NBA prospect Tyrell Terry: 'I'm savvy getting around defenders, I’m unpredictable'

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

NBA prospect Tyrell Terry: 'I'm savvy getting around defenders, I’m unpredictable'


NBA prospect Tyrell Terry: 'I'm savvy getting around defenders, I’m unpredictable'

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Stanford freshman Tyrell Terry, arguably the best shooting prospect in the 2020 NBA Draft, spoke to HoopsHype about his next steps.

The guard averaged 14.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game in his lone college season. He also averaged 2.0 threes a contest, shooting 40.8 percent from beyond the arc. His free-throw percentage (89.1 percent) ranked second-best among all high-major freshmen. Also, Terry averaged 1.4 steals per game and Stanford’s defensive rating was Top 10 in the NCAA, per KenPom.

Terry, who was ranked No. 8 overall by Kevin O’Connor on The Ringer’s Big Board, caught up with HoopsHype to discuss how he’s preparing for the upcoming draft.

How have you been staying busy and keeping active?

Tyrell Terry: It was a struggle at first. I was keeping up with body workouts that I was getting sent from the strength coach at Stanford. I was able to access a gym a few weeks ago. I have been working out in the gym. I’m just spending as much time with my family as I can. But I know, it’s hard. It’s a tough time for all of us. But I’m trying to do the most that I can to stay productive and stay in shape. And, like I said, spend time with my family.

When it comes to the circumstances that led to the season ending, what are some of the things that you’ve done to reconcile that for yourself and feel better about everything given the situation?

TT: For our team, in general, it definitely was not a failure of a season. We had 20 wins and some very impressive wins throughout the season, so I’m trying to just think about that as a positive instead of a negative on how this season ended and how things are playing out. But those things are important for the Stanford basketball culture, like winning 20 games, having our trend going up in the right direction. So those are the positives I’m taking away from the season, for sure.

What are some of the biggest things that you picked up while playing in the Pac-12? 

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

TT: Well, there was never an “off” night in the Pac-12 – especially at the point guard position. For me, especially, I was facing a great guard every night. And I drew talented teams every night. It was a fight. There were no games that we took lightly, especially learning the Pac-12 experience. Games come down to the line every night and any team can take it, so you have to be focused at all times. You got to give 100 percent effort. And when you don’t give 100 percent effort, you get exposed. So those are some of the things that I picked up very quickly with my Pac-12 experience.

Have any of the Stanford alumni who have played in the NBA reached out to offer advice for your next steps?

TT: Yeah, so I’ve had a chance to talk to a good amount of Stanford alumni who have played in the NBA. Josh Childress, especially. I’m pretty close to him. I talk to him a little bit. And so they have very good advice to give us. The things they say, it doesn’t just go in one ear and out the other. I soak up the information they’ve given me and take their advice heavily, and I’m excited to use that advice moving forward.

What were some of the things that you picked up on during the season that were most helpful to your development?

TT: I think Coach emphasizes a lot of mental toughness as a test. That’s something I’ve been working on since high school. And I think it’s key, especially at the college level and going to the NBA. You’ve got to have mental toughness in all areas of the game. And I think it’s something that I was able to develop and get better at and I’m looking to keep on developing in that area moving forward.

How would you describe where you’re at in that sense right now? 

TT: One thing I have to be aware of and stay focused on is that I’m the smallest guy out there usually. So people are going to try to bump me, get physical, talk trash occasionally. So I have to stay mentally tough and focus to play my game through that stuff.

I’m definitely curious how you have been able to overcome your size to become an elite player. I think a lot of people would see that as a disadvantage. I think you’ve been able to use your size as an advantage whether as a great team defender or a great shooter. What are some ways that you’ve been able to combat that?

TT: I think the biggest key for me is having basketball IQ, being smart. I have to be savvy on the court. I can’t just plow through people. I got to maneuver my way around, be smart. I think that’s the biggest key for me: just having a high basketball IQ and being smart about things.

Where does that basketball intelligence come from for you? I think that you display it every time you’re on the court, but how do you think you developed it?

