Hammink It Up: HoopsHD interviews draft prospect Shane Hammink

The most (in)famous father in next month’s draft is turning out to be LaVar Ball, but his son Lonzo is not the only draft prospect whose dad you should know. Shane Hammink’s father Geert was a 1st round pick by Orlando in the 1993 NBA Draft and played professional basketball for more than a decade. Shane’s own basketball career began overseas at the Canarias Basketball Academy and as part of the Netherlands’ national team. After starting his college career at his dad’s alma mater of LSU, he transferred to Valparaiso and helped his team reach the 2016 NIT title game. HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel recently got to chat with Shane about trying to follow in his father’s footsteps and what sets him apart from other shooting guards in the draft.

You were born and raised in the Netherlands and have played for their national basketball team: how big is basketball in your home country, and how is the national team looking these days? It is not that big, as soccer is the most popular sport, but basketball is getting there. Our national team made the European Championships a couple of years ago so we are pretty good, and I think we will remain solid after I return to join the team in the years ahead.

Your father Geert was a 1st round pick by Orlando in the 1993 NBA Draft (2 spots behind Sam Cassell): is he prouder of his time in the NBA or his role as a member of the Indiana Hoosiers in the movie “Blue Chips”?! That movie was awesome…but I think he is prouder of making the NBA. I was pretty young at the time he was drafted but I have been told that I attended a couple of his games. He told me about playing with Shaquille O’Neal and how dominant he was. I remember watching my dad play an All-Star game in Germany once: he had a nice shooting touch.

You previously played at a basketball academy in Spain’s Canary Islands: what is the biggest difference between basketball in the US vs. basketball overseas? The speed/athleticism is the biggest difference. Basketball has become pretty big in Europe so the quality of the game is pretty similar to America, but in the US the players fly down the court and can jump out of the gym.

You began your career at your dad’s alma mater of LSU before transferring to Valparaiso: why did you decide to switch, and what made you choose the Crusaders? It was not a great fit for me and I wanted to go somewhere that I could play more minutes. I talked to Coach Bryce Drew and I liked what he told me about my game, which is why I decided to come here.

In the 2016 NIT title game you scored 9 PTS in a loss to GW: what was it like to play in Madison Square Garden, and how close did you come to winning the title? It was amazing to play on the same court that guys like Carmelo Anthony do. We did not play well as a team and GW was the better team that day.

Last February you scored a career-high 25 PTS/9-15 FG in a 10-PT win at Wright State: was it just 1 of those situations where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were “in the zone”? Kind of, but I was just playing well and fed off of my teammates so it all worked out. It was our 1st game without our best player (Alec Peters) so we did what we had to do as a team to get the win.

After shooting only 50 FT% during 2 years at LSU, you were #6 in the Horizon League last year with 80.8 FT%: how were you able to improve so much over the past 2 years? Just getting into the gym, working hard, and improving my confidence. I never shot FTs that well growing up and would just pray that I made them, but now when I step to the line I am much more confident.

You have also added a 3-PT shot to your arsenal after only making 5 during your time in Baton Rouge: what is your secret for making shots from behind the arc? There is no secret: just like with FTs you have to work on your shot and improve your confidence. I started something like 1-20 last year from 3-PT range but then everything eventually started falling for me. I knew that I could shoot so I just kept going to the gym and my teammates kept telling me that my shots would start going in at some point.

What part of your skill set makes you different from other guards in this year’s draft, and what would you be able to bring to an NBA team? I am pretty tall for a guard at 6’7”. I can shoot as well as drive to create shots for other people. I will do whatever a coach asks me to. I always dreamed of going to the NBA as a kid but it never became a real possibility until this season.

Do you have a favorite NBA team/current player, and which NBA player is your game most similar to? My favorite player is LeBron James. I do not have a favorite team but I think that Golden State is the best team due to all of their great shooters. I see myself as a taller version of Manu Ginobili: I love his Eurostep.

