TCU Horned Frogs senior Desmond Bane has proven to be one of the best three-point shooters among all prospects eligible for the 2020 NBA draft.
Bane, 22, averaged 16.6 points with 6.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game for TCU during his final collegiate season. He also connected on 2.9 shots per game from three-point range, shooting 44.2 percent in 2019-20. During his four years in the NCAA, he shot 43.3 percent from beyond the arc.
As recently noted, for the upcoming draft, seniors like Bane may have an advantage because they have the largest sample size of game film to show front offices.
Most other years, prospects have opportunities to boost their draft stock in the NCAA Tournament or during team workouts and the NBA combine. But with at least some and potentially even all of those scouting events canceled this year due to the coronavirus, upperclassmen like Bane are arguably more valuable than usual due to increased exposure.
HoopsHype spoke to the 2020 NBA draft prospect about what he would bring to a professional franchise.
Last year, you were one of the top prospects at the Pro Basketball Combine. But you decided to return for your final year of NCAA eligibility. What factored into that decision?
Desmond Bane: First off, the Pro Basketball Combine was a great event and it allowed me to showcase some things that I hadn’t been able to showcase in my junior year. I played in front of scouts and other people with power and influence. But I felt like, ultimately, there were some things in my game that I needed to improve. It was the best decision for me and my career. I also had a relationship with a lot of the guys coming into TCU and I really wanted to mentor them the same way that I was mentored when I was coming up. Also, I wanted to get a degree. That was huge. My degree was in education for youth advocacy.
You came back and ended up becoming the all-time wins leader at TCU. What does it mean for you to have that accomplishment?
DB: It is huge. It just shows how I’ve improved each and every year. I started as a freshman playing scattered minutes. I started a few games here and there. But I stuck with the process and just continued to get better. I feel like I did that each and every year.
You got Conference Player of the Week once in February. You did it again in March. How disappointing was it to get the season cut short so suddenly right when everything was clicking for you?
DB: Coach was telling me to be aggressive. He kept putting the ball in my hands and he was trusting me. I was feeling confident. It was clicking. And it sucks that it ended so fast. We never got any closure on the season because it came to an abrupt end. But I can’t just feel bad for myself because everybody is in the same situation that I am in. That has kept me grounded. All the other players also put their heart and soul into their craft and it also came to an abrupt end as well. There are always risers in the tournament so people missed out on that. But everyone is on a level playing field. I’ve connected with guys across the country and we’ve all just had similar conversations and that has helped me through all of this as well.
This year, you did end up getting 1st Team All-Conference. What were some of the biggest improvements that you made to get to where you are today?
DB: I could always catch and shoot and I mostly got open and set shots. But then as I improved, I could make shots off the dribble and make shots off the move and as well as make plays for myself and for my teammates.
You shot 46.6 percent on dribble jumper three-pointers, uniquely better than you shot off the catch – which was still really good at 41.4 percent in 2019-20. What allowed you to become such a fantastic shooter off the bounce?
DB: I kept working all summer. Coach Ryan Miller was really influential in my development over the summer. Obviously, his brother Mike Miller played in the NBA for a long time. So he worked hand-in-hand with him. We stuck to the same regimen that he had and it showed. All of the work that we did, it showed in the games.
That’s very interesting considering Mike Miller is one of the best NBA shooters in recent memory. If you have ever spoken to him, what are some of the things that Mike has told you about your game?
DB: I talk to Mike every now and then. He told me that I do things that will get me in the NBA and keep me in there for a long time. I just have to keep working and keep grinding and go in there and just continue to be a great teammate and everything else will take care of itself.
I like that you are one of the most prolific shooters coming off the screen in college basketball, ranking Top-20 among all D-I players in 2019-20. How do you think that skill will translate when you’re paired with NBA big men who are so great at setting screens?
DB: No question. That is something I will be able to come into the league and do. It will be huge. Landry Shamet is really good at that and it allowed him to play right away. I study people like that. I study his game. I like to study Danny Green. I study Eric Gordon, who shoots a bit more off the bounce. I try to see what allows each player to get on the floor. I try to mirror some of the things that they do.
How would you describe your game for someone who has never had a chance to see you play?
DB: I make shots, I defend, I rebound. That’s my game, really. But I make shots in a variety of ways, whether it is off the bounce or on catch and shoots or running off screens. Or I find my teammates after a shot fake and they are in the lane and someone is open. And then I play with a high motor on the defensive end. So even if I am giving up the length or giving up quickness, I’m going to be able to use my frame and my motor to get the job done. I bring a lot to the table that can help me really contribute right away.
I feel the game comes to you at a very natural pace. How are you able to control the speed and the rhythm that you play with?
DB: Film, film, film. I’m always watching game film. All little minor details like picking your man into the screen, the way you set him up for the screen, it creates separation and space. If you get off the screen clean and he can’t get through, you have an advantage at that point. Once you have that space, if you are a good basketball player, you can make reads and make plays at your own pace. It all starts in the film room and with minor details. I have the IQ and awareness to make the right read. I really take pride in that. No one is able to speed me up.
Where do you think your basketball-IQ ranks among NBA prospects? I think it is one of your most elite traits.
DB: I don’t want to be boastful but I do think I have one of the best IQ’s in the class, for sure. I’ve played a lot of minutes for four years at one of the best conferences in college basketball. It doesn’t get any better than that. I’ve played a lot of different roles and positions for one of the best coaches. I’ve guarded a lot of different players including guards like Trae Young as well as bigs like Jaxson Hayes. It’s a wide spectrum and I’ve seen a lot and also learned a lot over my last four years.
