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.
Today’s interviews are with former UC-Santa Barbara star Orlando Johnson and Missouri guard Marcus Denmon. Johnson was one of the top mid-major players in America over the past three seasons and led UCSB to two NCAA Tournaments in the past three years, while also representing Team USA in the World University Games in China last summer. He averaged nearly 20 points, six rebounds, and three assists per game this past season, including 36 points in a double overtime loss to UNLV early in the season, and is now firmly on the NBA radar.
Over the past two years, Denmon established himself as one of the clutchest performers in all of college basketball, repeatedly making big shot after big shot, including one in Missouri’s thrilling come from behind win over Kansas this year. A great shooter who is incredibly competitive, Denmon averaged 17 points and five rebounds in leading the Tigers to one of the best regular seasons in program history, as well as the Big 12 Tournament title.
Dime: Where did you do your pre-draft training?
Orlando Johnson: I trained in Santa Barbara actually at UCSB and Peak Performance Project (P3).
Marcus Denmon: I trained in Santa Barbara at UC-Santa Barbara with BDA Sports, my agency had me out there to train, and also at the Peak Performance Project Sport Science facility.
Dime: Describe an average day during pre-draft training.
OJ: Average day. Wake up around seven, then get to the gym around eight. Once you get there, you do shooting for about an hour, then weights and strength training for about two hours, then there is a break. Then I’d come back in the afternoon for another two hours, and at the end of the day I would get treatment if something was bothering me. So it was a full day.
MD: I would do one workout in the morning usually around 8:00, then I’d come back and do the weight room and agility workout around 11 or 11:30 at P3 Sport Science. Then I’d come back in the afternoon at around 3:00 and work on whatever we decided to do that day. I was working out three times a day for six weeks, essentially since the season has been over.
Dime: What was your diet like the last two months?
OJ: I really couldn’t have a lot of breads, pasta, and juices, so I got rid of all that, and my body is feeling so much better.
MD: We had a nutritionist and a chef who would guide us about what to eat. So we ate pretty good meals about four times. I knew that with the amount of work I was putting in I needed to make sure I was eating right and getting the right amount of meals in, and also the right amount of liquids. I usually would eat oatmeal or something like that for breakfast in the morning, then in the afternoon I’d eat lunch, but I’d probably eat about four or five small meals per day.
Dime: What area of your game do you think you improved the most during the last two months?
OJ: I think my quickness really improved and also my catch and shoot ability.
MD: I would say my ballhandling and ability to play the point guard position. As far as running the team with the ball in my hands, that is something I set out to work on going into the pre-draft process and just continuing to work on all of those things I feel like I did well already.
Dime: What do you think the one thing is about you that stood out to teams during these workouts?
OJ: I think how I’ve changed my body really stood out, and also just having teams see me up close and personal cause a lot of them didn’t see me in college live to see if I was as good as advertised. I wanted to show them I had the whole package, that I get after it on both ends of the court and I think that’s what they saw. I get after it, no matter who I’m playing against.
MD: Me being a competitor, and my defense. A lot of scorers, and I was a scorer in college, a lot of scorers don’t have that defensive mindset, but I have that mindset. I went into workouts and I didn’t care how highly touted a guy was, I would go after them on both ends. I showed my toughness and my competitiveness I feel like.
Dime: Who was the toughest player you had to guard in a workout?
OJ: Probably Terrence Ross. He’s got great shooting ability and he’s very tall, and he’s a pretty good athlete who is able to finish at the rim. He can also get his shot off at anytime so it was a challenge guarding him, but I look forward to doing that.
MD: I would say Perry Jones. He trained in Santa Barbara with me. My trainer told me that I could help Perry get tougher and help him work on some of his guard skills with us playing one-on-one, and he also wanted me to work on scoring over Perry’s length, so it was a tough matchup for both of us but very beneficial.
Dime: What was the weirdest interview question you got?
OJ: Weirdest interview question, I got to think of one. I can’t even really think of a good one probably just ‘What kind of foods do you stay away from?’ Most of them were just about my game really.
MD: I would say that the weirdest interview question I got from a team was, and this may just be weird to me cause I’m not, but I got asked a few times whether I’m married. People are married at this stage in their life, but I’m not so that was kind of weird. I didn’t have any off the court issues or anything so there wasn’t a lot of bad stuff that teams could ask me.
Dime: What was your worst flight experience?
OJ: Man, I was coming back from Golden State to Santa Barbara and it was going to be a short flight like 40 minutes, and it was one of the rockiest flights ever. We were flying over the Pacific Ocean and we were going back and forth. I was just tripping out, I was hoping we land safe the whole time. I was hitting my head above, and everybody kept going up and down, but we were able to make it safe.
MD: I want from New Jersey to Boston, and after I went from Jersey to Boston, I had to fly back west to California. My flight from Boston to San Francisco was about five hours long I think, and when I got to San Francisco, my flight from San Francisco to Santa Barbara had got delayed twice. After it got delayed twice, I was in the airport for about three hours waiting for it to leave, it ended up getting cancelled. I had to spend the night in San Francisco and got put on an 8 AM flight the next day. Then I took a shuttle to the hotel from the airport, but the airport gave me the wrong hotel so I had to take the shuttle back to the airport. Then I had to take a different shuttle to the right hotel. I didn’t get to the hotel till about 3 in the morning and had to get up at about 6:30 to make my flight. That was definitely my worst experience.
