Kenny Adeleke: "I don't think anybody plays harder than me"
Kenny Adeleke: No, not really, because I've conditioning myself pretty well for this. I've been running a few miles a couple of times a week... At times, it's true it's tiring. But at the same time, this is what I wanted to do and I'm enjoying it.
Where do you think you have helped yourself more – in Orlando, Portsmouth or the workouts?
KA: Both. In the workouts, I've been able to show teams how skilled I am, how hard I play and how I can shoot it. And in Orlando and Portsmouth, you can also do that in front of an audience of general managers and coaches. Those teams that have seen you one-on-one can now see you on a five-on-five situation.
What do you think of those players that don't want to compete against other players in workouts or skip the pre-draft camp?
KA: I think guys that are projected to go top 10, top 15... Those guys have proven themselves already, they are great players. But guys that are borderline, guys like me, who are looking to make a name for themselves can use these camps for that. If you play good, they get to see you and that's going to help. Playing there also helps to show that you are hungry, whereas other players that are in borderline situation... if they don't play there, that's going to be questionable for teams – if they are not first-round picks or lottery picks.
Do you feel you have changed the perception the NBA people had about you?
KA: Oh, yeah, definitely. Because I think at the beginning they saw a good player. But with the personal workouts and the Orlando pre-draft camp, I was able to show really how good of a rebounder I am, how I can help is several situations on the court. I think that definitely helped me in that sense. Portsmouth got me on the map a little, but it was the workouts and Orlando where teams realized how good of a rebounder I am and how hard I play.
What type of player do you see yourself becoming if you get to the NBA?
KA: I see myself as a Ben Wallace or Reggie Evans type. Players that play hard. My goal in the NBA is hopefully one day to be a great rebounder. And I think I can do that because I don't think there's gonna be anybody on the court that plays harder than me, that has such a hard nose for the ball. That's what I've been doing for years and what I want to do for a living. I'm not a great scorer, but at the same time I just want to be a great rebounder. Hopefully a team will take a chance on me. I think I'm going to be helpful because there are not many players like me anymore. I don't think anybody plays harder than me.
You measured at less than 6-foot-8 in Orlando. How much do you think that can hurt your draft stock?
KA: To be honest, it's pretty disappointing because I think I'm a little taller than that. When I measured with teams, I was actually taller than that. But anyway, I don't think it's going to hurt me because a lot of guys – Ben Wallace, Reggie Evans, Dennis Rodman in the past – they were not tall and some of those guys have been on championship-level teams. There's going to be taller people than me, but I have the body and I have the heart. And when you're jumping for the rebound, if you go back to players like Charles Barkley, it's all about toughness. Hopefully all that won't hurt me. But at the same time, I'm not going to let it bother me.
Do you see those players you have mentioned as models to follow?
KA: Oh, definitely, because they've been in similar situations. They were under the radar and when their time came in the NBA, they became All-Stars and great defensive/rebounding players... I try to model my game after guys like that or Elton Brand. Giving 100 percent, hustling, rebounding... That's the type of player every NBA team needs.
You are currently projected as a second-round pick in some mock drafts, but you know there's a chance you may go undrafted. Have you prepared yourself mentally for something like that?
KA: You have to be mentally prepared for anything. But the thing with me is I'm not big-headed. Whatever the situation, I'm going to make the most of it. If you go to summer league, if you have been drafted or not, that's not the most important thing because you still have to show what you can do. Whether it's the summer league or the preseason, I just want to prove what I'm worth.
Were you a Knick fan when growing up in Queens?
KA: Yes, that was my favorite team growing up. And a player like Charles Oakley, that was a guy I really liked early on, watching how hard he played. I was definitely a big fan.
What do you think about the situation the team is going through now?
KA: I think with all great families, you may have a problem sometimes. But they are a big-town team, a world-class team. And to be honest, I think they are going to have a great year next year. When you have a Hall of Fame coach and players like that, it might take a year or two, but they are finally gonna get it done.
You were born in Nigeria. Do you have any memory of your time there?
KA: Yes, I lived there till when I was I was 7. I grew up there my early years. I was still very young and you are not aware of everything that was going on. But that's where my roots are and where I was born.
Have you ever been back there?
KA: No, I haven't been back there actually.
Have you thought about the possibility of playing for the Nigerian team in a major event like the Olympic Games?
KA: It would be a great opportunity. But the biggest thing right now is getting myself in the NBA. But it would be a great situation to be able to play in big stage like that against the best players in the world representing the country where you were born.
Jorge Sierra is the editor of HoopsHype.com
Tell us what you think about this interview. E-mail us at HoopsHype@HoopsHype.com