After winning the national championship at Duke last season, many people expected Kyle Singler to take off for the NBA with his draft stock soaring. But the allure of the League couldn’t overcome the allure of returning to Duke for his senior season, which is exactly what Kyle did. Now, a year later, the tough, hard-nosed player from Medford, Ore. is ready to fulfill his NBA dreams. I caught up with Kyle at the Nets’ draft workouts this week and he talked about his draft prospects, Coach K and trick shots.
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Dime: A lot of people expected you to declare for the draft after your junior year but you decided to stay. Are you happy with that decision looking back on it now?
Kyle Singler: Yeah, I am. Going back for my senior year I got to experience a lot of new things. I don’t have any regrets about doing it. I really enjoyed my senior year.
Dime: What did you learn over the past year that has made you better prepared for the draft than you would have been last year?
KS: This past year I was a captain of the team so I definitely learned some different leadership qualities. Also, I played with a whole new group of guys last year, and that has prepared me for coming to the NBA and being in a new situation.
Dime: You are working out for the Nets, a team that has not experienced a lot of success recently, and you are a player who has won everywhere you’ve been. How can your winning mentality and knowing what it takes to win help a team like the Nets?
KS: You definitely have to have the right pieces to win, but for me I’ve always been a kid who has worked hard and competed, and as a result of that I have won a lot of games. So whatever team I get drafted by, I want to bring those qualities to that organization.
Dime: Jon Scheyer described you as the toughest player he’s ever played with. Where does that toughness come from?
KS: I guess where I get that toughness from is when I was little. When I was younger, I used to play my dad a lot in the backyard one-on-one and he obviously had a big size advantage. I also grew up with my cousin who was older than me, so I’m used to playing basketball with older guys, and that’s probably where it stems from.
Dime: Talk about winning the national championship in 2010 and what that felt like.
KS: It was a really special year. It was a special moment. To be able to win a national championship and celebrate that and cut down the nets is a really special feeling and I don’t know how to explain it but it was really special.
Dime: The media always wants to talk about your on-court accomplishments, but what was it like to walk across the stage and get your Duke degree last month?
KS: Yeah, I graduated last month and it is certainly something special. It is kind of like a close to your career at Duke to graduate and wrap it all up, and I feel like I really accomplished something graduating from Duke in my time there.
Dime: Duke is one of those programs where it seems like people either love Duke or hate them. Did you embrace that “us against the world” mentality, or was it frustrating at times to see how many people wanted you to essentially fail?
KS: I’ve always approached it that each game I play I’m playing to win. I didn’t really think it was an “us against the world” type thing, but for me I always felt that we got every team’s best shot – and that’s the environment that I wanted to be in.
Dime: Describe what it’s like playing in front of the Cameron Crazies. What do they do that provides such a distinct home court advantage?
KS: I love the Cameron Crazies. I think the reason they are effective is that they make it hard for the other teams to play in our building. They are really loud, they come up with crazy chants, they are just crazy – that’s why they are called the Cameron Crazies (laughs).
Dime: Have you stayed in touch with Nolan Smith and Kyrie Irving throughout the process to compare notes or anything like that?
KS: I’ve talked to them a little bit here and there, but they’re busy just as I’m busy doing the workouts so it’s hard to keep in contact. I’m wishing them nothing but the best in what they do though and everything.
Dime: You recently made another amazing trick shot video. Which trick shot was the hardest for you to make?
KS: I would say the most difficult shot to make was when I jumped off the high dive. Actually the chapel shot only took me like five shots to make, so that was pretty impressive. The high dive took around 30 shots to get it in.
Dime: Coach K participated in the video saying “Kyle gets buckets.” Did he need any convincing to be a part of it?
KS: Coach is always supportive of what his players do, so he didn’t have a problem with saying that and being a part of the video.
Dime: Lastly, talk about the impact Coach K has had on you personally, particularly as it relates to preparing you for the next level.
KS: Coach has always been a great mentor and leader to me. He showed me how to prepare for things, and coach always works hard too so he has been a great person to prepare for being a professional basketball player.
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