Dime: What’s the nicest hotel you stayed in?
OJ: Nicest hotel was probably the Minnesota hotel, I forget what the hotel was called, but it was right across the street from the Target Center. They had a TV in the bathroom which was pretty cool.
MD: I stayed in a few nice hotels actually, pretty much all of them were nice. I really liked the hotel in Minnesota though just because they had some really unique things in the hotel rooms. They had some kind of light behind my bed which was cool, they had flat screens in the bathroom. The showers were really nice, they had like six shower heads and the water came out at three different levels with four different heads on each level. It was crazy.
Dime: What was your favorite memory from the whole process?
OJ: Getting the chance to travel and compete against all these guys who want the same thing you want. That’s what will stick with me for awhile, especially with how many people are trying out for these positions and wanting to get drafted, but many of them might not get drafted. I think the whole competition level and getting the chance to play in front of the coaches and GMs of NBA teams is really great.
MD: My favorite memory is the fact that me and Kimmy (Kim English, Denmon’s teammate at Missouri for four years) have been enjoying the process together. We’ve both been going to some of the same teams and hearing about teams from each other. We would let each other know what to expect at workouts or letting each other know how we did in each workout. Also, who we thought we had success against, and just getting to enjoy that process with him. That was the most enjoyable thing besides actually playing and getting to see some guys like come into a gym in Minnesota or Santa Barbara and it’s Larry Bird there to watch you work out. That was really cool.
Dime: What is the funniest story you have from the process?
OJ: We were in Chicago at the Combine and doing the bench press with the 185 pound bar, and it was the guy who was letting go once you were ready and him making sure not to get in the way and deciding when to let go. I thought that was pretty funny, how he gave me instructions about it.
MD: Actually, I would just say (laughing), I had a lot of funny stories but I don’t know how appropriate they would be. I know that a guy in one of my workouts told me that while he was being interviewed by a team (laughing hard), one of the coaches private parts fell out of his shorts, that was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever heard. He said he was in the middle of the interview and they just fell out. When I heard that I lost it, I laughed so hard. I can’t tell you what player or what team, but that happened.
Dime: What was your least favorite part of the whole process?
OJ: Probably just waiting in airport lines and trying to make your flight. They got delayed sometimes and that was probably just the worst part about it, but every team they treat you really well, and it is basically like getting recruited again.
MD: Just sitting in these airports. Of course, being able to have the opportunity to work out for these teams is always good, but there are times where you would work out for a team and you would work out at 9:30 or 10:30, and you are done with the workout and it’s time to leave but your flight isn’t until six, so they take you to the airport at one and you are just sitting there for three hours. I had a good pre-draft, but that was hard sometimes.
Dime: If you could change anything about the way you went about the last two months, is there anything you would change?
OJ: I wouldn’t change anything. I feel like I did everything I needed to do in order to get to the level I’m trying to get to. I think everything happens for a reason and I’m really happy with how things went.
MD: I wouldn’t change anything at all. I think that as far as this process has gone, I’ve done really well. I think I’ve proven that I’m a prospect to be reckoned with. In every workout, I think that I did really well. I’ve had 11 or 12 workouts and there is only one where I felt I didn’t play well and it wasn’t because of effort but I just didn’t play well.
Dime: What’s the best advice or best lesson you got from someone during this process?
OJ: Just to always stay in attack mode on both ends. To always have aggression in your game and never take a play off and always stay focused. That was definitely something I took to heart and will keep with me as long as I keep playing.
MD: I got a lot of good feedback and things and things from teams. I tried soaking in all the different things that people were telling me, the guys who go through this every year like scouts or NBA GMs. One thing that stuck out, and this is something that I always understood, but this kind of hammers it home is that the 60 best players won’t get drafted on draft day. Every year teams make mistakes whether it’s drafting a guy too high or a guy doesn’t get drafted high enough. You just have to stay persistent and continue to work, no matter how things turn out in a workout or whatever. A person could come in and have a good workout, and that means something, but it is the least of your worries because teams see your body of work for four years. Don’t let one workout bother you, because these teams do their homework and they know one workout is not enough to know all about a player. They know if you come in and shoot 20 for 20, they know you can shoot but you aren’t that good of a shooter, or if you come in and shoot 2 for 20 they know you are just having an off day.
Dime: If you had to give advice to someone who goes through this process next year, what would you say to them?
OJ: I’d tell them that it is a grind. If you are not willing to put the time in and put the work in then this is the wrong profession for you. Also to enjoy it because this is the one chance in your lifetime when you get a chance to travel and play in front of all these NBA teams, so make the most of it and just enjoy it.
MD: I would say it’s a business. One thing that I’ve done is basically treating this like an interview for a job. I’d tell them to stay humble, and don’t get caught up in the process or any of the hype. There are people right here who are working to be in the same spot you are in so you have to put your best foot forward. I know every workout I come to, whether I’m interviewing or not, I have my shirt and my tie on. I want these teams to know I’m taking this seriously because it’s a job, it’s a business.
How do you think Marcus Denmon and Orlando Johnson will do in the NBA?
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