Arizona Wildcats sophomore Rawle Alkins is expected to shine at the 2018 NBA Draft Combine after a stellar showing there last season.
Alkins, 20, is a combo guard originally from Brooklyn who is known around the league for his defensive versatility. He also scored 20 or more points in five of the 23 games he played for Arizona last season, showing his value as a potential two-way player at the next level.
Some have compared his game to fellow New Yorker Lance Stephenson due to his toughness on both offense and defense. He currently ranks in the Top 30 on draft big boards for both The Ringer and Sports Illustrated.
We caught up with him before his trip to Chicago.
How have you been preparing for the 2018 NBA Draft Combine and what has that process been like for you?
RA: As soon as our season ended, I had some time to think about whether or not I should declare. But I always knew that after last season, I felt like I was ready. I think I am one of the only players who tested the waters at the combine last year that’s back this season. I went through the process and spoke to my college coach and ended up coming back to school. I went back strictly with a winning mentality. I wanted to win the championship and our season ended short. I still feel like, with everything we went through, all the adversity, we still had a successful season. We won the Pac-12 and we won a lot of games that people counted us out for.
What did you learn by going through the combine and pre-draft process last season?
RA: I’m coming back with experience, it’s kind of like I’m a rookie and a vet. It feels cool knowing what to expect because last year I did not. You go through these interviews with these teams and it’s their team general manager, head coach and assistant coach as well as some scouts. But it’s just you. Now I’m ready for all the interviews and questions. I should test well from everything I did last year. I should be improved. I’ve changed my body, my diet. From 10 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, I’m in the gym. I cut out juice, soda. I’m strictly drinking water. It shows on the court. I feel lighter, faster and I jump higher. I’ve grown a little bit. I’m 20 years old, I’ve heard you stop growing at the age of 23 or so. It’s different for everybody. But my training has helped me with stretching, my posture is different.
Last year, you were one of the best players on the court at the combine during five-on-five scrimmages. What made you stand out?
RA: I tried to show my motor, show my toughness, show that I can be a two-way player. Everyone is competing for the same spot. I just wanted to win the game.
I’d love to hear you define personal achievement compared with team achievement.
RA: The reason why I went to Arizona is a quote from head coach Sean Miller. He said with team success comes individual success. That really stuck with me. I really believed in it. I think that my track record shows I can win. I won four city titles in high school in New York. When I was in college, I won two conference titles in two years. I have that winning mindset. I’ll do whatever it takes to win. I’ll be completely fine if I have two points and one rebound but we still win the game. You can see that with the Warriors. You don’t need everyone to score twenty points to be successful. Look at Draymond Green. He’s a great player but there are nights he does not put up many points and they still win, that’s why he’s an All-Star.
I’m sure a lot of scouts will be impressed with your core strength and toughness. How are you working to keep that so impressive?
RA: Being from New York, you always have to be aware of your surroundings and is tough to be comfortable. It shows on the court because I’ve grown up doing that. I never lifted weights until college. But I still had a tough bully game in high school. I started getting bigger and stronger at Arizona. I still have that bully ball mentality. I don’t play the same way with everyone, though. If I’m playing against LeBron James, I won’t bully him. I’ll use other skills and play to my advantage. I’m going to the combine as a two-guard this year and there aren’t too many in this draft as strong as I am. I can show that at the combine. I’ll use it to my advantage. I can get to the rim and if the guy is smaller than I am, there will be nothing he can do.
How would you define your role both on offense and on defense?
RA: As a young guy, my role is really going to be on defense. Unless a team is rebuilding, I think it’s going to be hard thinking you’re going to get a lot of shots per night. I’m going to have to play defense to stay on the court. When a team trusts your defensive ability, they can keep you on the floor. Once you are there, that’s all you really need. You can start hitting wide-open jumpers, you can get to the rim, you can showcase everything else that you have. But I think I’ll have a defensive mindset and go from there.
What would you say your biggest focus has been to improve on the court this offseason?
RA: It’s been ballhandling and shooting. Going from the college three-point line to the NBA three-point line will be an adjustment. I feel like I’m used to it now. I’m ready. I’m going to surprise a lot of people at the combine with my shooting. I want to be a combo guard, if necessary, and I’ll be doing a lot of spot-up shooting at the next level. It really comes down to whatever the team needs. I want to do whatever the coach asks of me.
Is there something about you as a prospect that others in this class do not have?
RA: I block a lot of shots for a guard. I want to be known as a two-way guard. Early in the year, I got hurt. I broke my foot. I missed the first few months of the season. When I came back, I came back with my defensive mentality and got more comfortable. I had a few 20-point games and the game was slowing down for me. I played better towards the end of the year. I’ll be able to guard multiple positions, too. With small ball becoming such a prevalent thing, I can guard one through four.