2019 NBA draft prospect Dylan Windler: 'If not for one AAU tournament, I'd be playing pro golf'

(Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

2019 NBA draft prospect Dylan Windler: 'If not for one AAU tournament, I'd be playing pro golf'


2019 NBA draft prospect Dylan Windler: 'If not for one AAU tournament, I'd be playing pro golf'

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After an incredible performance from three-point range during the March Madness tournament, Dylan Windler started getting major draft buzz.

His effective field goal percentage ranked Top 10 among all players in the NCAA last season. His Offensive Box Plus-Minus and Player Efficiency Rating (PER) both ranked in the Top 15 as well. During the 2019 NBA draft combine, the forward ranked in the 80th percentile or better in the following categories: lane agility, shuttle run and max vertical.

HoopsHype had the chance to speak with the athletic, 22-year-old combo forward.

Tell me a little bit how you’ve been preparing for the draft and how you’ve been spending your time? 

Dylan Windler: From the end of the season, I took about a week off. When we got done I started to do some maintenance work to try to get back in the gym and everything, get the cardio and once I found an agency it was a few weeks after that I moved straight up to Chicago from school. Then more and more guys started to trickle in. We’ve been in the same routine for about a month or a month and a half. We go to the gym in the morning for two and a half hours, come back eat and then either go get treatment or lift depending on what day it is. Then on some nights, we go in the gym to get some shots up.

What are some of the things you think you really been able to improve on the most? 

DW: Ball handling for sure. I’ve been trying to tighten my handle, playing at the wing spot you have to have a threat as a ball handler. Come off the pick and roll make the right reads, overall just tightening up that handle, finishing around the rim and getting more crafty around the rim.

In terms of what feedback you have been getting so far, what are some of the takeaway you’ve been getting from teams you met with so far in the process?

DW: I think teams know I can shoot it. They just want me to prove I can defend on the other end, defend multiple positions so I can switch in games. They want me to get stronger, that’s obviously something I’m working on in the offseason, just developing my body physically. Getting quicker, lighter on my feet so I can be much more of a threat defensively.

When you are meeting teams in the future, what do you want them to come away knowing when they talk to you?

DW: Just the type of person I am, very laid back. I’m easy to get along with, super genuine. I mean everything that I say in those interviews. I’m trying to be as genuine as I can. I try to give those teams a sense of who I am and what I believe in. Obviously, they’ve seen me play a thousand times so they know what I can do on the court for the most part. In those interviews, they are trying to just get a better sense of who I am, just the little things. How you act and what you believe in and things like that. When I go in, I try to just be very genuine and tell them how it is.

You have led the conference in defensive rebounds which is amazing. With your length you were second in defensive rebounding in the NCAA last year, what are some things about that you were really able to show at the next level that can help you be a multi-dimensional player beyond a shooter?

DW: For sure, rebounding is a big part of the game. Offensively, I’m trying to get extra possessions for my team, just those little things can go a long way. Obviously, defensive rebounding, I’ve done really well with that. But I just try to be an all-around versatile defender. The NBA can go small at times, so to be able to switch on guards, switch on bigs and stand ground in the paint. I can guard wings and players off the ball at the next level.

What are some of the achievements that make you the proudest? You had such a successful four years there.

DW: Early on, I didn’t have a huge role. My freshman year, I came off the bench and only scored like four points a game. Even in my sophomore year, slowly getting into that role, I think I only scored like nine points per game in my sophomore year. It wasn’t until my junior and senior year where I was the focal point of our offense and our entire team. Those last two years, I think I was runner up for player of the year both of the years. Obviously, my last year, I led us to get that at large bid to the tournament. That was the most exciting thing me for my time at Belmont. For us to get that chance to go to the tournament and get that first ever at large bid for our school and program was amazing.

Describe what it felt like to play on such a national stage, seeing your name on Twitter so many times and shining in front of so many people.

DW: Yeah, it was pretty crazy going to the arena for the first time and having to do all the media and things like that. Obviously, that was my first time and seeing how organized everything is and behind the scenes was wild. Then obviously being able to play on national TV and there are millions of people watching every single game. On those days, it was pretty remarkable to see what the NCAA does.