Quite a Jok: HoopsHD interviews draft prospect Peter Jok

Peter Jok finished his Iowa career as 1 of the best shooters in school history: his 216 3PM is #4 in Hawkeye history and his 88.1 FT% is #1 all-time.  As a result the awards started rolling in: 1st-team All-Big Ten, AP Honorable Mention All-American, and 1 of 5 finalists for Jerry West Shooting Guard of the Year.  Now he is preparing for the next stage of his long journey: the 2017 NBA Draft on June 22nd.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel recently got to chat with Peter about being the best scorer in the Big 10 and what it would mean to him to get drafted next month. 

You were born in Sudan where your father was a general for the People’s Liberation Army: how did you 1st get into basketball, and how difficult was your transition after moving to the US? I first got into basketball because of my friends back in 5th grade: I only joined the metro team for our elementary school to hang out with my friends. My current guardian had wanted me to play for his AAU team along with his son and a bunch of his friends: they were called the Riders. At first I only played for him because he would take us out to McDonald’s after practices, but then I started falling in love with the game. The transition was difficult at first because of the weather, but I have adapted as the years went by. The community we were living in also made it a lot easier for me to adapt to my new life.

Last November you scored a career-high 42 PTS/8-11 3PM for Iowa in an 8-PT loss to Memphis: was it just 1 of those scenarios where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were “in the zone”? Yes and no. The night before that game I had a bad game as we got manhandled by Virginia so I stayed up all night watching film of that game as well as of Memphis. My mindset going into the Memphis game was to go for 50 PTS. I got hot pretty early and my teammates kept finding me so it did not hurt that I was making everything.

In the 2017 NIT you scored 22 PTS/5-10 3PM in a 2-PT OT loss to TCU in the final game of your career: how close did you come to beating the eventual champs? We came very close. They played great in that game and I knew afterwards that they were going to win it all. We had a few possessions that did not go our way…but that is the game of basketball.

As a senior you led the Big 10 with 19.9 PPG: what is the key to being a great scorer? The key is knowing your strengths/weaknesses on offense and always taking what the defense gives you. Make the game simple and do not try to do too much. You also need to have the right mindset: never let a missed shot get to you. Shooters shoot and scorers score.

You also led the conference with 91.1 FT%: what is the secret to making FTs? To be honest I do not think there is really any secret: it is all about your mindset and not overthinking it when you are on the line. When you are shooting by yourself you do not think about everything around you, so when you are on that line just shoot it. I also try to take less dribbles than some other players and keep it simple.

You were named 1st-team All-Conference and honorable mention All-American: what did it mean to you to win such outstanding honors? It was a blessing to earn all of those honors but I did not reach all of the goals I had set for the season.

1 of your biggest strengths is outside shooting (career 37.8 3P%): what did it mean to you to win the 2017 College 3-PT Contest on your 23rd birthday? I was not picked to win it by any of the announcers so that gave me extra motivation to win.  I have been an underdog my whole life so it always feels good when you can achieve something that people do not think you can.

Your brother Jo Jo played college football, your brother Dau played basketball at Penn, your uncle was Manute Bol, and Luol Deng is 1 of your mother’s cousins: who is the best athlete in the family? That is a tough one. I would have to say either Jo Jo (who has 2 football state championships) or Luol (who is one of the elite lock-down defenders in the NBA).

Do you have a favorite NBA team/current player, and how amazing would it be to end up joining them? I used to be a big Lakers fan because Kobe Bryant is my all-time favorite player, but now I like to watch the Clippers (because of Jamal Crawford) and the Wariors (because of Klay Thompson). It would be amazing to play with either of those 2 teams, especially Golden State because I have a similar game to Klay and would learn so much from him.

What would it mean to you to get drafted: a validation of your college career, the realization of a lifelong dream of reaching the NBA, or other? I would call my college career a process. From the first day that I stepped onto campus until now everything has been a process. I got better every year both on and off the court. I went from being a lost freshmen who thought basketball was all about scoring to becoming the leader/captain of the team. It was a great 4 years and I would not go back and change anything. Being drafted would mean everything just because of the journey I have been through, and to be able to beat all the odds would mean a lot. Additionally, it would be a blessing to be able to take care of my family and help people back home in South Sudan.

