-round FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers, it was announced today by USA Basketball.
Berry II is currently in his first season with the South Bay Lakers and has posted averages of 8.1 points and 2.3 assists through the team’s first seven games. The North Carolina product appeared in 144 games (112 starts) in his collegiate career, averaging 12.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.1 steals in 27.6 minutes. Berry II won a National Championship with North Carolina in 2017 and was named Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
The USA will train Nov. 23-25 at the Houston Rockets’ practice facility and will continue second-round action with a pair of road games: Nov. 29 versus Argentina in La Rioja, Argentina, and Dec. 2 versus Uruguay in Montevideo, Uruguay.
Former NBA head coach Jeff Van Gundy, who has led the USA to a 7-1 record in FIBA Americas World Cup Qualifying action and directed the USA to a 5-0 record and the gold medal at the 2017 FIBA AmeriCup Championship again is head coach of the USA Basketball Men’s World Cup Qualifying Team. Former University of Georgia head coach Mark Fox and former Georgetown University coach John Thompson III are serving as assistant coaches.
The NBA G League’s South Bay Lakers, the first franchise in G League history to be owned by an NBA team (Los Angeles Lakers), will return for its 12th season of competition in 2018-19. The Lakers franchise has established itself as a top producer of NBA-ready talent, totaling 30 NBA Call-Ups and developing 25 Lakers assignment players since the inaugural 2006-07 season. Last season, the Lakers returned to the playoffs for the third year in a row and saw a pair of players receive NBA Call-Ups to the Los Angeles Lakers, including Andre Ingram. The Lakers have claimed three division titles and have twice competed in the NBA G League Finals, most recently in 2015-16.
BY Noah Camerena /
PUBLISHED November/20/2018 /
Marvin Williams: ‘I just try to teach younger guys what I was taught.’
Marvin Williams is now in his 14th NBA season and he’s very comfortable in his role as one of the Charlotte Hornets’ wise leaders. With that said, he still laughs and shakes his head when he thinks about being 32 years old and nearly a decade and a half into his professional basketball career.
While Williams didn’t emerge as a star after being drafted second overall in the 2005 NBA Draft, he became a terrific glue guy and model role player who contributes on both ends of the floor. He’s the kind of veteran who could help every single team – on and off the court – and he’s highly respected by his peers around the NBA. HoopsHype sat down with Williams to talk about his career, the Hornets’ offseason additions, the development of Kemba Walker, superstitions and much more.
This team added several new players over the offseason, most notably Tony Parker. What’s it like to add a future Hall of Famer and four-time champion to the squad, and what have you seen behind-the-scenes in terms of how he’s helping everyone?
Marvin Williams: Obviously, he brings so much with his experience and his leadership. He has been incredible. He’s more than willing to help guys. He’s been talking to all of us – from the youngest guys on the team [Miles Bridges and Malik Monk, who are both 20 years old] to the oldest guy on the team aside from himself, which is myself. He’s brought a ton of experience to the team. He’s so willing to teach everyone and he’s very patient with all of us. He’s obviously been in certain situations that a lot of us haven’t been able to experience yet, so that knowledge and that wisdom really helps us. He really wants to help us get to that next level as a team. He’s so willing to help us and teach us, which has been huge.
When you first heard the news that Tony Parker was joining the team, what was your reaction? It was a pretty big surprise that he wouldn’t be finishing his career with the San Antonio Spurs. What was that moment like when you learned of the acquisition?
MW: I remember Kemba and I found out at the exact same time and we just kind of looked at each other [wide-eyed]. I honestly didn’t believe it. It was literally unbelievable at first (laughs). But then, once I found out it was true and he really was coming to Charlotte, I was extremely happy. We were extremely happy. I remember Kemba’s reaction, just the excitement on his face. Kemba was so excited. I had the exact same look on my face; I really couldn’t believe it. He’s been to the highest level in basketball, individually and collectively. He’s a true champion, man. He’s a Hall of Famer. To have someone like that here and helping our team, it really is a blessing.
You mentioned being the second-oldest player on the team behind only Tony. It’s crazy how time flies, but it seems like you’ve embraced that veteran leader role. When you talk, everyone in this locker room listens. What kind of responsibilities come with that and how are you enjoying it?
