I’m getting settled in Detroit, just having arrived here last week after spending a month of good family time. I hadn’t seen my family very much at all for the last whole year, so it was great to get some quality time with them. We took a trip to the Oregon coast, I got a chance to go up to the University of Oregon and work out with my brother there, and I went down to LA for a while and got to spend some time with my sister.
I went in spurts with my workouts – I’d work out for a week or so and then take some time off. Back home in Medford, I didn’t do a lot of working out because there really isn’t anybody to work with there, but when I was with my brother E.J. in Eugene, there were people around so I got stuff done out there. It was a long season for me in Spain, so I needed to take a little time away from the gym, but now I’m ready to get going again.
Medford is south, on the California border, right in the middle on I-5 – everything in Oregon is on I-5. On the other side of the mountains, it’s pretty flat and there’s not a lot there. My grandfather has a great story. He was coming to watch me play Little League baseball and he said the whole way there he must have hit about 100 jackrabbits, just flying across the road. He loves telling that story.
One other thing that happened within the last few weeks was the NBA rookie orientation program in New Jersey. Even though I played four years of college basketball and then a year of pro ball in Spain, I still felt like they were talking to me because I am a rookie – it doesn’t really matter how many years you’ve played, you’re still a rookie when you come to the NBA. This is all new to me.
It was cool to see some familiar faces that I grew up playing against and with, but then I saw a lot of guys I didn’t recognize. They were four or five years younger than me. In that way, it was different and a little weird.
The biggest impression it made on me was just paying attention and owning your life. When you boil it all down, I think that’s what it comes down to. They talked about good stuff – handling your money, making the right decisions. But when you boil it down, you’re in charge of your life; you’re in charge of your own decisions.
One of the biggest decisions anyone makes is picking a college. It was my dream to play at Duke when I was little, it really was. As I was growing up and really started wanting to play basketball, the dream was Duke. It wasn’t necessarily to play in the pros, because I really didn’t know anyone that played professionally. Of course, I would want to play, but my main goal was to play at Duke and have a career there. When I got there, I wasn’t thinking, “Well, now I’ve got to be a four-year guy.” But I really enjoyed it. I never felt pressured to leave. Playing for coach, playing with my teammates there – great guys – I just didn’t want to leave early.
It was just a feel. Looking back on it, would I have been happy coming out? Sure, but I would have regretted it a little bit, I think. Actually, I know, because I know now I’m happy with what I did. Duke was a great experience. There’s no place like Cameron. What a great place.
I guess I really have no answer for why a kid growing up in Oregon would dream of playing on the other coast of America. I guess their winning tradition. No one likes to lose, so they were respected. But when you’re little, it’s hard to say what appeals to you. I was a Michigan football fan and to this day I have my Michigan blanket – I loved the Wolverines stripes on the helmets, that’s what appealed to me. No offense to Michigan State fans, it’s just who I am.
I’ll be in the gym every day for the next three weeks now, working with Arnie Kander and the coaching staff. Any time I’m working with Arnie, I’m all ears, all eyes, trying to learn. Guys have told me, “You won’t believe this guy.” I can already tell what he can do for me as a basketball player, so I’m looking forward to spending more time with him.
I have a couple of goals for this coming season – some short-term, some long-term. I’m trying to get grounded, get a feel for the players. I don’t want to talk about the goals right now, but you’ve got to set goals for yourself. That’s what drives me.
I’m starting to learn my way around. Ryan Hoover, from our front office, found a place for me. I had looked around a little bit when I was here in June, but he called and said “I’ve found a place. It’s really nice, but you better jump on it now or it might be gone.” I told him I trusted him and I’m glad I did. I’m really happy with it and learning the area around where I live. I know how to get to the gym and I know how to get home. That’s about all I need right now.
The first really fun thing I’ve done since getting here is go to the Lions game on Sunday with Andre Drummond. It was my second NFL game and I don’t really remember my first. I think it was a Seahawks game when I was really little. I played high school football until I gave it up my junior year to concentrate on basketball. Ford Field was a great environment and it was a great win for the Lions. I’m looking forward to seeing more games and looking forward to helping create that same environment at The Palace.
Courtesy of: nba.com/pistons