Producing Perfection: HoopsHD interviews documentary producer Ross Greenburg

Every sport has its own kind of perfection: Don Larsen in baseball, the 1972 Miami Dolphins in football, etc.  When it comes to college basketball there have been several teams who went undefeated but it has not happened since Indiana coach Bob Knight led his Hoosiers to an undefeated NCAA title in 1976.  Earlier this year Showtime premiered the documentary “Perfect In ‘76” produced by former HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg, who now has a production company that create some of the most compelling sports stories on television.  In addition to producing the film, he is an executive-in-residence and a faculty member of the Iona College School of Business.  After their undefeated season in 1975 was ruined by Kentucky in the Elite 8, Coach Knight came back the following year on a mission to win every single game.  Thanks to a lineup featuring several future 1st round draft picks (Scott May/Quinn Buckner/Bob Wilkerson/Kent Benson), the Hoosiers beat Michigan in the 1976 title game to finish a perfect 32-0.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Ross earlier today about how the idea for the documentary came about and whether he thinks we will ever see another undefeated team in college basketball.  

How did the idea of making this film come about, and how were you able to get John Mellencamp to narrate it? Bob Knight is represented by an agent named Sandy Montag, and I have gotten to know them both very well over the years. I wanted to focus on Knight’s time at Indiana but he was reluctant because most people only care about the chair that he threw across the court against Purdue in 1985. I came up with the idea to focus on the 1976 season after Kentucky made their own run toward perfection a couple of years ago. Bob agreed to do it, we sold it to Showtime, and were able to put it together 1 year later.  We are very proud of the finished product. Our director George Roy mentioned that Mellencamp lived in Bloomington and was passionate about the Hoosiers. I approached John’s agent and not only did John say that he would be happy to do it, but he even offered to open up his music library if we wanted any songs for the film.

The documentary features audio recordings from some of Knight’s coaching mentors: what impact did Hall of Famers like Red Auerbach/Pete Newell have on him either on or off the court? They both had a huge impact on him. He counted on them for personal counsel as well as words of wisdom to share with his players. He would record his mentor’s words on a recording device and then play it back for his players in the locker room: we had the photos of that. He loved having mentors and credited those 2 and many others (including Hall of Fame coach Hank Iba) as having an impact on him as a coach.

Knight is known for both his fiery temper as well as being a Hall of Fame coach who had a strong relationship with his players: how was he able to balance the dual roles of patting them on the back and kicking them in the butt? He definitely said that there were callous times when his players would wonder why he was upset with them after they won a game by 20 PTS, but that was because he demanded perfection out of them. His players also demanded a lot of themselves and they would not accept anything less. The balance was easy to achieve with that group of players because they bought into it and enjoyed being driven to the max. He wanted them to play strong defense and instilled that via arduous practices. His players admitted that they could not have gone undefeated without him.

He conducted brutal practices including drills on how to take a charge: was that part of his Army mentality or his defensive-1st philosophy or other? He definitely emphasized defense, which was a result of the disciplinary approach he picked up at West Point. It was a logical step to bring that to Indiana and give it a shot. The players talked about how relentless their practices were and how their coach barked at them, but they accepted it because they knew it would make them better on the court.

The seeds of the 1976 Indiana team were planted during the spring of 1975 when the Hoosiers made it all the way to the Elite 8 before a 92-90 loss to Kentucky gave them their only defeat of the season: do you think that they would have gone undefeated in 1975 if Scott May had not broken his left arm, and do you agree with Knight’s belief that the 1975 version was the best team he ever coached? I do agree with Coach Knight because he had some outstanding seniors: even though he returned 4 starters in 1976 he blamed himself for separating 2 of the best defensive guards in history to cover for the loss of May. It definitely set up 1976 because he stewed over the loss for several months. The day before practice started in the fall of 1975 he challenged them not just to win a Big 10 title or NCAA title but to go undefeated, and I do not think that he would have done that had he not suffered through the Kentucky loss.