What position do you think you will be guarding the most at the next level? I know you played a lot of your minutes at the four for TCU but I’m curious what your most natural fit will be in the NBA.
DB: I think I will predominantly guard two’s and three’s at the next level. I think I can guard a lot of four’s as well and even some small-ball five’s I can chest up with. For point guards, I think I can guard a big bulk of them. The elite ones like Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook, those guys are really crafty and elite and just so fast with the ball. So I will have to work on my foot speed to be able to stay in front of guys like that. But I think that I can guard a good chunk of the NBA.
Standing at 6-foot-6, you were still running an efficient pick-and-roll as the ballhandler, which I think might be your most underrated trait. How grateful are you to Coach Miller for entrusting you with that though you were not the primary ballhandler on your team. How did it allow you to be a more versatile player given the experience it gave you?
DB: It was huge for him to give me that freedom and to trust me in those situations. I was never really a pick-and-roll player. But they gave me the ball, which gave me the freedom to get better at it as the year went on. I feel like by the end of the year, I was making the right play almost every time whether it was the dump off to the big or finding the guy on the weak side in the corner or getting a shot for myself based on how the defense rotated. My pick-and-roll was becoming pretty natural for me.
Were you ever a primary ballhandler when you were growing up?
DB: When I was in high school, I was the biggest kid on my team because I went to a really small school. But I still brought the ball up the court. I have always had a little bit of on-ball skills. We had really good point guards and playmakers at TCU, though, so I just played my role. I made shots and I just defended and rebounded. So I was happy.
I know you were a three-sport athlete growing up, also playing baseball and football. How did that help your athleticism now on the court?
DB: Baseball was my main sport growing up. I played shortstop and center field. My favorite team was the New York Yankees. But in eighth grade, I started playing travel basketball and began focusing on basketball a little more. I loved the team camaraderie. I love the process. I’ve always loved going out in the driveway and getting shots up. As I got older and more serious, I loved going on runs and loved doing yoga sets and then getting extra shots after practice. I fell in love with the process of just getting better. Without basketball, I don’t know what I would be doing. Basketball has become my everything,
The Portsmouth Invitational Tournament was canceled, which would have been a great place for your measurables to have been tested. Have any of your athletic testings improved since you recorded them last year at the PBC?
DB: I just got measured. I was 6-foot-6 with my shoes on. I weigh 215. I’ve done the athletic drills with my strength coach. They did get better since last year. My vertical was 40 inches. I got faster at pretty much every category. I recorded 3.28 seconds on my last 3/4 sprint. My bench press of 185-pounds was 21 reps.
You have such a big frame but you did not get to the free-throw line last year as often as I believe you are capable of moving forward. What can you do to draw more fouls and more contact in the NBA?
DB: After watching the film throughout the year, I noticed I was picking up the ball a little far out. Instead of trying to finish through people, I would try to finish around people when I was driving. But I’m bigger than a lot of the guards. I can take that extra dribble and use all of my strength and my size to get into people. I can go off two feet and really just power up and take their shot-blocking ability away instead of trying to finish up and around people. That will get me to the free-throw line and help me round my game out more.
How did you choose your representation to hire your agent Seth Cohen of SAC?
DB: It was really based on relationships. Seth is a great guy and made multiple efforts to come to see me and see my family. It’s the SAC Sports Family for a reason. I’ve spent time with each and every person in the agency and it really gives a family vibe. It has been great.
Last year, that agency represented one of the best shooters in the class who was also an upperclassman: Cameron Johnson, who was selected at No. 11 overall by the Phoenix Suns. Are there any similarities between you two as prospects?
DB: We do share a lot of the same similarities. I’ve talked with Cam a lot. The first day I was in the gym, they couldn’t believe the similarities because of how well we shoot the ball. We both played a lot of NCAA minutes and been around the block. We’ve seen a lot of everything. Off the court, we’re just good people. I don’t think anyone would have a bad thing to say about either of us.
How would you describe yourself as a person?
DB: I’m a gym rat. No question. I love being in the gym. Other than that, I don’t really do too much. I’ve got a girlfriend. Everywhere I go, I’m walking around with a smile on my face and willing to help out anybody. I was just driving and pulled up to the spot. There was a homeless guy and he asked me for some food. I didn’t have my wallet on me but I had some snacks and Gatorade in the back of the car. So I gave it to him. Little gestures like that, really, feels like what it is all about. If I was in the same position he is in and things didn’t fall my way and if I had also ended up homeless, I would hope somebody looked out for me.
What are some of the biggest motivators that you have had in your life?
DB: My love for the game. My family. I want to be able to take care of my little sisters. My grandma is the one who kept me grounded like that. I grew up with my great-grandparents, too. But she put me in a private Catholic school. And she was on me, day in and day out. It was all love. I see it now. Back then, I never understood why she was the way she was but now I give her all of the credit and I thank her so much.
What is the one thing you plan to tell an NBA front office to convince them to select you in the upcoming draft?
DB: I’m a consistent player. If you look at my numbers throughout the year, I shot above 40 percent from the three-point range almost every year. My coach used to always say that you can always control your energy and effort. I do that well. Consistent is the word to describe me. I only missed one practice. I never missed a game. I’m somebody you can count on day in and day out. Whether my role is to play five minutes or 10 minutes or if I ended up getting an assignment in the G League. I can step into any role for any organization that needs someone they can rely on. They don’t have to worry about anything going on off the court. I’ll be there early. I’m always just going to be the best teammate possible and be a big part of the organization.