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 is former Kentucky shooting guard Darius Miller, who was drafted by the Hornets, and former LSU center Justin Hamilton, drafted by the Heat. Miller is one of the rare seniors on John Calipari’s teams but his leadership and team first attitude were a big reason why the Wildcats won the NCAA Championship this season. Despite being a starter for the past two seasons prior to this last one, Miller gave up his starting spot to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and became the team’s sixth man. He thrived in that role, winning SEC Sixth Man of the Year while coming in and making big shots, as well as playing defense for Calipari, and ultimately landed himself on an NBA roster.
Hamilton was the star player for the Tigers this past season in his first season with the team after transferring from Iowa State. After sitting out a year after the transfer, Hamilton made an immediate impact with his size and shooting ability. As a seven footer, he has range out to 18 feet and the ability to post his man up as well. He averaged nearly 13 points and seven rebounds per game before declaring for the Draft.
Dime: Where did you do your pre-draft training?
Darius Miller: I trained in Indianapolis with Ed Schillings and Mark Peters.
Justin Hamilton: I trained at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas with Andrew Moore and Joe Abunassar.
Dime: Describe an average day during pre-draft training.
DM: We went twice a day. We went at 9:00 and then at 2:00. We did a lot of on-court stuff for two hours at nine, then at two we did a lot of flexibility work and strength training off the court. We worked out Monday through Saturday, with Sundays off.
JH: Waking up at 8:30 and going to work out at nine. We would have an on-court workout from 9 to 10:30, and then at 11 lifting for an hour. Then we would get lunch, then at around 2:00 or 3:00 we would do agility work before playing pickup or three on three, and then getting more shots up. After that was just relaxing and getting ready for the next day.
Dime: What was your diet like the last two months?
DM: Way different. It was way different than what I had been eating. I was eating much healthier food and watching what I eat and what I put into my body. Soft drinks, and stuff like that were off-limits. I drank a lot of water more than anything as opposed to juice and sugary drinks like I used to.
JH: The diet was just to eat healthier overall and eliminating fried foods and fatty foods. I ate a lot of chickens and vegetables and you want to make sure you still have the calorie intake but eating healthier foods.
Dime: What area of your game do you think you improved the most during the last two months?
DM: Probably ballhandling. I also improved my body a lot in terms of getting in better shape and toning my body up a little bit.
JH: I think I improved my body tremendously while getting ready for this process. I really slimmed down and became much more toned. I think I improved in a lot of areas on the court, just an overall improvement, but shooting was probably most improved.
Dime: What do you think the one thing is about you that stood out to teams during these workouts?
DM: Probably my versatility and how much I really try to work at everything. I feel like I really got to show what I did at Kentucky and more than that, in terms of everything I am capable of doing on the court.
JH: The way I shoot the ball and my competitive, hard working mentality. Also, the fact that I’m more athletic than people give me credit for.
Dime: Who was the toughest player you had to guard in a workout?
DM: (Laughs) I don’t know honestly, I’ve had a lot of great workouts. I’ve gone up against Moe Harkless, Draymond Green, Jeff Taylor, and a bunch of great players so I was always going up against guys that were talented.
JH: Marquis Teague (laughs). I’ve had quite a few workouts lately where it was just me with a bunch of guards, so it’s been kind of tough. He tried to steal the ball from me a lot cause I was playing on the outside and I tried to keep him in front of me and make him shoot jumpers instead of getting to the basket for layups.
Dime: What was the weirdest interview question you got?
DM: People keep asking me that. I didn’t get any weird ones to be honest. Most of them were pretty similar like ‘How can you help our team?’ or stuff like that. I didn’t get any super weird questions. The hardest question to answer though was ‘Who was the best teammate you had at UK?’ I never really gave an answer to that one though.
JH: In Charlotte, they were interviewing me and I’m getting married this summer so they started quizzing me about how much I loved my fiancÃ©. It was kind of like the father of the daughter talk, asking me all these different questions about her so that was weird. I also got asked in Utah, ‘What is one thing and one thing?’ and had to try to figure out what that was. That was really confusing.
