The NBA draft process is a once in a lifetime experience for those who go through it. While there are many broad similarities between the experiences of players during this process like hectic travel schedules and grueling pre-draft training, each player takes something different away from the process. I decided to talk to ten different players eligible for this year’s draft to ask them all the same set of questions to use as a means of comparing their experiences.
Up today are two players who honed their games in Tennessee for the past few seasons: Will Barton from Memphis and Festus Ezeli from Vanderbilt. Barton was Memphis’ most consistent player for the past two seasons, and last year was a first team all-Conference USA selection after averaging 18 points and 8 rebounds for the Tigers while shooting an astounding 50 percent for a two guard. Barton made a name for himself through his relentlessness on the court and ability to do a lot of things well, before getting drafted by the Trail Blazers in the second round of the Draft.
Ezeli was one of the most imposing players in all of college basketball last season. Standing 6-11 and with 265 pounds of muscle, Ezeli created matchup problems for everyone in the post. While he struggled to find his rhythm early on after a knee injury, Ezeli was key to the Commodores’ SEC Championship win over Kentucky. In that game he had 17 points and 6 rebounds while neutralizing Anthony Davis, and performances like those are what led Ezeli to being picked 30th overall by the Warriors.
Dime: Where did you do your pre-draft training?
Will Barton: I trained in Houston, Texas with John Lucas.
Festus Ezeli: I was in Santa Barbara working out at UCSB and Peak Performance Project (P3).
Dime: Describe an average day during pre-draft training.
WB: Got up early in the morning and would go to the gym where we had Yoga first thing then we had our first basketball workout. After the first basketball workout, we had lunch then weights and after weights we had our second basketball workout and some conditioning.
FE: Wake up around 8:00, get breakfast and then go workout at about 10:00 for an hour and a half at P3 Sports Science where we would lift weights and stuff. After P3 we would eat lunch, take a nap, and go back for the evening session around 5:00 then eat dinner and do it again.
Dime: What was your diet like the last two months?
WB: I could really eat anything I wanted.
FE: I talked with the nutritionist in California, and she made the reference that our bodies are like Lamborghinis. She said ‘You put the best fuel in Lamborghinis, right? So that they can perform the best.’ She said it was the same thing with our bodies. We had to put the right type of food in our bodies. We cut out red meat, can’t eat white rice, white bread, or white pasta. We ate a lot a lot of vegetables and fruits and just tried to eat as healthy as we could so we could perform the best that we could. After a few days I kind of got used to it actually so I didn’t mind the diet.
Dime: What area of your game do you think you improved the most during the last two months?
WB: I think I got better in every phase of the game, there is not one area I think I improved over any other, just got better overall.
FE: Offensively of course. Scoring off the block especially, my senior year with my knee injury I struggled with scoring at times. In Santa Barbara they helped me get comfortable with performing my moves again and getting my explosion back. Got a few new moves, improved my face-up game as well.
Dime: What do you think the one thing is about you that stood out to teams during these workouts?
WB: My ability to score the basketball, my versatility, and my competitiveness. Those are the three things that stood out about me.
FE: They loved my personality cause I’m a really high-energy person and a high-energy player. They have seen me play so many times in game action so they know I’m a defense-first guy and they know I rebound and block shots, they know about my game. So I think getting a chance to show these teams my personality and show how hard I work and the energy I bring to a workout is the thing that stood out most that they may have not known about.
Dime: Who was the toughest player you had to guard in a workout?
WB: I really didn’t have anyone who was too tough to guard. I felt like I did well against anybody.
FE: The toughest player, I really don’t know. There was a lot of tough guys I played against like Fab Melo, Miles Plumlee, and Tyler Zeller, so I don’t know if any of those guys was tougher than any other cause those guys are all extremely skilled.