TT: Both my parents are previous basketball players. Both my parents are very smart off the court. They’ve instilled that in me, teaching me the game. I’ve learned from several coaches, things that are important to me and that I still use to this day. So I think it’s the people that I surround myself with. It’s family, coaches. I think they have been able to educate me on things that’ll help me be a better basketball player, IQ-wise and in all areas of my game.

As a 6-foot-2 guard, what are some of the ways that you’d describe your game to somebody who maybe has heard good things about you but hasn’t had a chance to watch you play yet?

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TT: I’d say I’m an all-around point guard that has the ability to shoot, create and play-make. I’m savvy, smart on the defensive end. Obviously, I’m thinner than a lot of people. But I think I’m able to maneuver around that a lot of the time.

I think you might be the best shooter in this class. And I think that your catch-and-shoot percentage and your free throw percentage both back that up. Tell me a little about the history of your jump shot and how you got to be where you’re at with that jumper.

TT: I’ve always been able to shoot the three-pointers. I’ve improved on it tremendously, especially when I got to college. I did shoot 40 percent in high school for three. But I think I improved a lot. I actually used to be terrible at free throws growing up, though. My dad used to call me Shaq because I was so bad. But once I started to get older, I started to develop my form a little bit better. So once I got to college, my free throw and my three-point shot kind of just developed into something that was useful for me.

What are some of the ways that you think your catch-and-shoot game can help an NBA team? Especially when you’re not going to be the primary offensive option right away, teams may rely on you for that. But I think you are probably the best catch-and-shoot player in this class.

Tyrell Terry, Catch-and-Shoot 3-Pointers (via Synergy Sports)

TT: I think my catch-and-shoot ability will allow teams to space the floor and clear the lane for drivers. If people help off, I’m knocking down my shot. Especially with the floor spread, I can move my way into the lane and do pull-ups and stepback threes. So I think there are several ways that my three-point ability can help teams out, especially in the ways that I just mentioned.

What about as a driver? What are some ways that you think that you’re able to separate yourself and create space for yourself?

TT: I’m savvy about getting around defenders. I’m unpredictable. So I think being smaller, I have to have those qualities in driving to the lane. I think when going to the next level, I’m going to have to even keep improving on those abilities and keep being unpredictable, keep being savvy and maneuver my way around defenders.

I imagine with your style of play, you might watch someone like Stephen Curry. But I’m curious who else comes to mind when you’re watching game film for NBA players that might most resemble the game that you’d like to play one day?

TT: I think Trae Young is another person. I watch Trae Young and Steph Curry a lot. The other day I heard a Mark Price comparison, so I’ve been watching film on him quite a bit. I liked his style of game. So I think those three players are players that I think I can see myself trying to emulate into my game. And so yeah, definitely those players are who I like to study.

What are some things that you do when you’re watching game film? Are you taking notes or just kind of memorizing certain moves?

TT: I think the biggest thing for me when I’m watching film is trying to place myself in their shoes, seeing myself do what they do. I think that builds confidence. When you’re studying film and picturing yourself in their shoes, it kind of helps you actually do that in the game. Obviously, practice is something that you need to go through first with reps. But I think picturing yourself in their shoes and being realistic about it is something that will help my game moving forward.

What are some things that you see for yourself as a player both in the immediate future or even in a few years when you have a little more experience as a professional basketball player?

TT: Well, I think there are certain qualities of those players that I see myself having whether it’s shooting the three off-the-dribble or catch-and-shoot. With some of these players, being smart, like having IQ, as we mentioned earlier. But I think my time will come to show my different abilities as my role grows, so I’m ready to take on any role that is given to me and showcase my abilities in whatever way is needed.

Speaking to you right now, I can tell that you’re a big student of the game. How would you describe how you became interested in basketball originally?