In November of 1975 the Hoosiers beat the reigning world champion Soviet National team 94–78 in a preseason exhibition game (Scott May scored 34 PTS/13-15 FG): how much of a home-court advantage did they have at a sold-out Market Square Arena? The place was in a frenzy. We could have built up that story a little more after the US had an Olympic gold medal stolen from them in the 1972 Olympics, which was a horrible loss for Coach Iba. Knight had so much respect for Iba that he wanted to bring in the same Soviet team and give them a thrashing on American soil. It was a hostile arena and the fans got behind their local team but make no mistake: even though the Hoosiers were college kids playing against grown men who were essentially professionals from overseas, they were still the better team.

Indiana dominated the Big 10 with an average winning margin of 23 PPG in conference play: was it just a down year for the conference or were the Hoosiers just that much better than everyone else? They faced Michigan twice in conference play and almost lost to them during the regular season before a miraculous tip-in by Kent Benson helped them beat the Wolverines in OT on February 7th. Nobody can say they had a “patsy” schedule: they also beat defending national champ UCLA in their regular season debut. I think their dominance was due to their incredible play and the fact that team had been together for virtually 4 years: they were not a mid-major team with a soft schedule.

Knight ran a motion offense to get his guys open shots and instilled a man-to-man defense whose 64.8 PPG allowed was #12 in the nation: was the key to their success the offense or defense or both? Both: he demanded they play great defense and but he had guys who played well at both ends of the court. Wilkerson in particular might have been 1 of the greatest defenders in NCAA history but they were also a scoring machine on the offensive end. They constantly moved the basketball and had great leaders like Quinn Buckner.

The Hoosiers trailed conference rival Michigan by 6 PTS at halftime of the NCAA title game, but came out and scored an NCAA record 57 PTS in the 2nd half to win by a final score of 86-68: how where they able to play what Knight later referred to as “the perfect half”? He did not give a volatile halftime speech: Knight just told his players that they had 20 minutes left to prove they were the best…and they did. They took the court and simply played the most flawless 2nd half in the history of college basketball, which put an exclamation point on their dominance. If you cannot get a chill up your spine when watching that part of the film then you are soulless: there was such a love affair between the coach and players that is 1 of the best parts of sports.

That legendary squad remains the last college basketball team to go undefeated despite some close calls in the past few years (2014 Wichita State went 35-1 and 2015 Kentucky went 38-1): do you think that we will ever see another team achieve perfection? I would imagine there might be another perfect team someday because Kentucky came so close and had the talent to do it. However, over time we will have to see if the current “1-and-done” mentality will ever enable a coach to mold a team over 4 years like Coach Knight did back in 1976. When your best freshmen leave after 1 year it crushes the ability of a team to mold itself into a dominant squad in such a short period of time…but having said that, the achievement is possible.

1 Hall of a Player: HoopsHD interviews draft prospect Jimmy Hall

Jimmy Hall has been a winner for most of his life: he was part of an undefeated national title team at St. Anthony’s High School, then finished his college career with a MAC tourney title and a trip to the NCAA tourney. Plenty of players come close to averaging a double-double, but he was the only 1 in the nation last year with 19 PPG & 10.5 RPG. As Jimmy prepares for the NBA draft in June, HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with him about playing for a Hall of Fame coach in high school and what it would mean to him to get drafted.

In 2011 you went 33-0 and won a national title at St. Anthony’s High School with teammate Kyle Anderson and Hall of Fame coach Bob Hurley Sr.: have you talked to Kyle at all about what the NBA is like, and what make Hurley such a great coach? I have talked to Kyle a lot about pro basketball. Playing at St. Anthony’s gave me a great work ethic because Coach Hurley taught us to remain consistent and grind through things. From the weight room to off-court situations, he taught us to work hard and be humble.

Your mother/sister ended up moving to Kent to be near you: how important was it to have that support network so close, and will they follow you to your next basketball city? Their support has been very helpful. My mom has always been there for me but it is great to have her and my sister come to my games in college: they act as great motivation. My mom is a big part of my life so I think that she will stick with me through the next step in my career. However, she is very big on education so she might stay because if she works at Kent State then she can receive free tuition.

