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NBA Draft Notes: Noel, Burke, Larkin, Ledo
Posted By Alex Kennedy On June 24, 2013 @ 5:00 am In NBA Draft | No Comments
Nerlens Noel Ready to Learn His Fate
In three days, Nerlens Noel will finally find out where he’ll be beginning his NBA career and living for at least the next several years. Most draft prospects have no idea which team is going to select them on draft night, but the former Kentucky star has a pretty good idea of where he’s going to land.
The 19-year-old only met with the top three teams in this year’s draft – the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards – and he believes that’s his range.
“It’s definitely exciting,” Noel said. “Those are three great opportunities and three great teams that have very bright futures. They are three great organizations and they’ve all impressed me. They all have great front office guys and they’re all really family-oriented teams. They all really care about their players and that alone really impressed me. Whatever team I go to, I’m definitely going to look to assert myself right away and do some good things for them so that I can help them become a playoff team.”
The Cavaliers, Magic and Wizards have each expressed interest in Noel. Also, according to Noel, these three teams don’t seem concerned about the big man’s knee injury. Noel tore his ACL in February, but Cleveland, Orlando and Washington don’t seem to be worried about it.
“It’s been nothing but great feedback with every team that I’ve went to – from Orlando to D.C. recently to Cleveland a couple of days ago,” Noel said. “They’ve said that my knee is 100 percent and perfectly fine. They definitely wanted to see that I was continuing to progress and building my muscles back up, but they think I can come back stronger.
“I’m three months out of post-op and I’m doing very well. I’m ahead of schedule and everything is moving along very well. I’m doing defensive slides and I’m able to jog, so everything is going well. I’m expecting a very strong return. I want to come back even stronger from this.”
While every player wants to be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, Noel is honestly content with all three situations. Recently, rumors have surfaced that the Cavaliers may pick Maryland’s Alex Len over Noel. While that may disappoint Noel briefly, it’s not something that he’s going to lose any sleep over.
“It definitely won’t be the end of the world,” Noel said of not being the top overall pick. “I mean, look at the past. Look at how many great players haven’t gone No. 1 and see what they’ve done with their careers. You can still become an All-Star and be successful. I mean, look at Carlos Boozer. He was a second-round pick. I mean, when you look at guys who went No. 2, you have Kevin Durant and a lot of other successful guys. If that happens, I’m just going to stay focused and use it as more motivation. I’m still going to be the player that I want to be. It’s all about your attitude and approach.”
Noel understands that a lot of pressure and expectations come with being a top draft pick, and he’s not shying away from that. Intense pressure and high expectations are nothing new for the center, considering he was the top high school prospect in the nation and joined Kentucky as they were the defending national champions. He has never backed down from pressure, and he won’t start now.
“I definitely feel that I’m ready,” Noel said. “It’s going to be a lot of pressure, but I feel that if I perform at my highest level then the pressure will be gone. I’m definitely ready to take that on and face that challenge.”
Noel is glad that the pre-draft process is coming to an end because he’s ready to learn his fate and get his NBA career underway.
“It’s definitely getting closer and there’s a lot more excitement and nervousness,” Noel said. “But I’m definitely looking forward to making my dream come true this Thursday. … It’s going to be a big relief to have this finished up. It’s been a long last couple of months. I mean, I can’t wait to finally know what team I’ll be on and start building relationships with the guys on the team and the staff. It’ll be something that’s really exciting for me and I’m definitely looking forward to that.”
Noel is looking forward to attending the draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
“At my table I’ll have my mother, my two [older] brothers, my little sister and Coach Cal so that’s definitely going to be a special moment,” Noel said. “But I’m just going to stay humble and down to earth about everything. I mean, this is a dream come true, but I still have to stay focused and poised.”
Trey Burke Just Wants a Good Fit
In recent weeks, Trey Burke has identified his range in the 2013 NBA Draft as No. 2 (Orlando Magic) to No. 8 (Detroit Pistons). However, he doesn’t really care which pick he’s selected at on Thursday evening. He’s more concerned about finding a good fit. If going lower means that he’ll be part of a winning organization with better teammates, that’s fine with him.
“I’m not getting caught up in it,” Burke said of his draft position. “I want to go where the program is going in the right direction and where the program is all about winning. If that’s at No. 9, then that’s at No. 9. If that’s at No. 2, then that’s at No. 2. I’m just ready to see where I’ll be going. … It’s been a long process, but I’ve been trying to enjoy it as much as possible. It’s definitely sinking in to a certain point, but I still don’t know where I’m going so it’s still all up in the air. I’m just excited and eager to figure out where I’m going on Thursday. I’m just looking forward to it.”
Burke believes that the best fits for him would be the Orlando Magic, New Orleans Pelicans or Sacramento Kings. These are teams that could use some leadership as well as a long-term answer at point guard. He believes his ability to manage a team and get the most out of his teammates is one of his biggest strengths and something that separates him from his peers.