You obviously shot the hell out of the ball when you were out there. What are some of the most surprising reactions to your success. Did anybody reach out that caught you off guard?

DW: Yeah, there were some big name people who tweeted me after the Maryland game. One of the biggest names I remember is that Jay Bilas mentioned me in one of his tweets. It was really cool getting that buzz in big media and from analysts. Being able to perform on that big of a stage is a really cool and really good feeling. Knowing all that work you put in, you get this chance playing on a national stage and it all paid off.

Tell me about the overall relationships you have with the people at Belmont and how they helped you along the way.

DW: Belmont it was a really close-knit community. I went through the athletic office pretty often. I’m super close with everyone in the office whether it was advisors, counselors or coaching staffs. Really, just anybody you could go up to and have a good conversation with them. It was cool to be close to everybody in the athletic office. I was really close with the coaches, being able to go and talk about anything anytime. Coach Byrd’s office was always open as well, so we had really good relationships with all those guys and really everybody in the Belmont university environment.

How does your length help you match up with players may be a bit smaller or bigger than you?

DW: I am over 6-foot-7 and have a 6-foot-10 wingspan so having that length is a big part of basketball especially on the defensive end. You can be a couple feet away from an offensive player and still get to that contest, getting a hand in passing lanes and being able to block shots. My long arms can get me a long way, especially in the NBA.

I want to hear about your ability to come off the catch and ways you can help a team at the next level on an immediate basis and future as well.

DW: That’s something I’ve done really well from a really young age. I’ve just been trying to develop my game, come off of different types of pin downs and just being ready to catch and get it off quick. I’ve worked on it a lot, being on balance and being able to knock down shots in transition. Different footwork preparing to come off different screens, footwork is a big part of that for sure.

I’ve liked how you’ve been able to come off of both handoff and screens very efficiently as well. Is that something you’ve focused on as you’ve expanded your game a little bit?

DW: I’m able to come off different types of pin downs, curls and being ready to catch and get it off quick. Being able to get your feet set is a big part of that when you are off balance. Those are things I work on a lot … Lots of coming off pin downs and curls and fading different screens was a big part of our offense. So I got really comfortable and good with that over the last couple of years. Going through our system, we ran a lot of motion offense so being able to shoot off the move is something I’ve gotten a lot better at over the last few years.

What about your ability to come off the dribble and create your own shot?

DW: Yeah, that’s something I’m really working this offseason and the previous offseason. Like you’ve said, I’ve become a good shooter off spot ups and with my ball handling I’m trying to develop more and more being above to come off ball screens and shoot it. Even one on one opportunities, whether it’s a switch or iso. Just make plays and obviously shooting off the dribble is a big part of that. A lot of my work has been on ball handling this summer, with that its been live dribbling and going into shots. I’ve been working on that a lot.

I wanted to hear how you became such an efficient scorer cutting to the basket, too. That’s something that really stands out when looking at your numbers.

DW:  Our head coach Rick Byrd taught me a lot about that during my time at Belmont. We focused on spacing, timing, cutting, moving without the ball. Lots of guys tend to just stand around and watch a ball screen happen but a defender is doing that the same time as you are so it’s a perfect time to back cut the defender and catch them sleeping, because a lot of times the defender on the off side is watching the ball screen happen and he’s not able to see both sides.

Are there any NBA players or shooters that you admire the most?

DW: As a lefty, you look up to James Harden. Just the way he moves, ability to create his own shot. He is definitely one of a kind, just the ability to create his own shot. Just how well, crafty he is. His ball handling, being able to get defenders off balance, something I strive to get better at. A lot of people have compared me to Gordon Hayward and Joe Ingles at the next level. So I’ve watched Hayward a lot. He’s a local guy for me from Indiana, too, so I watched him play at Butler and early on in his career to where he is now.

Tell me how you got to Belmont. Were there bigger schools or was this the best offer you had or the best fit?

