Seniors Under The Radar: Part Five
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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The NBA may be the only organization in the world where going to school for four years and having a degree is looked at as a negative in a lot of cases. In the NBA Draft especially, the younger a prospect is, the better.
Future pros staying in school for four years is virtually unheard of these days. With the draft’s age limit only requiring a prospect to be one year removed from high school, most players can’t wait to put their education aside to pursue a career in the NBA.
Believe it or not, though, there are still guys who do things the old school way and stay in school for four years before making the jump. Over the next several weeks leading up to the draft, we will be telling the stories of some of the seniors trying to fulfill their lifelong dreams. In this week’s edition we feature Mississippi Valley State’s Cor-J Cox, Washington State’s Faisal Aden and San Jose State’s Wil Carter.
Cor-J Cox Ready To Listen, Learn and Make Plays
During Cor-J Cox’s first two years at Mississippi Valley State he patiently waited for his opportunity to be a major part of the rotation and show what he could do. That chance came his senior year and he made the most of it to say the least. His numbers nearly tripled across the board as he helped lead the Delta Devils to the NCAA Tournament.
“Mississippi Valley State helped me a lot,” Cox said to HOOPSWORLD. “It helped me become the person I am today. When I got there I was a great player and it actually helped me work on my intangibles, work on the things I needed to work on to get ready for the next level. It was a great experience.
“I was thankful to be in a situation like that and to achieve what we did this year. Anybody would want something like that. We worked hard for it, so we had to get it. We put in long days and nights in the gym during the summer. Getting there was all of our dreams.”
Now Cox is focused on his next dream: getting to the NBA. He’s working out in Chicago, Illinois in preparation for NBA auditions.
“I’m just trying to polish up my all-around game,” Cox said. “Every day there’s something that I want to polish up. Everything that I do, everything that I work for can be polished up at the next level. Everything is not easy, I know it’s not easy but I’m willing to do whatever it takes.
“At Mississippi Valley State I learned to be patient and take it one day at a time and to work hard every time I get out on the court. I play like it’s my last time every time.”
Cox, who likens his game to that of Oklahoma City Thunder guard James Harden’s, has a knack for making highlight-reel worthy plays thanks to his stellar athleticism. While he loves the exciting plays, he’s going in willing to do whatever is asked.
“I can bring a lot of things to the table,” Cox said. “I’m very versatile. I’m a great learner, very coachable. Whatever it takes to get on the court or whatever it takes to help the team that’s what I’m willing to do. Whatever the coach or veteran players ask. I just want to develop my game, help them and do whatever it takes. It’s just like college, it’s another step. You’re starting back over but at the same time you’re at the next level and there are some things that I don’t know right now that will get taught to me.”
Impressive athletes like Cox come around every year, but a lot of times they’re lacking the proper mentality and work ethic that he clearly possesses. That could be the difference in making him the second Delta Devil to play in the NBA.
Aden On The Road To Recovery
Everything was falling perfectly into place for Washington State guard Fasial Aden. He was named the National Player of the Week after dropping 33 points on Stanford and 24 on California in winning efforts. Then, just as he firmly put himself on the NBA radar, he suffered the biggest setback in his career.
In the first half of a January 26th contest against Arizona Aden was driving to the basket on a fast break. As he jump stopped in the paint his knee took an awkward turn and gave out on him.
That would be the final play of his collegiate career as he tore his ACL.
“It was awful, real devastating,” Aden said to HOOPSWORLD. “You can only imagine everything that was going on, especially with me hitting the stride I was hitting before I got injured. For all that to come to a screeching halt and just stop, it’s hard to explain. Very difficult to explain. Basketball is like a part of me, it’s a getaway, not being able to go to the gym was so difficult. It was a really, really dark time for me. It’s really hard to put into words, especially an ACL injury where you can’t even walk for the first couple weeks. It was devastating.”
Luckily for Aden, he had the right people around him to help him get through the most difficult time of his life.
“My family and friends,” Aden said. “Without them I’d probably have gone insane. There was a lot of support on their behalf. Without them it would have been that much more difficult. They helped me get through the tough times.”
With the help of his family and friends Aden has been able find the positive side of the first and only major injury in his life.
“It’s definitely been a blessing in disguise,” Aden said. “It’s helped me become a better person. When you take basketball away you have to focus on other things. It also kind of makes you hungrier. I went through stages like everyone else would with life changing things that you have no control over. Right now, I’m actually thankful, not that it happened, but it is good to have a different view of the world without basketball. That’s what stage I’m at now. I’m real positive toward the future and I feel like once I get back and healthy I definitely think it’ll make me a better player. I’m at a positive stage right now.”
NBA teams have told Aden and his camp that they are confident he can score in the league when healthy. He’s eight weeks removed from his surgery and will not be able to play in summer league. His hope is to be back to full strength before training camp. In the meantime, he’s looking to add 20 lbs. of muscle.
“With the time I have on my hands now I can do that,” Aden said. “I feel like if you’re not getting better you’re getting worse so I’m going to be working on every aspect of the game, my handles, shooting, pretty much everything. As much as I miss the game, I’m going to spend most of my time in the gym when I get back.”
While Aden’s injury is untimely, it’s only going to hold him back for so long. In time he’ll be back to where he was when he was the NPOY and shortly after we could end up seeing him in the league.
Carter Ready To Show Full Arsenal
One of the lone bright spots this season for the struggling San Jose State Spartans was the play of Wil Carter. Carter averaged 13 points and eight rebounds a game while shooting 51 percent from the field. Yet, the team’s woes made it to where he couldn’t have too much joy over it.
“It was very bittersweet feeling personally,” Carter said to HOOPSWORLD. “I felt like I succeeded with the numbers I put up personally, but it was kind of overlooked because we didn’t win a lot of games. It was hard to go through that mentally and emotionally to lose even though I’m doing everything I can.”
What made it even more difficult for Carter was that he was playing out of position the entire year. Stuck at center due to the team’s needs, he was limited to playing just in the paint. However, that’s not who he truly feels he is.
“The biggest thing is I can shoot the ball very well,” Carter said. “My natural position is a stretch four. I can stretch the court, shoot the three. I’m athletic enough to drive it to the hoop off the dribble. That’s not something you’re going to see from my college tape because I played out of position. That’s another advantage for me, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win. I put up really good numbers even though I wasn’t playing my ideal position. I’m versatile and that’s something I think I’m going to be able to show to people, my full skill set.
“My ball handling skills, shooting, pick and pops, off of curls, off the dribble. Things I wasn’t able to do during the season, now I’m trying to rep it out so when I get in workouts I can show that I can do this, I just haven’t been able to show it yet.”
Along with having underrated versatility, Carter also brings stability that teams will undoubtedly find attractive.
“I’m not a guy that anyone needs to worry about,” Carter said. “I’ve been married for two years. My life is off the court is solid. I don’t do stupid things. I’m not someone you have to worry about on the weekends. That stability has allowed me to become stable on the court, work out several hours a day because my life is in order.”
As an undersized center, the odds are stacked against Carter. But once he shows that he’s capable of playing, and defending, the power forward spot the outlook on him will change significantly.