“Absolutely, I think that’s a strength of mine because I’ve always been a natural leader,” Burke said. “If I go to a team that already has guys who are leaders then that will be even better for the franchise. I’m just excited. Wherever I go, I’m willing to come in and make an impact right away.”
Burke believes he had his best workouts with the Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings.
“I think my workouts in Phoenix and Sacramento stood out,” Burke said. “I felt really good about those. I mean, I felt good about all of my workouts, but those are the two that really stood out specifically. I nailed them both and I’m sure that they both liked me. They gave me positive feedback. Like I said, we’ll see on Thursday where I end up.”
Burke tried his best to enjoy the pre-draft process. He looked forward to meeting team officials and fellow prospects. He also did an excellent job interviewing with teams at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago and at their individual facilities. However, he wasn’t ready for every question thrown his way.
“I had gotten asked the question, ‘Why do they make sewers round?’ That kind of threw me off guard,” Burke said with a laugh. “I think that was really the only crazy question that threw me off. I didn’t really know how to respond to it. I gave them a couple of answers. I guess they just wanted to see what I thought about why they made sewers round. It was an odd question, but I was expecting one team to ask me an off-guard question. I said, ‘I don’t know, so animals can’t get in there? I don’t know.’ I don’t really remember what I said because it threw me off so much that it made me forget my answer.”
This is a question that Microsoft often asks in their job interviews, and there are several correct answers. The most popular acceptable answer is that a round manhole cover cannot fall through its circular opening, but a square manhole cover would be able to fall in if inserted diagonally in the hole.
Aside from having to answer tricky questions, the other adjustment that Burke had to make during the pre-draft process was figuring out how to work out in front of former NBA players that he respected and wanted to impress.
“It was tough at first,” Burke said. “It was something that I wasn’t used to, but I just had to focus and get through the workout without worrying about who is watching. I would say working out in front of Coach Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix and Coach Monty Williams in New Orleans [were the most intimidating] since those are guys who actually played in the NBA. Jeff Hornacek had a long career, playing with guys like John Stockton and Karl Malone so that kind of made me look at him differently while I was working out in front of him. But at the end of the day, I think I did great while they were watching me so that’s all that matters.”
Now, all of the workouts, interviews and things in Burke’s control are in the past. His fate is now in the hands of NBA executives and he still can’t believe that he’ll hear his name called by NBA Commissioner David Stern in three days.
“It’s very special and it’s sort of surreal,” Burke said. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime and it’s something that I’ve been dreaming about my whole life so for it to be right in front of my face and a few days away, it’s crazy. It means the world to me.”
Shane Larkin Continues to Climb
When Shane Larkin announced that he would leave Miami following his sophomore season to enter the 2013 NBA Draft in late April, most mock drafts had the point guard projected as a late-first rounder or early-second rounder. Even though he had an impressive season with the Hurricanes in which he averaged 14.5 points, 4.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 2.0 steals, teams weren’t sure if he could successfully transition to the NBA with his 5’11, 170-lbs. frame.
However, two months later, Larkin has eased those concerns and had a meteoric rise. Not only has Larkin solidified himself as a first-round pick, but he may climb as high as the late lottery.
Few players have been as impressive during the pre-draft process as Larkin. The 20-year-old has shined during workouts, impressed in interviews and shown that he’s one of the most athletic guards in this class. At the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, Larkin’s 44-inch max vertical jump was not only the highest of anyone in this draft class, but also the second-highest leap ever recorded in combine history. As if that wasn’t enough, Larkin also had the fastest time in three-quarter-court sprints at 3.08 seconds.
That showing, coupled with his stellar game film, intrigued executives around the league. Now, Larkin is a possibility for the Utah Jazz at No. 14 and it seems that his floor is the Boston Celtics at No. 16.
“I’m a very confident person and I’ve always believed in my abilities so for people to take notice and think that I’m a pretty good player who can contribute is kind of a sigh of relief,” Larkin said. “All of the hard work that I’ve put in is finally being recognized and people are thinking highly of me at the next level. … It’s been cool. It’s been a fun process, just going out there and competing against the top players in the country. I’m definitely having a good time.
“It doesn’t really matter which pick I go, it’s really about the right fit. You can go as high as you want, but if it’s not the right fit then it’s not going to be a good place for you to be. Hopefully on draft night, I just end up in a place that’s the right fit for me so that I can go in there, contribute as a rookie and grow as an NBA player from that point on.”
While Larkin’s athleticism is jaw-dropping, he feels that his ability to run the pick-and-roll is what will allow him to have success in the NBA for years to come.
“I think my biggest strength is being able to run the pick-and-roll,” Larkin said. “We ran a lot of pick-and-roll at the University of Miami and it really prepared me for the next level. I’ll be able to go in early and be able to execute the pick-and-roll in a bunch of different situations.”