MW: I think the biggest thing for me is that I just try to teach the younger guys all of the different things that I was taught back when I was just entering the league. I teach them different things about the game, how to carry themselves on the court, how to carry themselves off the court, how to work every day in practice, how to develop a routine and just how to be a professional. Those things are important.
I was blessed to have some really good vets to learn from when I was younger: Mike Bibby, Richard Jefferson, Joe Johnson, Lorenzen Wright – rest in peace – Tracy McGrady, Jerry Stackhouse… I’ve been around a lot of great veterans who taught me so many great things that really helped me. Not only did those guys have great individual success, they made sure to teach us [younger players] how to do things the right way. They always made sure to do that. I feel like if it weren’t for those guys, there’s no telling if I’d be here [in the NBA] right now. They had such an enormous impact on me and I’m forever thankful to those guys.
With how long you’ve been in the NBA, you’ve seen many talented young players. When you look at Miles Bridges – not only in games, but also what you’ve seen behind-the-scenes – what do you think of his ceiling and what are your thoughts on his game?
MW: The sky is the limit for that kid, man. I mean, he’s a kid! He’s 20 years old! It’s crazy what he can do. He’s such a freak athlete (laughs and shakes his head). In the three months I’ve been around him, he’s done some things that I haven’t seen guys do in a long time. He’s just an absolute freak athlete. He’s special. It’s also great to see that he comes in and works hard every single day. He has a great attitude; he’s always positive. He wants to get better, man. He’s going to be really good. We’re really excited to have him on the team.
This year, you have a new head coach in James Borrego. There’s always somewhat of an adjustment period that teams have to go through when there’s a new head coach, so what has that been like and what are your initial thoughts on Coach Borrego?
MW: It’s been awesome, man. JB has been awesome with us from day one. He was very honest with us, very upfront with us. He has a vision in terms of how he sees the team and how he wants us to play, and he’s told us all about his vision. I think the guys are really trying to buy-in to what he wants us to do. There’s obviously still work we have to do as players to get to that next level, but we all believe in him, man. We believe in him, we believe in his staff and we believe in his system. I can tell that the guys are really, really enjoying playing for him.
This is now your fifth season playing with Kemba Walker, so you’ve seen his development up close. When you got here, he was 24 years old and entering his fourth season. Since then, he’s made two All-Star teams and gotten better every year. Right now, he’s averaging career-highs in points (28.3), assists (6.2), rebounds (4.4) and field goal percentage (45.3 percent) among other things. I’m sure you’ve watched him mature as a person too, since you grow up a lot from 24 years old to 28 years old.
MW: He’s been the same game off the court, honestly. He’s still the same as when I met him for the first time five years ago. When I was first coming to Charlotte, I had heard nothing but good things about him. Then, when I finally met him, he really was great. And he’s still that exact same guy. He hasn’t changed one bit.
But on the court, his development has been really, really fun to watch. When you see how hard he works, when you see his routine every day, when you see how much he puts into this [to improve his game], he definitely deserves all of the success he’s having right now and all of the success he’s going to have in the future.
If you never played basketball, what career would you have pursued instead? I know you started getting NBA attention at a young age, but have you ever thought about that?
MW: I’ve thought about it many times, but I honestly don’t know. I’m very much a workaholic type of person, so I definitely see myself having a great job – or maybe I’d be working two jobs. I love to work; that’s how I was raised and that’s what I’ve always seen my parents do. But I don’t know what field I’d be in. I mean, I love to work with kids. Maybe I’d be working with an after-school program? Maybe I’d be a teacher? Something like that seems great.
Are you superstitious at all or do you have any pre-game ritual?
MW: I wouldn’t say I’m superstitious, but I’m very big on routines. I think I walk that fine line between being superstitious and following the exact same routine (laughs).
What’s your routine? Can you walk me through it?
MW: I lift weights every single morning before shootaround. Then, I come to shootaround and go through that. After shootaround, I’ll come back home to shower and then eat. My pre-game meal is always either grilled salmon or grilled chicken. I’ve done that for 14 years and I will not change that. With the salmon or chicken, I’ll always have white rice and either green beans or broccoli. That’s my meal literally every single game day. Then, I come to the arena, get shots up, ice, watch some film and get ready for the game.
I’m really big on routines, but I don’t need to have, like, the same socks or a certain pair of shoes or anything, which is why I say I’m not really superstitious. I wear the same pair of shoes as much as I can for comfort, but it has nothing to do with superstition. Let’s say I had 20 points tonight and then I had 2 points tomorrow. It’s not like I’d change my shoes, you know? So I don’t think I’m superstitious, but I’m definitely someone who sticks to the exact same routine.
