He holds people accountable for their actions because he holds himself accountable for his own actions, and tries to be the best at whatever he does. For instance, this past year due to injuries, Tchiengang played frequently in practice with the “Gold Team” which serves as a pseudo-scout team for Vanderbilt. Despite being the team’s sixth man, Steve never complained when assigned to the Gold Team, and in fact relished the opportunity to push the starters to get better. At one point, Steve and the rest of the Gold Team were pushing the starters so hard, with him being very vocal, that the coach told him to tone it down. That was one of the few times he didn’t listen to what the coaches had to say.
Tchiengang was also named to the SEC Community Service team and was always the first person to volunteer for trips to the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. He also did work with African refugees in the Nashville community, trying to help them stay positive and adjust to life in America. I could go on and on about what Steve brings to a team in terms of his intangibles, his attitude, and as a person, but ultimately none of that will land Steve the NBA contract he dreams of. At the end of the day, with only 15 roster spots per team, teams need to believe he can play and compete with the guys at that level. Being a great person will certainly help, but won’t be the deciding factor. That is why Tchiengang has been working hard every day in Houston with John Lucas preparing for that dream.
“I’ve been working out with John Lucas here in Houston,” he says about his training regimen. “He trains a lot of NBA players, guys getting ready for the draft, and guys who are still in college. His program is very structured and he has a lot of great players training here like John Henson, John Lucas III, Ricardo Ratliffe, Rakim Sanders, and Herb Pope and Carlos Boozer has been here a few times. We work out six days a week. Monday through Friday, we work out twice a day, and Saturday just once. Then Sundays we have off. It’s a great group of players who come in and work hard every day to get better.”
Steve is working hard to get better on his own, but knows he needs to do more than just work out to achieve his dreams. Due to the fact that he is so far under the radar right now, he is talking to people in the NBA who he knows and seeking advice and maybe even some referrals. He has talked to his friends Ryan Anderson and Luc Mbah a Moute, who have both told him to stay positive and offered to help. Additionally, he counts R.C. Buford among his family friends, and has been in contact with him throughout the process. He will not leave any stone unturned in trying to achieve his dream because it means so much to him.
“I don’t ever settle for less,” he says forcefully. “I know myself and I know my abilities and I know what I’m capable of doing. It would be totally discouraging for me to give up on this dream just because it is hard to reach.
“There is a quote I really like that says ‘anything that is worthwhile is hard to acquire’. That’s why getting to the NBA is so worth it, it’s the best league in the world. No disrespect to the other leagues in the world, but the NBA is my dream. That’s my dream since 2006-2007 in my junior year in high school. My goal was to get my degree and play in the league. I got my degree and now it is time to play in the NBA and I will do anything to make that happen no matter what anybody says. That’s my dream.”
So while the NBA Draft’s focus will be on guys like Anthony Davis and Thomas Robinson, we shouldn’t forget about people like Steve Tchiengang. These are guys with dreams just as big as those who will hear David Stern call their name, and they are working just as hard to turn those dreams into reality. One disappointment will not deter them from chasing that long shot.
Are there any players you think will go undrafted that’ll have an impact in the NBA?
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