We got a chance to speak with former Ohio State forward Keita Bates-Diop, who is one of the most intriguing prospects in the 2018 NBA draft.
The 22-year-old was named the Big Ten Player of the Year after averaging 19.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game as a senior last season. Bates-Diop also added 1.6 blocks and 0.9 steals per game as well, averaging 3.1 blocks and steals per 40 minutes.
He led his conference in defensive rebounds and points per game while finishing No. 2 overall in total win shares. Bates-Diop was also a standout at the combine considering he is 6-foot-7 with a wingspan above 7-foot-3.
Here is the conversation we had with him before his official Pro Day.
I’d love to hear about your predraft process. Where have you been training this offseason?
Keita Bates-Diop: I’m working out in Thousand Oaks, one of the suburbs in Los Angeles. It’s working really well for me. I’ve gotten used to it and it’s been really good for me so far. I got here with Shake Milton and Devonte’ Graham and then Jaren Jackson Jr. was here, too. I’ve been working with Proactive Sports Performance for strength and conditioning and former NBA player Don MacLean for the on-court practice.
Tell me about your experience participating in the 2018 NBA draft combine in Chicago.
KBD: It’s a lot of medical stuff and going through all the drills. You can decide to play or not but the biggest part was the interview process. You interview with as many teams as they assign you. A lot of the stuff wasn’t really basketball oriented. They asked about my personality and how I am off the court. They asked about my game, of course, but most of it was getting to know me as a person and the things that interest me and get me fired up.
What kind of answers did you give when they asked about you as a person?
KBD: I spoke about my interests and my major in college. I said I’m a good person. I’m unselfish. I hate to sit around. I’m active with the things that I do. They asked my family and the things that I hold high. I like reading. I enjoy watching basketball. They ask how much I really watch the games and take interest in it. I studied economics in college and graduated in four years. I was really good with numbers and graphs and I have been for most of my life. It caught my interest super early.
From your perspective, how would you fit with some of the teams you’ve been watching?
KBD: Most of the teams that made it deep in the playoffs have a lot of versatility. They have a lot of guys who can do multiple things on offense. That’s how the league works and I feel like my game fits in perfectly with that. I’m versatile and most players can fit at two, three or four positions. I can play shooting guard, small forward and power forward. I can switch on defense, one through four or one through five. I can guard multiple positions and run with the bigs, too.
Your wingspan was one of the best at the combine among all wings. How will that help you at the next level?
KBD: Yeah, using my length has always been a big thing. When the numbers came out, that was huge. Because on the defensive end especially, I’m able to keep guards and big in front of me. I tell teams how I’m able to guard players in different ways. The Lakers force a different way than other teams, whether it’s baseline or middle or switching ball screens. I can handle ballhandlers or set screens.
You were one of the top shot blockers in your conference. How will that translate in the NBA when the guys you’re guarding are bigger?
KBD: It will definitely translate because my wingspan is still very long, it will be hard for people to get shots over me.
The idea of you as a 3-and-D player is super important for your draft stock. How has the NBA distance been in terms of comfort?
KBD: I’ve been practicing since the college season ended with only a couple days off. I’m really trying to get acclimated with the line, that’s something I’ve been shooting since the NCAA season. I’m way more comfortable with it.
Ohio State is a great basketball program. What kinds of things are you hearing from former teammates about the transition to the league?
KBD: People say that everyone is more talented and skilled but what will separate the good from the great is mentality and work ethic. That’s definitely something D’Angelo Russell has told me, it’s what will make you stand out from first, second, third and fourth-tier players.
DLo was your roommate freshman year. Are you still pretty close? How would you fit playing with him?
KBD: Yeah, he was one of three. We talk like once a week. We obviously didn’t get a whole lot of time to play together in college. But during open gyms and in scrimmages, we clicked really well.
What are some goals that have for yourself over the next year or so?
KBD: I just want to get drafted and then help that team win. I want to think that I did the best that I could.