As a senior you became the only player in the nation to average 19 PPG/10.5 RPG: how do you balance your scoring with your rebounding? I just continued to grind and out-work my opponent. I go for every rebound I can and try to hit open shots when I get to my spots. I know that I can get a couple of points every game just by grabbing some offensive rebounds and then making a put-back.

You also finished the season #1 in the conference with 49 BLK: what is your secret for blocking shots? I try to use my length because I have a long wingspan. I also try to stay vertical and jump straight up, which is a big thing in the NBA. I also try to watch a lot of the best shot-blockers in the NBA like the Greek Freak and Rudy Gobert: a lot of their success on defense is about timing/length.

In the 2017 MAC tourney title game you had 19 PTS/9-12 FG/10 REB in a 5-PT win over Akron: how were you able to play your best when it mattered the most, and what did it mean to you to win the title? I had a lot of confidence in myself and believed in my game plan because what I had been doing had been working well. Growing up in New York City there are a lot of people who attend the biggest games and cheer for the best players: it is hard to explain but I have always liked playing well in big games. Winning the title as a senior meant everything to me. We fell short the year before and had some ups and downs earlier this year, but we stuck together as a #6-seed to beat each of the top-3 seeds (Akron/Ohio/Buffalo).

In the 2017 NCAA tourney you had 20 PTS/15 REB in loss to UCLA: what did you think of fellow big man TJ Leaf, and how important was it for you to show what you could do against top-level competition? It was real fun to play in the NCAA tourney. TJ is explosive and has a great post game so I was very impressed. It was good for me to show everyone that I can do well against top competition. I always tried to rise to the occasion when I had the opportunity: we played a big-time schedule at St. Anthony’s when we went undefeated.

What part of your skill set makes you different from other forwards in this year’s draft? I think that I have the ability to handle the ball and guard small forwards. I have been working on my dribbling a lot and my skills in the post will set me apart. I feel like I am a very unique player and can score on anybody: if you throw it to me in the post I will either get a bucket or find an open man for a 3-PT shot if I get double-teamed.

Do you have a favorite NBA team/current player, and which NBA player is your game most similar to? My favorite team is the Knicks because I am from New York. I like players like Zach Randolph/Paul Millsap because I think their games are similar to mine, so to play with either of them would be a great feeling. I also like Draymond Green.

What would you be able to bring to an NBA team? I feel like I can bring great energy, an extremely solid work ethic, and the ability to be a great teammate. I am fun to be around but will work hard on the court, which is what you need on a team. I will do whatever it take to make an NBA team and then stick around.

What would it mean to you to get drafted: a validation of your college career, the realization of a lifelong dream of reaching the NBA, or other? At the start of my senior year I set a goal to make the NCAA tourney, and we ended up making it. I have been playing basketball since age 7 so to make it to the NBA would be unbelievable. I want my family to be proud of me and show them that I can accomplish my dreams.

In Search of Paradise: HoopsHD interviews draft sleeper Milton Doyle

English poet John Milton gained fame for writing “Paradise Lost”, but a modern-day Milton (Doyle) is trying to find his way to paradise…and all he needs is an NBA team to draft him this June. He has shown much progress over the past 4 years: MVC ROY in 2014, a CBI title in 2015, and the 1st player in Loyola history to be named 1st-Team All-MVC in 2017. He began his college career in Kansas, ended it earlier this month in Portsmouth, and would love to begin the next stage of his career in the Bay Area playing alongside the great Kevin Durant. HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to speak with Milton yesterday about what sets him apart from the rest of the guards in this draft and what he would bring to an NBA team.

You originally committed to FIU, then signed with Kansas before transferring to Loyola-Chicago: how difficult was it to keep changing schools before ever playing in an actual game? It was very difficult. FIU coach Isiah Thomas was fired in 2012, so it was a blessing to go to Kansas under Coach Bill Self. It was tough to leave the Jayhawks but I had a great 4 years at Loyola so I guess it all worked out for me.

In 2014 you were named conference ROY: how were you able to come in and contribute right from the start? I learned a lot sitting out during my redshirt year. I got to learn the system and watch a lot of film. I also competed against the rest of the guys every day in practice, which made me feel comfortable once I began to play actual games.