Sometimes, unexpected things happen or you’ll have to play a day game. If your routine is screwed up, how do you feel on those days?
MW: Now, I think I’ve learned to adjust [my routine] and I know it’s going to be okay. But early in my career, it was hard. You go from having games at 7:00 or 7:30 game to, boom, now you’re playing at 2:00. Everything is a little different, you can’t get on the court at your normal time [to get up shots] like you usually would and a lot of little things are different. Now, I know what I need to do in order to get ready for games like that, so it’s not as bad anymore. But I definitely had to adjust to it when I was younger.
Have any of your teammates been really superstitious?
MW: I haven’t really come across too many superstitious guys in the NBA. But my high school coach, Casey Lindberg, was incredibly superstitious. I remember we went on a nice run, winning five or six games in a row, and we had been listening to the Nate Dogg album. One time, one of our upperclassmen forgot the album and my coach was not happy. But yeah, he was really superstitious down to the clothes he wore, which socks he wore, which shoes he wore. He and I and stay in contact to this day. He’s definitely the most superstitious person I’ve ever been around in my entire life.
How do you view your relationship with the media? I know some players view it as adversarial, but some players feel like the media can help them get exposure and tell their story. You’ve always been a guy who’s friendly, accessible and gracious with your time, which is greatly appreciated. What are your thoughts on the dynamic between players and the media?
MW: Thankfully, I’ve had really good interactions with the media. Obviously not all of my interactions with the media have been good, but [in those cases] I just try to keep things really professional. But most of my interactions have been good. I just think athletes, in any sport, just want the media to be fair. Here’s what I mean by fair. When you’re not playing well, it’s okay when the media has some things to say about it. But then when you are playing well, you shouldn’t still be getting criticized. It should just be fair. I think that’s all you can ask for when you’re dealing with the media.
I understand that you guys have a job to do, just like we do. This is your profession. But obviously, we aren’t always able to go out and write a big story like you guys are able to do [to change the narrative or tell our side of things]. That’s why I just try to keep it as professional as I can with those guys. And, again, thankfully I’ve always had pretty good interactions with the media.
BY Alex Kennedy /
PUBLISHED November/10/2018 /
Ray Allen helps open computer lab for students in Miami
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Ray Allen recently lived out one of his dreams by being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, but Allen is still focused on making the dreams of many children come true. Allen, through his Ray of Hope foundation, unveiled a new computer lab at Fienberg K-8 Center in Miami Beach on Friday.
The former Heat guard has made it the mission of his foundation to help school children in many of the communities he played in, including South Florida, have access to new technology. With support from Loews Miami Beach Hotel, Allen is set to have his annual celebrity golf tournament next Friday at the Miami Beach Country Club. Loews Miami Beach Managing Director Alex Tonarelli was also at the event, along with Miami-Dade schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
Since 2010, the Loews Miami Beach Hotel Celebrity Golf Tournament has raised almost a half a million dollars in resources for classrooms and students across Miami-Dade County.
The Ray of Hope foundation is a non-profit organization established by Allen.
Allen hopes the kids who see him in person and on the walls of the computer lab learn they can accomplish anything they put their minds to. He spoke with the students about his basketball and life experiences and encouraged them to follow their dreams. Allen said, “it is something great for them to walk in and say, I can be like that or I can do something of that similar magnitude. And that’s what I want all the kids to feel.”
This is the fourth computer lab Allen has helped open at South Florida schools through his foundation.
BY Will Manso /
PUBLISHED October/19/2018 /
Q&A with Grant Hill: ‘HOF is very validating for me’
He stopped playing the what if game years ago.
It was too painful, both physically and emotionally, for Grant Hill to go over all of the scenarios in his mind while trying to heal his body.
An All-American and two-time national champion at Duke, Hill continued his dominance in the early years of his NBA career with the Detroit Pistons. He shared Rookie of the Year honors with Jason Kidd in 1995 and was the man expected by many to serve as the superstar bridge for the league between the Michael Jordan era and whatever came next.