Dime: What was your worst flight experience?
DM: Oh my God. All of them. Every plane I’ve been on has been really small and really tight and I only had one exit row seat the whole time during the process so they were all the same to me. One time though I had a baby screaming in my ear so that was rough.
JH: Definitely going to Toronto. I was supposed to catch a flight at 6:40 in the morning out of Las Vegas. We got on the plane and then sat there for an hour before they determined that the plane was broken and we had to get off. Then they told us that we had to find our own flights to Toronto so I was calling my agent and calling Toronto to try to figure out a way to get to there for my workout the next day. I ended up having to fly to Washington, DC and when I got there, my flight got delayed again so when I finally got into Toronto, it was about two in the morning and had a 30 minute drive to the hotel, then had to work out at 8 AM, so I got a total of about four hours of sleep. So I travelled for like 16 hours.
Dime: What’s the nicest hotel you stayed in?
DM: Ahh man, hmm, the nicest hotel. Either the one in Washington, it was an interesting hotel, it was different from all the rest of them which was cool or the one in Miami. It is really nice at Miami.
JH: The one in Toronto was the nicest. Everything was automatic and had a really nice view of the city, it was really nice.
Dime: What was your favorite memory from the whole process?
DM: Probably being at the Combine. I got to spend a lot of time with my teammates who I hadn’t seen in awhile and I also got to interact with all the talented players from around the country. It was just a really good time for me.
JH: Probably the Minnesota Combine. I was sick and I was hurting during the workout but I ended up playing pretty well and shooting the ball really well. After the workout, Larry Bird was sitting on the sideline and I’d never talked to him before so I just went right up and introduced myself and talked to him. He told me I had a great workout, and it was really neat to meet him, someone you see on TV and hear so much about.
Dime: What is the funniest story you have from the process?
DM: Oh man, I don’t even know to be totally honest. I can’t think of one off the top of my head.
JH: Probably just seeing Robert Sacre at so many of these workouts. We’ve probably had five or six workouts together and me and him didn’t know we were going to be in so many together. For example, today I just walked into the lobby of the hotel and he was just standing there, so it’s kind of a running joke now. We’ve become pretty good friends because of it.
Dime: What was your least favorite part of the whole process?
DM: Probably the airplanes and just how tight the space was but other than that I really enjoyed the whole thing and consider it an honor to be going through it.
JH: Travelling for sure.
Dime: If you could change anything about the way you went about the last two months, is there anything you would change?
DM: No, not really. I have a lot of teammates in the NBA and then Coach Cal and the staff here, and they all really prepared me well for everything I would have to do.
JH: Ooohh, that’s a good question. I don’t think I would change much, overall it was a great experience and I got to do a lot of things that I had never done before. One thing I might change is synchronizing the workouts more, like scheduling them all on the East Coast then on the West Coast so I don’t have to keep going back and forth.
Dime: What’s the best advice or best lesson you got from someone during this process?
DM: The thing that I got from most of my teammates who had already made it and from the coaching staff at UK was to go into the workouts in great shape and go as hard as I can. They said those are the only two things I can really control and having a positive attitude, so that helped.
JH: In Detroit, their trainer was really good and has great knowledge about the body. He had us do all these different motions and told us how they translated to the game so the tips he gave me were really cool.
Dime: If you had to give advice to someone who goes through this process next year, what would you say to them?
DM: I would probably give them the same advice. Make sure you are in great shape, take care of your body, because the process is long and it is a grind. Just enjoy the whole experience, it goes by kind of fast and it’s something you should be honored to be a part of.
JH: Prepare for the unexpected. There are going to be delayed flights, workouts added, cancelled workouts, and not everything will go according to plan so just make sure you are ready for that. Also, you need to be in shape or else you will really struggle.
How will Darius Miller and Justin Hamilton fare in the NBA?
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