You grew up in a pretty remote part of Australia. How was growing up there?
Nathan Jawai: It was pretty easy on one hand. But it was tough on another. There was lot of problems with alcohol and drugs in the community in which I lived. So it was also tough growing up there.
How did you stay away from that?
NJ: My parents were very strict with me and they always tried to keep me occupied. There was a lot of people falling in with drugs, but not me because of that.
You have not played basketball for many years. How did it all begin?
NJ: I had a coach that came into my house and kind of told me if I was interested in playing, and that was the beginning of it.
When did you start taking basketball seriously, as a job?
NJ: When I went to the Institute. It was like two or three years ago. When I went there, to the Australian Institute of Sport, that was when I started taking it seriously.
Rugby being the national sport, did you ever consider playing that instead of basketball?
NJ: No. Back then, I didn’t know what sport to do because I didn’t know what I was doing. At that age, I was very young to think about that.
What are your memories of playing college basketball in the United States?
NJ: It was hard. It wasn’t very good because I hurt my knee and I had to come back pretty soon.
Is it common for indigenous to excel in sports in Australia? You hear a lot about Cathy Freeman, but not much more.
NJ: It’s hard to get out of these communities and do that. You have to work hard. I have worked hard and was lucky to have the people that I’ve had surrounding me. Some people try, but it’s hard.
Do you feel like the Australian League is becoming too easy for you already?
NJ: It was hard at the beginning, coming into the league for the first time. Now it’s becoming easier. It’s easy, but not too easy.
Do you like to be called Baby Shaq?
NJ: No, I don’t like that. I don’t like to be compared to Shaq because we are very different players. First of all, he’s much bigger. He must be like 7-foot-1 and I’m more like 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9. He has done a lot of things and I’m much younger. And obviously he’s more about power than I am. So I don’t like to be compared to him.
What are your plans regarding the draft this year?
NJ: There are many months left before the draft comes. For now I will be staying home. I will work hard to be prepared. And when the time comes, I will go through all that.
But would you like to go to the NBA right away or wait a little bit?
NJ: That’s my goal, to go there next year. I want to be in the NBA next season. That’s what I want to do. I would prefer not to wait. Just go there and try my luck.
So you feel ready for the league?
NJ: Right now, I feel ready. I might not be ready, I don’t know. It’s probably going to be hard when I go there. But I would say than I’m ready. And if I get there and I see that I’m not, I will work very hard to be ready.