Dijon Thompson: "Everything is going to work out"
The draft is taking place Tuesday. Are you nervous about it?
Dijon Thompson: No, I'm not nervous. I've done my part and now you just have to hope for the best.
Where do you plan to watch the draft? Are you going to New York?
DT: No, I'm not going to New York. I'll be home with my family and some friends.
When you declared last year, people didn't take it very seriously. Did that bother you?
DT: Not really. You can't worry about that. Me, I just go based on what I think I have to do. People can say what they want, but I know what I have to do and I don't worry if they take it seriously or not.
Were you serious about entering the draft last year or you just wanted to go through the experience of playing in Chicago?
DT: I wanted to go through the experience. And it was a very good experience. I played against good players, worked hard... It all helped me improve, it helped me become a better player.
You played a lot better this year than in your junior season. What was the main reason?
DT: Hard work. Determination. Knowing that I had to do my best. Knowing that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I just put in a lot of hard work because I know that's what you had to do to reach your goals.
So your work ethic was better this year than previous seasons, right?
DT: Yeah, I picked it up. I definitely picked it up a little bit.
You've worked a lot with former UCLA player Rico Hines this season. How much credit does he deserve for your success this year?
DT: He won't take it. Knowing him, he won't take all the credit he deserves. But I think he deserves a lot of credit for what I did this season. I have worked a lot with him. He's been with me from Day 1. Always with me. Having a trainer like that, that has been your teammate and supports you, is great. He has helped me out a lot in getting better. He deserves a lot of credit.
There were tough times during your college career. Did you lose your confidence at any point with all that losing?
DT: I did. During your career, you are going to get down on yourself a little bit sometimes. It happens. But that's why I stayed near home and chose UCLA. Being here, I had my family to help me with that. And I made new friends here that helped me too.
You've been working out for a lot of teams. What do you think you have proved to the NBA people in those workouts?
DT: I think the main thing I have proved probably is my size. I don't think they realized that I was this tall, that I was really 6-foot-8. And I think I have also showed that I have a consistent outside shot, that I can step outside and hit shots.
DT: I think that means they are really interested. That they invited me back, I definitely take that as a compliment.
Do you think you could be a good fit on those teams?
DT: Definitely. I definitely think so. I could play a role, I could be a contributor. I could play any role they ask me to.
What parts of your game do you think you have to improve to have a successful career in the NBA?
DT: The main thing probably is getting stronger. I have to get stronger and get used to all the contact that happens in the NBA. There's a lot more there.
How would you rate your defense compared to you offensive game? You've been criticized a lot because of your defense...
DT: I think it's improved over the years. I played better defense this year. Even playing out of position and guarding bigger players. I made it a battle guarding those players.
When you hear critics say you don't play aggressive enough, what do you think?
DT: It doesn't bother me because they don't really know me. People who say those things don't know how I am inside and how I play. They may watch a couple of games and say things, but they can't know how I am as a player.
How would you feel if you are selected in the second round as projected?
DT: Whatever happens, happens. Whatever happens, I think everything is going to work out. If it's in the second round, everything is going to work out for me.
If it doesn't work out and you don't get a contract in the NBA next season, do you have a plan B in place already? Maybe playing in Europe...
DT: No, I haven't. I'm thinking about the NBA. I haven't thought about those things.
Jorge Sierra is the editor of HoopsHype.com
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