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 mid-major big men in Harvard’s Keith Wright and Norfolk State’s Kyle O’Quinn. Wright won the Ivy League Player of the Year award as a junior and has been a part of the three winningest seasons in program history. This past season he averaged 10 points and nearly nine rebounds per game while shooting 58.6 percent from the floor and was a team captain for the 26-4 Crimson. He established himself as one of the best big men in recent Ivy League history and certainly one of the best players in Harvard history.
O’Quinn led Norfolk State to its first ever NCAA Tournament win with a thrilling victory over Missouri in the first round of the Tournament. O’Quinn took advantage of an undersized Missouri front court on his way to a 26 point, 14 rebound performance after averaging a double-double during the regular season. Additionally, O’Quinn was one of the standout performers at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament for college seniors.
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Dime: Where did you do your pre-draft training?
Keith Wright: I was up at school working out with our strength and conditioning coach and our assistant coach Brian Adams, and also my good friend Michael Chamberlain. So I was up there for a little bit then I’ve been down in DC training as well.
Kyle O’Quinn: I trained at Impact Basketball in Las Vegas with Joe Abunassar.
Dime: Describe an average day during pre-draft training.
KW: I would wake up at around 5:15 each day when I was up at school. Then I would get breakfast, go lift and then get some speed, agility and strength work in. I would get done around 8 or 8:30 then I’d go back home and grab something else to eat, and rest up for a little bit. Around 11:30 to 12, I’d go back to the gym to do basketball workouts, usually for an hour and a half to two hours depending on the day. I’d go back home, get something else to eat, and possibly get some shots up or conditioning work in later. If there was some pickup or games going on, I’d try to play and work on my game a little bit.
KO: Wake up, get to the gym and work on skill work, perfecting your moves, a lot of shooting, and things like that. Then we would go upstairs and we’d lift and do strength and conditioning. Then later in the day we would come back and do agility work before playing three on three or five on five.
Dime: What was your diet like the last two months?
KW: I tried to stay away from white bread, white rice, and starches in general. I tried not to load up too much on the carbs. I’d try to have at least one meal a day, depending on the workout, where I had carbs like brown rice or multi-grain bread. I tried to have at least five meals a day. With me, as a guy who has been on the bigger side during my career, I tried to stay away from things like cheeseburgers and french fries, or fried foods in general. I was eating a lot of baked chicken, grilled chicken.
KO: Well it was pretty much, I was trying to put on weight, so I ate a lot of carbs, got a lot of protein after lifts and things like that.
Dime: What area of your game do you think you improved the most during the last two months?
KW: I got my confidence in my mid-range jumper back. I didn’t really shoot from mid-range a lot last year so I’ve been working on that a lot. I refined some other things about, but that was where I saw the biggest improvement.
KO: I think my biggest improvement was with my 18-foot jumper. There is a big difference with it now than from before just with the amount of shots I’ve been putting up.
Dime: What do you think the one thing is about you that stood out to teams during these workouts?
KW: I’m a competitor. I go hard all the time and I think they were surprised not only by the type of skills I had but by how I compete. Every drill I go really hard and I don’t take any plays off, my motor is incredibly high and I think that’s what stuck out to them.
KO: Either my motor or my ability to rebound and defend.
Dime: Who was the toughest player you had to guard in a workout?
KW: Nobody. No one (laughs).
KO: Meyers Leonard and Tyler Zeller. Leonard is a freak athlete and he’s 7-1, and I’d never gone up against an athletic center like that. Tyler Zeller is a very seasoned big man after playing at North Carolina for your years.
Dime: What was the weirdest interview question you got?
KW: The weirdest interview question was probably ‘What would you rather do if you had a free night? Would you rather spend it alone building something by yourself or doing a group project with a friend?’ If I had a free night I don’t know if I would build something, I mean don’t know if I would want to work on a project by myself during my free time. In my free time, I’d probably rest. That was probably the weirdest question.
KO: ‘What am I going to spend my first check on?’
Dime: What was your worst flight experience?
KW: I had a middle seat in a non-exit row flying from Phoenix to Golden State. That was really rough, but luckily the flight was only about two hours, but that was a tough one for sure.
KO: Going from Boston to Chicago, which was about two and a half hours and I had the middle seat in a non-exit row, so that was very tough.
Dime: What’s the nicest hotel you stayed in?
KW: The hotel in Phoenix was pretty cool. It was right across the street from the arena and was pretty spacious so I really liked that.
KO: Ooo, the one in Toronto for sure. I can’t remember the name, but it was really nice. It was really like sophisticated, like when you walk into one room the lights come on and it’s controlled by your card, when you put your card in everything turns on and when you take it out it shuts off.
Dime: What was your favorite memory from the whole process?
KW: It was the opportunity to work out with all these teams. When I came into college, I never would have thought I would have the opportunity to be in these workouts and possibly play in the NBA. So I’m really enjoying this experience as a whole, everything has been great for me. There is not one thing I’m down about.
KO: Favorite memory is probably going to Chicago and competing against the top guys at the Combine.
Dime: What is the funniest story you have from the process?
KW: People ask if they do a background check are they going to find any red flags or do I have any kids. It’s weird having people ask me that type of stuff because the way I was raised, my mom would kill me if I got in trouble with the law or got a girl pregnant or was doing drugs. I always kind of laughed, and I think they laughed too, cause they kind of knew what type of person I was. It was really surprising to me though that some of the guys from different background have been involved in stuff like that and have kids, but it’s funny to me when I hear questions like that. Some of my friends, when I told them about that, said, ‘They don’t know who you are, they don’t know who your mom is.’
KO: Every day with Fab Melo. We were in Chicago together and then we had two workouts back to back together so we spent like a week and a half with each other. His accent and he says whatever he wants, he’s just a really funny guy. His accent is number one though.
Dime: What was your least favorite part of the whole process?
KW: Probably the travelling because it can take a lot out of you. When you have back to back workouts and don’t get into a city till 11:30 or 12 at night then have to wake up at seven to get breakfast and then go to the next workout. So the travelling and being away from family.
Dime: If you could change anything about the way you went about the last two months, is there anything you would change?
KW: No, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve been working hard and I think my hard work is paying off so I wouldn’t change anything.
KO: Nothing at all.
Dime: What’s the best advice or best lesson you got from someone during this process?
KW: Just play your game. My first workout was with the Celtics. They told me at the beginning of the workout, ‘We already know what you can do, we know what type of player you are, we just want to see you in different situations and see how you interact.’ That takes a lot of weight off your shoulders, and also enjoy the process. I was talking to Jeremy Lin and a lot of other guys who have been through this and they said to enjoy it because it only happens once. Yeah it can be a little stressful but you have to realize that not everybody gets this opportunity and I feel very fortunate and very blessed to be in this position.
KO: You have to approach this like a job so you have to go get everything you want.
Dime: If you had to give advice to someone who goes through this process next year, what would you say to them?
KW: I would tell them to start working as soon as the season ends. A lot of guys take time off and they don’t realize that the process picks up pretty fast, and if you are out of shape it doesn’t look good. When you are given an opportunity, you are given that opportunity for a reason, so stay confident and play your game. A lot of the game is confidence, so that’s probably what I would tell them.
KO: The biggest thing is you want to present yourself as a professional and first impression is key. Also, take care of your body and make sure you are healthy.
How will Kyle O’Quinn and Keith Wright do in the NBA?
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