DW: My recruiting was a little different. So early on in high school, I played basketball and golf. Honestly, golf was my main sport early on in high school. I had to make a decision if I wanted to pursue one or the other for the summer. Either you are going all in on golf tournaments or all in on AAU. I didn’t want to go half and half, I wanted to go all in on one. Early on in high school, I thought I’d be better off in golf. I went state as a freshman, I went county. I wasn’t on an AAU team first the two summers in high school. I didn’t have any looks or any type of recruitment. I played well in high school and probably my junior year of high school is when I was starting to grow a bit, getting a lot better. I had a really good junior season and decided to get on an AAU team to see where it took me. I ended up getting on an Indiana team, which was the last AUU season of my junior year. I was like the seventh or eighth man honestly. Just being new, they had a lot of guys that have been there a long time. I didn’t get much time early on. Then there was one tournament where three of the starters went to the Adidas camp, so I got a big opportunity to start and play most of the minutes and we ended up winning the tournament. From that weekend, I ended up getting 20 of my first offers. They were all mid-majors early on and one of them was Belmont. But a lot of mid-majors coming off the South East area. I only visited Belmont first. They came to my high school to watch me play. I went to visit and I really liked it. Ioved coach Byrd, the coaching staff, all the players, the whole school and the campus and the city. I honestly liked it so much and it was so late in recruiting process that I didn’t want to take any chances on missing out on this scholarship or missing out on this opportunity. So I committed early on, about a month and a half after I got the offer. My recruitment was pretty short, I didn’t give teams a lot of time to recruit me. It was pretty fast for me.

Do you still golf? Are you still killing dudes when you play them?

DW: I do in the offseason when I have more time and its nicer out. In season I don’t really have that much time to get out as much as id like to but I really still enjoy playing for sure. Anyone from my team, I’ll take them out there and it’s not really even fair. I’m still pretty good. I played my entire life, having just a couple years off not playing all the time, I usually can still get out there and shoot in the 70s if I want.

Do you have any favorite golfers? How much do you still watch golf?

DW: It was for sure Tiger Woods growing up. It was pretty cool seeing him win the Masters last month. I usually just watch the majors nowadays. If there is a big tournament going on, I’ll flip through the channels and watch for a bit. But I definitely still watch the majors.

What are some things you like to do off the court besides golf and basketball?

DW: Besides golf, I like to get outdoors when I’m not playing basketball, because with basketball you are always indoors. Whenever it’s nice out and I get to do something outside I’ll do it, whether it’s laying by the pool, going to the beach. I like to fish, fishing is a big one for sure. And that’s something I’ve always done from a young age. It’s very relaxing and a great way to get your mind off things. When I’m stuck indoors I’m usually just playing video games with my friends

Any video games you like the most?

DW: FIFA for sure. Fortnite. I used to be big into Call of Duty but Fortnite kind of took over. Grand Theft Auto, too. Those are kind of my biggest ones.

Anything else you think would be good to add for a story like this that someone might not know about you, or that may be surprised about you that could be interesting?

DW: I gave you the spiel about my recruiting, I think that’s a big one. If not for one AAU tournament, I’d be playing pro golf. Honestly, it came down to that one tournament. But I was very fortunate to play Division I basketball, let alone make it to where I am now. It’s definitely a story that a lot of kids can be inspired by. There are a lot of kids in the AAU circuit that will get overlooked because they don’t have the correct exposure and don’t have the right fit. I think a lot of kids can learn from that, trying to find the best fit in college for sure. A lot of kids will get offers to big-name schools and they think that’s great and awesome. But ultimately it’s about the right fit. You know NBA teams will find you wherever you go so just find that right fit and ultimately going to pay off from there.

When did you realize when it first hit you that you were thinking that the NBA was in your future?

DW: Honestly, probably not until this year, my last year in Belmont. I started to get a little buzz my junior year when I averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds. I got a little bit of buzz, but I never thought I would be where I am today. I spent a lot of time in the gym trying to build on that junior season and I think it really paid off. I kept my head down and do what I can control and try to be the best player I could become, let the rest take care of itself and that’s been pretty true for me.

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