TT: My love for the game kind of came out at a young age. My dad was a college basketball player when I was born. So I was always around him, always around the game of basketball, watching basketball on TV since I was young. I used to watch Space Jam on repeat all day. That’s where my love of the game came from. It’s just been growing. And now that I’m at the point where I am now, advice that I’m getting from people like Josh Childress, a Stanford alumnus that has been through this, it’s very important to me. And I soak it all up. Because, like I said, I love the game and they’re not just telling me things for the heck of it. They’re trying to give me good advice that either they wish they had or they think that I need to know. I’m just soaking it all in and not taking it for granted.

Where do you see yourself in a few years? What are some of the goals that you have for yourself on the court?

TT: In a few years on the court, I would like to develop my body, develop my skill in a lot of ways and hopefully be on an NBA team where I can make an impact, have a strong role on the team, whether that’s however many minutes I play, however many points I score, assists, just having a role on an NBA team. The next few years are going to be crucial for me.

I’m also curious about your goals off the court. What are some aspirations that you have? What are some things you’d like to accomplish?

TT: Off the court, I’d like to have an impact on my community in the best way I can. There’s a lot of kids that look up to me in the Minneapolis area. So having a positive impact on them and having a positive impact on my little brother is important to me. Because they look up to people like me in my community, so I want to show them what’s right. I want to carry myself in a positive manner, show them that they can achieve everything they believe in and wish for. That’s something that I feel is important.

Basketball in Minnesota is in a great place, especially with this draft class. Not only are you one of the stars, but Tre Jones and Daniel Oturu are also showing great potential.

Tyrell Terry playing high school basketball (© Loren Townsley / Argus Leader)

TT: Yeah, Minnesota basketball is definitely on the come up. I think that it was slept on for a while. But I think we have a lot of talent on the rise. We have a couple five-stars in our lower classes of high school. My Minnesota D-I team in AAU was ranked Top 5 in the country, so that kind of put Minnesota on the map. I think Minnesota is definitely on an upward trend and I’m excited to see where it goes in the next couple of years.

What are some things that you like to do when you are not playing basketball?

TT: I like to hang out with my friends a lot, try to spend time with my little brother. I play video games with my friends. So, typical teenager things.

When you play video games, what do you like to play?

TT: Yeah, I play NBA 2K. I’m not very fond of this year’s 2K, but yeah, I play. Me and my friends have a Pro-Am team. So it’s basically the five-on-five and each person had a position. So we played that a lot. I’m actually the center on the team. I like blocking shots and rebounding and dunking. So things I’m not used to on the court in real life. So it’s fun to do that in the game. I’m the center, seven-foot-three. I tried to put face scans and to make it more interesting.

What would Tyrell Terry the actual player be like if you were seven-foot-three? Do you think you’d still be shooting?

TT: I’d probably be a stretch big, to be honest with you. Like I said, savvy in the post. I’d probably be a skinny big, so I’d have to stretch the floor. I’d probably be a lanky shot blocker, something like that.

So like Bol Bol or Kristaps Porzingis, basically? That’s probably the silliest question I’ve asked a prospect in a very long time.

TT: Yeah, I would definitely compare myself to Kristaps if I was seven-foot-three.

Who are some of your favorite musicians that you like to listen to?

TT: I would say I like Trippie Redd a lot. I like Lil Uzi Vert and Drake. Those are three of my favorites right now. Drake has been doing it for so long. That’s very impressive.

What about TV and film? What have you been watching during quarantine?

TT: I’ve been watching “QB1: Beyond The Lights” recently. I just finished that. It was a pretty cool documentary series on high school quarterbacks. Actually, a kid I know from Stanford was in it so that was pretty cool to see. He’s a wide receiver. I’ve been watching “Ozark.” A lot of people are recommending that. But yeah, I’m not much of a binge-Netflix guy or anything like that. So I’m not too quick to move through a Netflix series.

What are some things that people might not know about you that people may be surprised to learn?

TT: I love to dance and I like to make music for fun. That’s something that a lot of people know about me. I just like to find a beat and then I guess rap to it.

Are you the next Damian Lillard or what do we think?

TT: I don’t know if I’m quite there, but I just like to mess around with it. But if I keep improving at it, you never know. You might see a Tyrell Terry album in the future.

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