A seven-time All-Star and a five-time All-NBA selection, Hill was on a trajectory that could have seen him become one of the league’s all-time greats. He piled up 9,393 points, 3,417 rebounds and 2,720 assists in the first six seasons of his career. Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird and LeBron James are the only three players in league history to eclipse those numbers after their first six seasons.
“There aren’t many people who get anointed to carry the crown of being the face of the league. And when Grant Hill came in he was basically anointed by the league, players and everyone, he was anointed to be the next face of the league,” former Pistons great and Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas said after Hill was announced as one of the selections for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2018. “When you talk about 6-8 guys with a handle, we see a lot of those guys now, but Grant Hill was the first guy who came into the NBA that I remember being 6-8 with a killer crossover. His crossover wasn’t like Allen Iverson’s, but for a 6-8 guy, it was like Iverson’s.”
If not for multiple ankle injuries interrupting what should have been the prime of his career, Hill might very well have put up career numbers that matched his early profile. Instead, his 19-year career — which included stops with the Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns and LA Clippers — is celebrated as much for his early brilliance as it was the perseverance he showed in his post-injury years.
“I’ve said this before, but if he and Penny Hardaway hadn’t gotten hurt and had to deal with the injuries they did during their careers, the bar for imagery, in terms of the player you wanted to be like if you were 6-7 or 6-8, it would have been those two guys,” Thomas said. “We see a lot of young players like that these days, guys who see LeBron James and Kevin Durant as the players they want to model their games after, the guys they want to play like. If Penny and Grant don’t get hurt, those are the two guys back in their day that everyone wants to play like.”
Hill would have settled for at least a brief return to his pre-injury form. But it never happened. He was a stellar role player, great in every locker room he set foot in and one of the league’s best ambassadors off the court. He only enjoyed rare flashes of the elite athleticism that marked his early years and retired on June 1, 2013.
Hill’s Hall of Fame case was bolstered by the combination of the quality and length of his NBA career, as well as his spectacular college career. In addition to the two national titles, he also led the Blue Devils to a third Final Four during his career from 1990-94. He also earned National Defensive Player of the Year, ACC Player of the Year and first-team All-American honors as a Blue Devil.
He is the first former Blue Devils player to receive Hall of Fame honors.
The son of former NFL Pro Bowl running back Calvin Hill and Janet Hill, Grant Hill insists he’s best known to the new generation of basketball fans for his work as an analyst for Turner Sports’ NBA and March Madness coverage.
He spoke with NBA.com about his journey from the Washington D.C. suburbs to his college and pro days and now Springfield, where the Hall of Fame class will be enshrined Sept. 7:
NBA.com: Do you look back at your basketball life, from high school to Duke to the NBA and nearly two decades in the league, and feel like it went by in a flash?
Hill: It’s funny, when you’re in it and particularly for me post-injury, those last nine years, it seemed like it was a long career. I mean, particularly when you’re in your late 30s, it’s like, ‘wow, I’ve been going at this for a while.’ But then you look back when you retire and now five years removed and you kind of reflect on it all, it does seem like it all went by pretty fast. I was just getting ready to come into the league and you’re coming off your college stuff, and it just doesn’t seem like college was 20 years ago or whatever it was. It doesn’t seem like I just started playing varsity at [South Lakes High in Reston, Va.] over 30 years ago. It’s like where did the time go. You are up and you can’t run anymore and you’re middle aged, and it’s like what happened?
NBA.com: Well, let’s go back to that time, before you hit high school and the varsity. When was that time or that moment for you when you realized basketball was going to be more than just a game for you?
Hill: I think in my pre-Duke years, there were two moments when it hit me. Up until high school I played soccer, basketball and whatever and I was a fan, more a fan of college basketball. I obviously knew about the NBA but I was still just a fan. You dreamed about it. But it was one of those things where the idea of it just seemed so impossible, you know. So for me at the end of my eighth grade year I played in a national tournament, an AAU tournament — and it looked a lot different then compared to what they look like now — and our team won the tournament. And playing on that stage in St. Louis, and [Chris] Webber and [Alan] Henderson and [Jamal] Mashburn were all there representing their teams, and even at that point, even though I was really young, I held my own. I was an All-Star, I thought I should have been MVP but another guy on my team got it. But at that point you are measuring yourself against the so-called best in the country and not just in your neighborhood or your neck of the woods. So that was a huge confidence booster.
NBA.com: You said there were two moments, what was the other one?
