NCAA Under the Radar: Damian Lillard
Damian Lillard is one of the most electrifying scorers in college basketball. He carries his team on a nightly basis and all signs point to him having a breakout season. If you haven’t heard of Lillard, it’s because he plays at Weber State University in Utah. While he comes from a small school, he is extremely talented and already being mentioned in NBA circles.
Lillard is currently projected as a second-round pick, but an impressive season could move him up draft boards. He had a phenomenal sophomore season, averaging 19.9 points and 3.6 assists, which led to him being named the Big Sky Conference’s Most Valuable Player. Last season, he was putting up similar statistics through nine games before a right foot fracture sidelined him for the remainder of the year.
Now, he’s completely healthy and determined to pick up right where he left off.
“As a team, I want to win the league and conference tournament so that we can play in the NCAA Tournament,” Lillard told HOOPSWORLD. “That’s the ultimate goal for our team this year. We won the league two of my first three years here, but we still haven’t played in the NCAA Tournament. This year, that’s our number one goal. Individually, I want to help my team win and be MVP of the league again, like I was in my sophomore year.”
Every year, there’s at least one elite scorer who performs well in pre-draft workouts and hears his name on draft day. In the 2011 NBA Draft, that player was Andrew Goudelock from the College of Charleston, who was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round. This year, it could be Lillard.
“My biggest strength on the court is that I’m a scorer,” Lillard said. “That’s the main thing that probably stands out about me. My game is molded for that process. I can score and guard people one-on-one. Also, I have the size and frame: I’m 6’3 with a 6’9 wingspan.”
However, before he’s able to work out for NBA teams, he has to prove he belongs in the process. Lillard understands that he has to significantly outperform his peers in order to make up for the fact that he plays for a small school.
“I know that I’m going to have to prove myself more than someone who goes to school in one of the power conferences,” Lillard said. “I know that I have more to prove because I don’t play against the competition they play against night in and night out. I think when the time comes for us to play against them, either in the NCAA Tournament or during the season, I think it’ll speak for itself. I played at adidas Nations the last two years and I did well so I think I’ve proven myself so far.”
“I have a chip on my shoulder from knowing that people doubt me and whether or not I can make it to the next level,” he added. “It’s everyone’s dream to play in the NBA. I’ve wanted that my whole life. That’s what I work for, to prove people wrong.”
Lillard may be an elite scorer, but he’ll likely play point guard at the next level. He’s originally a point guard and was lauded for his unselfish play and passing ability coming out of high school. Playing at Weber State, he’s had to carry the scoring load, but that won’t necessarily be the case in the NBA.
“I’m definitely a point guard,” Lillard said. “I’m not a shooting guard. My role on this team requires me to score a lot of points so that’s why I consider myself a scorer right now. If I was in the NBA, with all of the talent that would be around me, I would adjust.”
When asked to compare himself to a current NBA player, Lillard went with Jeff Teague.
“I think I would compare my game to Jeff Teague because he’s about the same size as me, he can shoot, he’s a scoring point guard and he’s athletic. Our games are similar,” Lillard said.
Lillard and Weber State will kick off their season in three weeks. Even if he continues to fly under the radar, there’s a good chance you’ll be hearing about Lillard in the weeks leading up the 2012 NBA Draft.