In the 2015 CBI title game you scored 13 PTS in a 1-PT win at Louisiana-Monroe: how were you able to play your best when it mattered the most, and what did it mean to you to win a title? It meant a lot to win a title. We had a lot of practice on how to handle pressure situations and focused on end-of-game strategy, so we were relaxed down the stretch even thought it was such a close game. We just went out and played our game.

In January you had a career-high 35 PTS/11 REB in a win at Bradley: where does that rank among the best all-around games of your career? I would rank it 2nd or 3rd because I think that I had 1 or 2 better all-around games. However, I felt like I could not miss that night so it was definitely 1 of the most enjoyable games of my career!

You finished last season 2nd in the MVC with 55 STL: what is the key to playing good defense? You have to know what the other team wants to do based on their tendencies. You can never be too prepared so I tried to watch a lot of film, know what sets our opponents liked to run, and stay active.

You also became the 1st player in program history to be named 1st-Team All-MVC: what did it mean to you to receive such an outstanding honor? It meant a lot. When Coach Porter Moser 1st recruited he talked about how to set the tone. I will always cherish that honor because it showed all of the hard work that I put in over the past 4 years.

Earlier this month you played at the Portsmouth Invitational: how good was the competition, and which of your teammates impressed you the most (Amida Brimah/Obinna Oleka/Xavier Johnson/Jamel Artis/Canyon Barry/TJ Williams/Scoochie Smith)? The competition was great: all of the players there are so accomplished. I was impressed by all of my teammates but I enjoyed playing with Brimah the most because we did not have anyone that tall on our team in college: I could just pass the ball to him in the post and watch him do his thing.

What part of your skill set makes you different from other guards in this year’s draft? I have a high IQ on the court and know how to find guys in the right position to make plays. As a bigger guard I can also look over my defender and see the floor better than smaller guys can.

Do you have a favorite NBA team/current player, and how amazing would it be to end up joining them? I do not have a favorite team at the moment. I used to like the Oklahoma City Thunder…until Kevin Durant left. I have studied his game for years an admire his scoring ability so I would love to play with him in Golden State.

You have been labeled by some as a “draft sleeper” and there is a bit of a buzz around your name as someone to keep an eye on: which NBA player is your game most similar to, and what would you be able to bring to an NBA team? My game is probably most similar to Damian Lillard: his scoring ability, the way he creates space, etc. I can pass the ball, play defense, and help a team out in any way possible. I am willing to do the dirty work and step up during the biggest moments.

Mack the Nice: HoopsHD interviews ABA legend Mack Calvin

Some players make a difference on the court, some make a difference off the court, and some make a difference everywhere they go.  Mack Calvin went to college at USC and all he did was help beat a UCLA team featuring Lew Alcindor/John Wooden at Pauley Pavilion.  After school he joined the ABA, where he appeared in 5 straight All-Star games and was later named to the ABA All-Time Team.  HoopsHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Mack about his fantastic career and what made him such a great scorer.

On 3/8/69 as a player at USC you beat UCLA 46–44 in Lew Alcindor’s regular season college finale at Pauley Pavilion to give him only the 2nd loss of his 3-year varsity career and snap the Bruins’ 41-game overall winning streak/51-game home winning streak: how were you able to pull off the upset in what you called the “single greatest thing that happened to me in basketball”? It was! I was a senior: we had practiced all year on the stall technique but had no idea we would put it to use in that game. The game plan worked to perfection. The best game was actually the night before at the LA Sports Arena: I scored almost 30 PTS but we lost in double-OT. We came back to the hotel and were crying even though we lost to the greatest college player ever in my opinion. Our coach told us to keep our heads up and that we were going to beat them the next night: I could not believe it because they had not lost at Pauley Pavilion in several years. The headline the next day in the LA Times was from Coach John Wooden: “Stalls are for horses”, which infuriated our coach Bob Boyd.

