NBA prospect Grant Riller: 'Fred VanVleet and Lou Williams are my two favorite comparisons so far'

(Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

NBA prospect Grant Riller: 'Fred VanVleet and Lou Williams are my two favorite comparisons so far'

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NBA prospect Grant Riller: 'Fred VanVleet and Lou Williams are my two favorite comparisons so far'

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Charleston Cougars senior Grant Riller had been one of the most accomplished scorers in college basketball for several years in a row.

The 6-foot-3 guard is one of the most exciting offensive prospects in the 2020 NBA Draft. The 23-year-old college star spoke to HoopsHype about how he has been preparing for the upcoming draft while reflecting on his experience in the NCAA.

Note: This transcription has been minorly edited for clarity.

What were the biggest takeaways you had from your experience at the College of Charleston?  

Grant Riller: I got the whole college experience. I was there for five years. I had a long time to get used to it. I enjoyed all of the time with my teammates and my coaches. That was the best part for me. I knew that basketball would come eventually but those relationships are going to last forever.

Your junior year, you were teammates with Utah Jazz rookie big Jarrell Brantley. What advice has he given you about the process?

GR: He told me to be patient and run my own race. We know we’re in for the long haul. Regardless of how things start off, we are there for the end game. He makes sure that I know that. Our relationship is deeper than basketball. Every time we talk, it’s not always about basketball.

What have your feelings been on the pre-draft process being so strange for NBA prospects?

GR: It’s tough. But I think that there are some advantages to it and the balance is good. For a guy like me, the advantages are front offices watching more tape and looking at more numbers. Overall, they can look at my body of work that I got to do over the last five years.

I completely agree with that. I think seniors, who have so much film out on their game, may rise in the 2020 NBA Draft. What will executives see when they watch your tape?

GR: They’ll see more of my playmaking ability. The rep for me is how much of a scorer I am. But I think there are a lot of other things in my game people may not have realized yet. So once they really dive down and deep into their film, they’ll see more possessions of me being the leader of a team and really controlling the pace of the game. I think you know what you’re going to get with a fifth-year player. You know he’s trying to be more like a pro up to that point. I’m about my business and I’ve matured already. I’ll do whatever is asked of me.

You do an amazing job at that as the ballhandler in pick-and-roll sets. How have you become so prolific and efficient in this play type?

GR: Like you said, I played with an NBA teammate for more than one year. My redshirt year, Brantley and I sat out together. During that year, he taught me about different reads and different plays to make out of the pick-and-roll. I give him credit for a lot of that. Obviously, the coaches have done a good job allowing me to make sure I’m staying locked in and watching film and making the right plays.

What are some ways you can transition your game as a pick-and-roll ball-handler from the NCAA into the NBA?

GR: I think the transition will be pretty good. I think a big difference in the NBA is the spacing. I think that can help me out a little bit. Obviously, with the ball screen in coverage, it is kind of easy to trap a guy off a screen. But they guard it differently in the NBA. Obviously, I’ll be surrounded by better players. But coverages are different and it’s something I’m looking forward to. 

You’re a high-usage player and play on the ball a lot. Do you think that’s something you will do in the NBA? Or do you think that you could have fewer possessions and still be successful? 

GR: I think I can have fewer possessions and still be successful. Early on in college, I was more of an off-ball guy. As my career progressed, I started having more of an on-ball role. I think getting experience at both types of styles was good. Once coaches get a chance to dive deeper into my film, they’ll see that I’m just as useful off the ball.

What about carrying an entire offense coming off the bench and eventually as a starter?  

GR: Playing on the ball gave me the experience that some guys weren’t able to have in college. Regardless of my role, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to play and help the team. I think I could be successful in any role. 

For a guy your size, you do an amazing job at drawing fouls in the league. What are some things that you have done to become a successful player at creating contact? 

GR: I think watching film is important. Seeing NBA players like James Harden and Chris Paul, guys that know how to draw fouls, watching them get to their spots and play at their pace, I think I learned it from them.

When you’re watching film of other NBA players, who do you watch the most to expand your game?

GR: I love Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard. Those are three guys that I watch a lot. I think I share some similarities with them. Obviously, I’m not at their level, but I take pieces of their game and try to improve it in mine.

Are there any players that you resemble right now or can emulate when you get into the league?

GR: I get tons of comparisons, but some that I agree with are Fred VanVleet and Lou Williams. Those are probably my two favorite comparisons so far. 

Tell me about your experience outside of basketball. What are some things you do when you’re not playing?

GR: I’m a family man first. My mom and dad have been working in the same area for years now. I’ve seen them wake up at 6 am and go to work every day. I have the opportunity to help and repay them for all that they’ve done. That means a lot to me. When I’m not on the basketball court, I’m usually chilling with my friends and my fam. We could be doing whatever, chilling in the crib or going out. As long as I’m with my fam, I feel pretty comfortable. 

How would you describe yourself to someone who has never met you before?

GR: I probably come off as a chill and laid back guy. Once you get to know me or get me into a basketball setting, I open up a little bit more. I like to have fun, too. But at the end of the day, I’m all about my business.

How would you describe your game to an NBA team who has heard good things about you but hasn’t had a chance to see you play?

GR: I think I’m a guy who can play with any type of player. I would say that I’m a basketball player. I’ll do whatever I’m asked to do. If you need me to score, I’ll score. If you need me to run a team and facilitate, I’ll do that. I don’t have a problem with being asked to do anything on the basketball floor.

What are some things that people don’t know about you that you’d like to share?

GR: I want people to know that I’m ready. There’s always a lot of doubt with older players coming into the draft, especially someone who did five years. But I want them to know that I’ve been through tons of different experiences and that I’ve been working a long time to get to this point. 

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