However, Larkin does have some areas where he needs work, specifically on the defensive end.
“My biggest weakness is probably my intensity on the defensive end of the ball,” Larkin admitted. “A lot of teams that I’ve gone and seen have asked me, if they do pick me, am I willing to give that effort and intensity every single time down the court since I have the physical ability to do it? I’m just making that adjustment and going out there every single night and giving 100 percent on the defensive end. That may have been my weakness.”
Larkin has a good head on his shoulders and is one of the most down to earth prospects in this draft. He says his father, former MLB star Barry Larkin, is one who taught him to stay grounded despite success.
“He just taught me to remain the same person that I am today,” Larkin said of his famous father. “He played 19 years in the major leagues. He was a 12-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner. But no matter how many Silver Sluggers or MVPs he won, he was always just the same laid-back, humble kid from Cincinnati, OH. That’s the person that I want to remain, on and off the court. I just want to be the same kid from Orlando, FL, who will always be humble and never big-headed and never let anything outside of the game affect him. [He taught me] to remain the same person throughout everything.”
As Larkin has navigated through the pre-draft process, he has been impressive nearly every step of the way. However, he had did have to get himself together when he worked out for the Detroit Pistons. He admitted he was somewhat star struck when he was playing in front of Joe Dumars, Detroit’s president of basketball operations.
“Joe Dumars in Detroit, that’s one of the ones where I was like ‘wow’ just because of everything that he has done and how he has gone up against Michael Jordan all of these times and the toughness he displayed on the court,” Larkin said. “That was just the moment where I was like, ‘Wow, I’m really here now. I’m really having these All-Stars, superstars and Hall of Famers watch me play basketball to evaluate my talent.’ I would say that was the moment when it really hit me.”
It’ll hit him once again on Thursday, when he’ll hear his name called in the first round. Even though he didn’t receive a green room invitation, he has decided to attend the draft anyway.
“I’m going to go up to New York with my family,” Larkin said. “I’m just looking to have a good time up there.”
Ricky Ledo Proving Himself to Teams
Because Ricky Ledo was academically ineligible for his one and only season at Providence, he understood that he had to perform well in the pre-draft process if he wanted to turn his NBA dream into reality. Because he had so much to prove, Ledo has worked out individually for nearly half of the league.
The 20-year-old worked out for the Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets, Memphis Grizzlies, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks among others.
Ledo understands that these workouts will make or break him on draft night.
“That’s everything at this point because they don’t have film on me since I didn’t play in college last year,” Ledo said. “It’s everything. I have to show that I belong. I have to show what type of person that I am. Overall, I have to show that I’m good enough to play at the next level and that I am one of the top guys in the draft.
“It’s starting to hit me that my dream is about to come true, so I’m definitely getting a little bit nervous. It’s been a good experience. The traveling gets to you a little bit, but you’re happy to do it because you’re showcasing what you can do and interviewing for your future job. But it does get tiring, just the flights all across the country and things like that.”
When asked to identify which of his workouts went the best, Ledo doesn’t hesitate.
“I had a really good workout for the New York Knicks,” Ledo said. “I worked out really well for them. I would say that was my favorite workout. Overall, it was a really good workout.”
Ledo has been going head-to-head with a many of the top shooting guard prospects in this draft class, and the player that has impressed him the most has been Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who has performed so well in workouts that he may climb into the top 10 on draft night.
“I had a lot of good match-ups against Kentavious Caldwell-Pope,” Ledo said. “I would say he’s probably the toughest person that I’ve went up against in this draft. He’s a really good player and that’s who I went up against a lot.”
Because there are a lot of questions surrounding Ledo, he has one of the widest ranges of any player in the draft. He could go as high as the teens or as a low as the 40s, depending on what teams think of him. Ledo admits that even he doesn’t have a sense of where he’ll go on draft night.
“Kind of, but not really,” Ledo said with a laugh. “I’ve been speaking with my agent [Seth Cohen] and he’s been telling me that I could go mid-first to late-first to really-early second. I could go anywhere in that range.”
While NBA decision-makers have been able to work out Ledo and get a feel for how he plays, most fans have no idea what to expect from the shooting guard or who to compare him to.
“I watch a lot of film on old-school Penny Hardaway, Jamal Crawford, Joe Johnson and Kevin Durant,” Ledo said. “I try to take little things for everyone’s game and put it into mine. But just being a bigger guy, I know I resemble Joe Johnson a lot. I watch him, but mostly old-school Penny Hardaway.”
Ledo will have one of the most interesting draft nights of anyone in this class due to his wide range and mystery man status. Like Noel, Burke and Larkin, he’s going to attend to the draft since it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Ledo said. “I might cry, I might cry. It’s going to be an exciting time for me. I’m going to be with my family and I’m actually going to go to the draft because I can’t miss the opportunity to shake the Commissioner’s hand. That’s definitely going to be a good experience.”
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