Ahead of the 2016 NBA Draft, Portland Trail Blazers guard and recently hired Players’ Tribune intern CJ McCollum sat down with three of today’s top prospects for a Q&A session; Vanderbilt’s Wade Baldwin, Duke’s Brandon Ingram, and Kentucky’s Jamal Murray. Each is a projected first-round pick. Click the following links to read the full interviews, and enjoy the excerpts below for a quick taste.
- Rookie vs. Intern: Wade Baldwin IV
- Rookie vs. Intern: Brandon Ingram
- Rookie vs. Intern: Jamal Murray
McCollum: So you just finished the pre-Draft combine. I know what that’s like going through the questions. You get seven visits with NBA teams, so you’re able to kind of get an understanding of each team by the questions they ask you. I had some funny questions in my Draft interview process, but without naming names — well, I’ll name names for you because I don’t care, I’m already here — tell me about your most interesting draft interview question.
Baldwin: I got a couple. The Atlanta Hawks asked me, "If a bat and a ball cost $1.10 together, how much does the ball cost?" I had like 10 guys sitting right in front of me waiting for the answer, and I didn’t know what it was until I got back to my room and I texted what the answer was, but it was kind of embarrassing that way. And as soon as I walked into the Spurs’ interview, they kind of were just like, "We have Tony Parker, Patty Mills. You’re not gonna play. You’re just going straight to the D-League." They didn’t even say, "Hello, what’s your name?" introductions and stuff. That was the first thing they did, and I was like, "Ah, damn." And yeah, that was kind of weird for me.
McCollum: I had a few brief, brief interactions with Coach K. Mainly us beating them in the NCAA Tournament back in 2012. A lot of us aren’t sure of his personality and what he’s like as a coach. What’s it like to play for him, and how has he made you a better player?
Ingram: First off, he’s a very down to earth guy. He was very cool during recruiting visits and selling his program. I just knew it was the right move for me. Coach K, he’s very enthusiastic. At his age, you wouldn’t expect the things that he does day in and day out. He made a big impact on my life and a big impact on my family.
McCollum: Yeah, he’s got a lot of respect from me and the rest of the basketball world. I think he’s going to be stepping down from USA Basketball after this year, and he’s had a heck of a run. But what did he force you to work on? You said before, he pushed you. He was there for you in high school. He would come into games and kind of give you that support. Knowing that you’re gonna go to the NBA, I’m sure he had some things in mind that he wanted you to work on. And what did he force you to work on that you think will translate well?
Ingram: Coach K made me be a leader. I think all year he forced me to be vocal. So just coming in, Grayson and me and Luke were the main scorers, and we didn’t talk much. I mean, we didn’t talk at all. So he told us that in going up to the next level, that’s something that you’re expected to do. You need to lead as much as you can bring a rookie at the next level.
Nick (fan question): C.J. and Jamal, thanks for your time. I’ve got a question for both of you. What are the most significant off-the-court experiences that have helped you both get to where you are today?
McCollum: Wow. I’ll start with me. Personally, just having to go through multiple injuries early on in my career. I got hurt my senior year of college. I ended up breaking my fifth metatarsal after I pulled out of the Draft. That was a good experience for me to kind of find myself, figure out a plan for post-basketball because obviously it doesn’t last forever. And then getting hurt again my rookie year, the last day of training camp and not being able to play. You know, after going through two-a-days and having to watch my team have success early on. We were a lottery team that ended up being one of the best teams in the NBA. Up to Christmas, we had the second best record in the NBA. So it was a tough time for me. I had to dig deep and kind of overcome that. But I would say the injuries have been very crucial for me.
Murray: For me, it was taking advantage of my opportunities. Being in Canada, there’s just not as many of them as there would be in the States. When you go to like the Nike Hoops Summit, or the All-Canadian Game, all those really matter in your development and how people perceive you as far as how good of a player you are. So I went to the Nike Hoops Summit twice. It was taking advantage of those opportunities.