Hill: Yes, then came my freshman year of high school. I didn’t want to play varsity as a freshman. I wanted to play with my friends but my varsity coach asked me to play and my dad told me to play, and keep in mind I started high school when I was 13 so I was young. So again, I wanted to play with my friends on the freshmen team, who by the way went 22-0 that year, so if I had played with them I might have messed them up (laughing). But I played varsity and spending that year on the varsity and that experience gave me a big boost of confidence. I started getting letters from colleges and that summer and then my sophomore year is when things really took off. Now I’m not just one of the top young players in the D.C. area, you know the DMV, but I’m holding my own and putting up numbers with the best high school players in the DMV and around the country. And I think that’s when it really hit me that I’ve got a chance to play at a major Division I school. I certainly wasn’t thinking NBA or anything like the Hall of Fame back then, you didn’t go there. But college ball certainly was on my mind and the dream was to maybe have an opportunity to play for a national championship one day in college.
NBA.com: The environment then seems so much different than what it is for the elite high school players now. The hoop dream was there, but it seems like it’s gotten bigger, if that makes sense, in the years since you were a McDonald’s All-American and going along on your journey?
Hill: It’s funny you say that. I was recently with [Jason] Kidd and we had a chance to talk and reflect on our respective careers. And it was a little different for him growing up in Oakland and the Bay Area. He was maybe around older guys and guys who had been in the league, but you just didn’t think about the league when you were at those camps and tournaments with the other elite high school players. The conversations weren’t about the NBA, it was always about making it to the college level and finding the best place for you on that level. You had the dream, it was maybe always in the back of your mind, but the circumstances were so different a generation ago. Like I said, my confidence prior to my freshman year of high school to after my freshman year was night and day.
NBA.com: So much has been made over the years about you choosing Duke for college. Your mom wanted you to go to Georgetown and your dad wanted you to go to North Carolina. What made you split the middle and go with Duke?
Hill: The context of why my parents felt that way is pretty interesting. The first game I saw and really fell in love with the game was the 1982 NCAA title game with Georgetown and North Carolina. That game with Patrick Ewing and Sleepy Floyd for Georgetown and James Worthy and of course Michael Jordan as a freshman hitting that shot to win the game. From that moment on I followed those two teams. And we had just bought a Betamax and the first thing we taped was that Final Four, so I watched that game so many times I know the entire call, I memorized that game and was obsessed with it. And then Michael Jackson, who went to Georgetown, he went to my local high school and lived a couple streets down from me, so I started watching him when he was in high school. Back in the day you’d go to the local high school and watch the game and he was like this amazing player. I idolized him, really before I even really knew about college basketball. And he was going to Georgetown, so my mom ending up getting season tickets and my mom and I, we had two tickets, and we would go to all these games at the [Capital] Center and she became a huge Georgetown fan. And my dad had always been a fan of Dean Smith really based on a lot of what he did in the 1970s, integrating the ACC and just his stance on a lot of social issues more than just what he’d done as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game. So those were the two schools I had grown up watching and they both had their own opinions as to what was best.
NBA.com: So like all good, obedient children, you chose Duke?
Hill: (Laughing) Exactly. But seriously, Duke, and really Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski), just made an impression on me. I got to know him and follow what he was doing with his teams and his program. And as our communication increased, phone calls and mail, and then going and taking official visits my junior year of high school, it was just something about him I believed in and I wanted to be a part of that program. I took one visit, one official visit, and when I came back from it I knew that’s where I wanted to be.
NBA.com: When you look back on that decision now and the legacy you left as one the greatest players in Duke and college basketball history on those championship teams, does it register that you are to someone else who Michael Jackson was to you, growing up and idolizing a star player who seemed larger than life?
Hill: It’s crazy. Like when I finished up at Duke and went into the NBA, I was kind of like the big brother. I’m in Detroit and you’ve got Elton Brand and Shane Battier and Corey Maggette and that whole crew and Jeff Capel, I’m not that far removed in terms of my age differential from those guys. Now you get to the mid-2000s and you fast forward realizing that I’m old enough to be a parent of some of these guys now and the kids like Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles and even R.J. Barrett, they are all sort of aware of what I did and my career at Duke, and certainly the ups and the downs of my professional career and even the television work keeps me somewhat relevant in their eyes, but it’s the parents who know me better than the kids. And that humbles you real quick. I happened to be at Duke last year and gave a speech and had a couple of speaking engagements during homecoming. And R.J. was on his visit and I think his parents were more excited to see me than he was. Jayson Tatum’s mom is a die-hard Tamia (wife, artist) fan, so it’s funny how I went from a contemporary to big brother to uncle to now. I don’t know, some of these kids were born after I was healthy in Detroit, and it’s crazy. There’s also a sense of real pride to know that I played a part in the legacy of those teams. These young guys weren’t born when we did what we did at Duke, but the impact is still felt and there’s certainly a healthy respect for what we were able to accomplish as a group.
