TUALATIN, Ore. — Former UConn center Andre Drummond may be the youngest player in this year’s draft class, but he pulled a move Saturday generally reserved for those who have been in the league a few years.
When reporters encircled Drummond following his pre-draft workout with the Blazers, the 18-year-old led them in front of the team’s media backdrop to conduct his interview.
Savvy off-court move, but what about his on-court repertoire?
Drummond is one of the more difficult prospects to project, as much of his appeal is based on upside — although Draft Express does have Portland using its sixth pick on him at the moment.
Despite his natural ability, he averaged an underwhelming 10 points and 7.6 rebounds per game as a freshman with the Huskies last year, prompting some scouts to question the consistency of his effort.
“Everybody is entitled to their own opinions, I just feel like when I get on the floor, I play my hardest. You can’t please everybody,” said Drummond, who also averaged 2.7 blocks but shot .295 from the free-throw line. “I’m just gonna play the game that I love.”
Drummond’s height has been listed as low as 6-foot-9 and as high as 6-11. Asked to clarify how tall he actually stood, he answered “6-11, with shoes on.”
When a reporter followed by asking him “with big shoes or little shoes?” Drummond smiled and said “with elevated shoes.”
Drummond said a change in diet mixed with increased conditioning has allowed him to drop 22 pounds since leaving UConn, putting his weight at 270. Asked if he used to be fat, he said “no, I wasn’t fat, I just had a lot of weight.”
He added that he has “fixed” his jump shot and has improved his game since leaving school.
Some might argue that with his game still in need of development, an extra year playing college ball may have served him well. Drummond, however, said that his decision to turn pro centered around “the opportunity that has been put in front of me.”
Friday, Drummond had dinner with members of the Blazers organization and was going to meet team owner Paul Allen after talking with the media. He said that he hasn’t been paying attention to his projected draft status, and won’t compare himself to other players.
Asked if he considered himself the top center prospect in the draft, Drummond didn’t bite, responding simply: “I consider myself a hard worker.”
Babbitt’s high school rival works out — When it comes to producing star basketball players, Reno doesn’t quite compare with cities such as Seattle or Los Angeles. But just a few years ago, there was a major individual rivalry involving Luke Babbitt and Olek Czyz, the latter of which participated in a pre-draft workout with the Blazers Saturday.
Czyz is originally from Poland, but attended Reno High and eventually earned a scholarship to Duke before transferring to Nevada. Before that, however, he was trying to establish himself as Reno’s best prep player.
“They don’t get athletes like us very often in such a small city,” Czyz said. “There were a lot of people bragging about it.”
After their match-up in December of 2007, however, Babbitt was the only one bragging. He had 34 points and led Galena High to a win. Czyz had four points on 1 of 14 shooting. Even so, Czyz said he remains good friends with Babbitt.
“My family and I we’re always following Luke,” Czyz said. “We’re really happy to see him succeed.”