By Jason Schott - Associate Editor - @JESchott19
The top prospects expected to be drafted early on in tomorrow night's NBA Draft at Barclays Center were on hand at the Westin on Wednesday afternoon to meet with the media. Here is a sampling of what such players as Doug McDermott, Marcus Smart, and Adreian Payne talked about.
Doug McDermott, the National Player of the Year from Creighton, said of the NBA Draft finally arriving, "I got in last night, signed a bunch of autographs for them, now I see a lot of the same faces (here at the hotel). It's cool that they're out there, camped out for all these guys." On if people bring his famous Sports Illustrated cover from March for him to sign, McDermott said, "Oh yeah, that's the most popular item."
On what teams he has worked out for, McDermott said, "Boston, Los Angeles Lakers, the Hornets, and the Magic I just met with them. Some guys came to watch me and Nik Stauskas and Adreian Payne work out, that was the Bulls, the Warriors, the Timberwolves, and the Nuggets, pretty big group."
On who he rooted for as a kid, McDermott said, "Growing up, I liked the Pacers a lot with Reggie Miller, that was when I was really young. Then I continued to like the Pacers and I still cheer for them, and I like the OKC Thunder because of Kevin Durant. I met him when I was in high school, so I've always liked following his career."
Adreian Payne is one of nine players in Michigan State history with 1,200 career points and 700 career rebounds. Payne, who went the full four years, was asked his feelings about the union ruling involving Northwestern football that allowed those players to collectively bargain for compensation. Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo was dismissive of the ruling back at the East Regional at Madison Square Garden, saying he hoped his kids didn't unionize for later bed times.
Payne said on the issue of players being paid, "I think it's good. I did hear about the union. I think players should be...for what they go through, it's like the NBA a little bit. You don't see your family, you don't see your parents, and you're at a young age when you leave. Being able to get paid comes with responsibility, make them grow, mature faster. It's also going to help players when they get into the league if they make it. It will help them manage their money better in the NBA because they did it in college."
Gary Harris, who left Michigan State after his sophomore year, said he made the decision after the Elite Eight loss to UConn at Madison Square Garden. On the issue of college players being paid and Izzo's negative attitude towards it, Harris said, "Honestly, I don't know what to say to that, I'm just happy I'm getting paid now." When asked if he was compensated would have changed his decision to leave early, Harris said, "That's hard to say, I'm really not into that kind of stuff now." Harris was then asked "If he were running the NCAA, would college players be paid?" he responded, "I wouldn't be in that role, so I couldn't make that decision. I couldn't do it, I'll let someone else make that decision. I'll let you guys decide it. What do you think?" I said, "Pay," and Harris said, "We'd be paid? That's your decision." I would say he agreed with my sentiments.
Harris said of what players he liked growing up, "I just liked seeing the highlights and all that, but as I started getting older, I started to become more of a student of the game and really just watch it and picture myself doing that. I'll watch everybody because there's something you can take from all the stars because they're stars for a reason and there's always something you can learn."
Marcus Smart, a guard who left Oklahoma State after his sophomore year, was a two-time All-Big 12 First Team, Big 12 All-Defensive Team, USBWA All-District VI, and NABC All-District 8 selection. On what teams he liked as a kid, Smart said, "I really didn't have any teams that I rooted for, I just wasn't that type of kid. There were a lot of great teams, so it would be whoever was playing that night, who I would pull for, I would go with." On what players he likes, Smart said, "I had a couple players, growing up, I enjoyed watching LeBron, Kobe, all those guys. They're not that much older than me, but still, they're great players, Chris Paul, James Harden. Derrick Rose, they're great players, that's why they're playing at the highest level now."
Elfrid Payton went to Louisiana-Lafayette and was the 2013-14 Lefty Dreisell National Defensive Player of the Year and a Lou Henson All-American. I asked Payton if he felt he was an "unknown commodity," and he said, "Yeah, a little bit. I think a few people know about me now." On if he would wear a suit that would get him some attention, he said laughing, "No, no, nothing like that, man, I don't like all that attention, but it will be something nice."
Payton said of his namesake, legend Gary Payton, "Growing up watching the Sonics, he had that little stint with the Lakers, and I always kind of liked Dwyane Wade, so when they were together in Miami, I saw him a few times." On who he liked as a kid, "I didn't really have a team. I liked players. Allen Iverson was my favorite player growing up...(I modeled my game after his) a little bit, especially growing up, trying to get to the rim, stuff like that."
T.J. Warren was the ACC Player of the Year as a sophomore this past season at North Carolina State. Warren said of who he liked as a kid, "My favorite player growing up was Tracy McGrady. Younger, I used to try to be like him, I looked up to him, Tracy was a great player." On if playing in the ACC prepares him for the NBA, Warren said, "I feel the ACC is the best conference in the country. Coming from that conference is not easy. A lot of great teams, and it's expanding with Louisville, Syracuse, and those guys coming in, so by next season, it should solidify itself as the best conference."
Zach LaVine declared for the NBA Draft after his freshman season at UCLA. He received Pac-12 All-Freshman Team honors and helped UCLA go 28-9 and make their first Sweet 16 and Pac-12 Tournament title since 2006. Kobe Bryant, Black Mamba, I love him. His personality, his demeanor, his killer instinct, everything about him on and off the court, he's a hard worker." On if he gets chosen by the Lakers, LaVine said, "That was my favorite team growing up, so that would be wild, I know that, but I'm happy with whatever team drafts me. I would go wholeheartedly for whoever chooses me." On if he was disappointed that Kobe was hurt this past season while he was in Los Angeles for UCLA, LaVine said, "Yeah man, you know, stuff happens, but I know he'll be back."
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