NBA.com: You mentioned your healthy years in Detroit and it must seem like another lifetime. Even with the injured years, you lasted 19 years. Do you still wrestle with the idea of what might have been if you weren’t injured or do you look back and see nearly 20 years in the league and marvel at how you got through it all?
Hill: You know, that’s a really good question. I think when I was in the midst of it, fighting the injuries in Orlando and then went to Phoenix, you’re just so caught up in the moment and looking forward. You don’t have time to dwell on what did or didn’t happen in the past. You’re only focused on what do I need to do to get healthy, to add value to this team, what do I need to do to be competitive in my late 30s and into my 40s? You’re just so focused and the direction is forward. For me actually, when I retired and people start talking about where you fit and the Hall of Fame and things like that, you slow down a little bit and contemplate your basketball life, so to speak. I kind of convinced myself in a way that, and maybe it was a way to protect myself if none of this [Hall of Fame] ever happened, that I didn’t need that stuff because I know what I overcame and what I had to fight through just to get back and play in my final years. That was the most important thing for me. That validated the journey for me. At least that’s what I convinced myself of immediately after I retired. But then when this all came about and I got that call (from the Hall of Fame), you realize that you might have suppressed some things.
NBA.com: You were supposed to be the heir apparent to Michael Jordan. I remember the arguments when you played in Detroit, before Kobe and T-Mac and Vince Carter. That has to be a hard thing to shake, what could have or should have been?
Hill: It does bother me that I was hurt, that I was on this trajectory early on in Detroit and things were coming together and then it’s an incomplete. I didn’t get a chance to see it through, to see what could have been. And that’s something that, if I’m being honest with myself, it really, really bothered me. And maybe I’m getting too deep with this, but the Hall of Fame is very validating for me and I didn’t realize how much I needed it, how much I needed that recognition that … I don’t always see what I did back in the day, back in the 90s. I remember the end. And I remember the hard times, the struggles. So I sat with J-Kidd recently and one of the amazing things … his career was amazing and he solidified everything he was able to accomplish with the numbers and the championship and just a stellar, long career. He was able to see it through. But to hear him talk about me and to hear what he thought of me back in the 90s, even now, not to say that I was overly sensitive, but somebody like him remembers. And I don’t remember it the same way. I remember being hurt. I’ve tended to focus on the struggle. So in a round sort of way this has all been a validating thing for me and confirmed some things for me. I did some good things, I did play in the Olympics. I was elite, for a period of time, you know. It wasn’t all bad, if that makes sense.
NBA.com: It does. The reason I brought that up is because I had this conversation with Dominique Wilkins the year he went into the Hall of Fame and he admitted that he’d done a poor job recognizing his significance while he was playing. He said he didn’t compartmentalize his career while he was in the midst of it because he was working so hard to reach a certain level that he just didn’t have or make the time to take a step back and really appreciate what he’d accomplished. Is it difficult for you as well to get a grasp on what you and your career might mean to the outside world until you get the proper distance and a different perspective?
Hill: You really don’t have that time when you’re in the middle of it. You just don’t. And I wonder, too, if today’s era and generation of players will have a different perspective, will they have more awareness because of social media. I don’t know. In my case, it was an interesting journey and everyone’s story is unique. But yeah, I forget sometimes, even my kids remind me. When I was in Phoenix, my daughter Myla would go on YouTube and look at old highlights and she said, ‘oh dad, you weren’t always a scrub.’ And you repair your ego a little bit, you look at it and go, ‘oh yeah, I was pretty good at one time.’ I’ve had more of those sort of moments now that reflect and get a chance to look back over the years to see some of the things I was fortunate enough to do. I don’t think I appreciated how talented or good I was while I was going through those moments, but it really lifts you up to have people remind you.
BY Sekou Smith /
PUBLISHED September/1/2018 /