You played 7 years in the ABA and then 4 years in the NBA: why did you originally choose the ABA, and what was the biggest difference between the 2 leagues? I did not really choose the ABA: they chose me. I had 2 great years at USC and was fortunate that the LA Stars drafted me in the 7th round. The Lakers drafted me in the 14th round but I chose the Stars because they offered me the best opportunity: a $2500 bonus and a salary of $12,000/year. In contrast, the Lakers offered me a tryout, a free Jerry West autograph, and a bus ticket, so it was no choice at all! There were 7 guards ahead of me on the Stars with guaranteed contracts, so after every practice I left the gym with my clothes on before Coach Bill Sharman had a chance to cut me. After 2 weeks I was scared as hell but I played well and ended up making the team.

In your 1st year you scored 16.8 PPG for the Stars and made the ABA All-Rookie Team: how were you able to come in and contribute right from the start? We won 23 of our final 27 games just to make the playoffs. My scoring average increased to 24 PPG in the playoffs and we made the Finals before losing to the Pacers. The ABA was made for me because I was a quick guard who could make 3-PT shots and drive to the basket. We were more of a methodical team at USC, whereas the NBA was a big-guard league. The ABA was a little man’s league, kind of like the way the game is played today without a prototype center. I played for a former guard in Sharman, who was 1 of the greatest coaches ever, so it was a no-brainer.

The following year you scored a career-high 27.2 PPG for The Floridians (#3 in the league behind Dan Issel/John Brisker): what is the secret to being a great scorer? For me it was just the ability to make FTs/jump shots. I learned my craft from Jerry West: I followed him as a young kid and patterned my game after him. Coach Sharman allowed me to run the show like Steph Curry/Chris Paul and my quickness was finally unleashed.

You also set an ABA record that season with 696 FTM, and your 3554 career FTM is #1 in ABA history: how were you able to get to the line so often? Speed, quickness, and being very crafty. I always initiated the contact and then did my Hollywood act! I played against a lot of older guys who I learned a lot of tricks from. Coach Sharman taught me that you had to make FTs to be a great guard and always be in attack mode.

Your 3067 career AST is #2 in ABA history behind Louie Dampier: how were you able to balance your scoring with your passing? I just had the ability to see if help was coming and then find the open man. Sharman taught me to push the ball up the court, beat my man, drive to the basket, and then dish off if necessary. I did that with regularity, which I am very proud of. I did not play as well after the merger due to some injuries, but the ability to create is key.

You led the ABA in FT% for 2 years in a row and your 86.3 career FT% remains top-40 all-time among both leagues: what is the key to making FTs? Repetition and using your legs. You have to shoot it the same way every time and focus on a certain spot on the rim. Sharman was an amazing FT shooter yourself.

You were an ABA All-Star each year from 1971-1975: did you feel like you could hold your own against anyone in the league? I really did not feel like I had a peer in the ABA and did not think that anyone was better than me. We had some good guards but I thought that I was a far better scorer who could run a team. I think I was the Chris Paul of the 1970s: when you have so many weapons to break down a defense you can create a lot of havoc. I was a 3-time 1st-team All-ABA player, which means that I was 1 of the top-5 players in the league: numbers don’t lie!

In 1997 you were 1 of 30 players named to the ABA All-Time Team: where does that rank among the highlights of your career? I am very proud of that. I was nominated as the top PG and today I stand around #13 or #14 when ranking the best ABA players ever. It meant a lot to be recognized by both my peers and the media. My only disappointment is that I got injured in the last year before the merger when I tore the tendon in my quadriceps, so the opportunity was not there. If I had been healthy then I have no doubt that I would already be in the Hall of Fame. I only played on 1 team with a losing record and was secretary of the ABA’s union. For a 14th round pick you are often yesterday’s news but I have been tremendously blessed: it would be a great honor if the Hall of Fame would vote me in. That would be the pinnacle of my career. I do a lot of speaking at schools and it would be a great platform to show kids that no matter your size or humble beginnings you can still make it. I started at Long Beach CC but ended up with over 100 scholarship offers. When you get older you hope that your family can enjoy it: I had a good run and basketball helped me do great things off the court.