His Words: D’Angelo Russell Discusses His Unlikely Rise to Top Draft Pick
BLOOMINGTON, IN - JANUARY 10: D'Angelo Russell #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes is seen during the game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Assembly Hall on January 10, 2015 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
The NBA Draft is now just hours away, and a player who has skyrocketed up the draft charts is former Ohio State point guard D’Angelo Russell. In just a few short months, Russell has gone from a player that many thought would be in college for three or four years, to most likely one of the top three or four picks in the NBA Draft.
It’s been a wild ride for Russell and he sat down with FoxSportsLive.com to discuss it all, as part of the Home Court Advantage campaign with American Express.
From his rise as a one-and-done prospect, to the possibility of playing with both the Lakers and 76ers, Russell answers it all below.
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It’s been a wild ride for you since about 14 months or so ago when you arrived on Ohio State’s campus as an unheralded recruit. Only here you are, just a little over a year later getting ready to fulfill your dream as an NBA Draft pick. What’s it been like?
It’s been a wonderful experience that I ca”t really put my finger on. But knowing where I was, to where I am now, it’s a blessing.
What is the biggest thing that has changed for you since you got to Ohio State to now? How have you grown?
I would say for me, my thought process has changed towards everything. I can’t do what I did months ago, whether it be hanging out later (at night) or being around a group of guys that weren’t as good for me as I thought they were. Little things like that.
It’s a lot for me, just right now I’m just trying to make sure I’m acting more like a professional.
After such a successful freshman year, when did you realize ‘I can actually make this leap? And then, when did it go from ‘I can make this leap’ to ‘I’m probably going to be a pretty high draft pick.’
Everything started going good for me early in the season. I started making a lot of tough shots, I started putting up crazy stats, (and) my team started winning more. My name just started buzzing. Every time I watched a game, my name would somehow come up.
After a while I just started to realize it was my time.
What would you say were your best memories from your short time at Ohio State?
I would definitely say just knowing how to enjoy a great group of guys, a group of teammates that really played for each other. There was no one guy that was singled out, everybody played for each other and it helped us be successful.
We’ve heard your name associated with a lot of different teams. Any one specific team that you think your skill set fits with best?
Not at all. I know I can be put in any position and I’m going to make the best of it.
It’s interesting because your name is being thrown out there with different teams, which are in different points in their development. Philly — a place many are projecting you to go to — is very young, very dynamic, and building towards the future. How would you fit in if you went there?
Like I said, if I so happened to get the chance to play for the 76ers, I know they need a point guard, a play-making guard, and I know what I bring to the table. I would just have my confidence high, come in right away and make an impact.
You said, ‘What I bring to the table?’ For people who haven’t seen you play a ton, what do you bring to the table?
I’m just a confident, play-making guard that tries to have the leadership qualities that you can’t really teach, and just try to transfer them to make my teammates better every chance I get.
What about the Lakers? They’re a different team in that there’s no rebuilding here in LA. What would you bring to that organization if you were lucky enough to go there?
It’d be a great opportunity to play with a great group of guys and a legendary franchise. I would definitely have to let that sink in.
But I would try to bring — like I said, my confidence gets me over the hump half the time. I would definitely try to bring that confidence to the table and see where it goes from there.
You talk about a storied franchise, but how cool would it be to come to an organization where the expectation is always championships. How cool would that be for you as a competitor to come to a place where championships are expected?
All I know is wins, and that’s what I’m known for. So I’d definitely just try to fit into that championship organization.
The chance to play with Kobe? What would you take away from him?
That’d be great. He’s just a guy I’d try to pick his brain a little bit, try to get his thought process on a few things. On his business-like approach towards everything. I would want that to rub off on me. I would be a sponge.
Last thing I’ll ask: We’ve talked a lot about the skills you bring. But let’s say I’m an NBA GM. I’m sitting across from you, and I say ‘Why do I need to draft D’Angelo Russell.’ Tell me why you need to the pick of any given organization that wants you.
Because if you bring in any other guard besides me, you’ll regret it.
Why is that?
I’m just kidding, but I’d definitely let them know that I’ve worked to get to where I’m at now, and that the sky is the limit for me. I feel like I’m only going to get better from here.
By the way, there’s nothing wrong with saying ‘I’m the best guard in the draft’ and that teams will regret not drafting you. I know you didn’t say it. I’m just telling you there’s a difference between cocky and confident and it’s ok to be confident.
But I’ll let you go on one last question — I know you hung out with Karl Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor and Frank Kaminsky as part of the American Express Home Court Advantage campaign.
Can you give us some details?
That was a great process. I give a lot of credit to American Express for putting me in that position, knowing that looking around that table, a lot of the top guys were out there.
To be considered one of those top guys, just to be considered was a blessing. So I thank American Express for that.