LSU Tigers forward Darius Days declared for the 2020 NBA draft after averaging 11.1 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as a sophomore.
Days, who still has two seasons of eligibility, could still return to college basketball because he signed with an agent who is NCAA-certified. He has until August 3 to make his decision.
He recently caught up with HoopsHype about his basketball career and what he has accomplished thus far.
Note: This transcription has been very minorly edited for clarity.
I would love to hear how you have spent the offseason preparing for the 2020 NBA draft.
Darius Days: I’ve just been working on everything to improve myself. I’m working on shooting a lot, ballhandling, slimming my body down. That is one of the biggest things I’ve had to work on, getting in tip-top shape and everything. I’ve just been working. I’m doing different workouts. I have a trainer down here. We work on stability, core, running. The work has been paying off.
You went to the prestigious IMG Academy for high school. How did that help you prepare for where you are today?
DD: I loved meeting new people and playing with different players. I was playing on a team with people from different places like Josh Green, who is from Australia. Jahmi’us Ramsey is from Texas. Noah Farrakhan is from New Jersey. I got to see all of their emotions, how different people who are from different places move. You get to understand them and where they are coming from. I spoke to Noah the other day and I told him the ins and outs of college, what to look for, what to stay away from. I told him that if things are not perfect, you might not leave the gym. That’s just how it was. We would have to do it over and over and over again.
What are some of your favorite experiences that you had while playing at LSU?
DD: We went to the Sweet Sixteen when I was a freshman. We were able to beat Maryland in Jacksonville. But there were a lot of things that happened in practice and on road trips, bonding with our coaches. I honestly have a great relationship with everyone on campus. I love meeting people. I am a people’s person. That is something that I love to do. We love the fans. Some places, if you lose a couple games, they stop coming. Our fans are always there. They show us so much love. We go to the mall and people will say “that is Darius” or “that is Emmitt” and they will come to take pictures.
What was it like going to a school that won the national title in college football? I’m sure the athletic department was thrilled.
DD: We were in College Station for a game against Texas A&M. We all watched the game at the hotel. But when we got back to school, it was so crazy. It felt like they were rock stars. I was really proud of them. All of the student-athletes are really close. Everything was fun and everybody was so happy.
Your team had one of the best offenses in college basketball. How would you have done in the NCAA tournament?
DD: We could have snuck up and beaten some great teams. If we were dedicated on the defensive end, though, everything would have taken care of itself. We had great nights and great games and beat SEC teams and some of the non-conference teams by a great deal. It is very interesting. You can’t say what would have happened but we would have played hard and tried to get the win.
Your head coach, Will Wade, always said that LSU played better when you were on the court. Your offensive rating was one of the best in the NCAA. How did you make this such a crucial part of your game?
DD: I’m surprised that Emmitt and I didn’t have the same offensive rating. He did a lot of great things. I feel like we were so relentless to the glass and got second-chance points, diving into the crowd, getting extra possessions. My offensive rebounding is very huge. I love rebounding. That is my niché. I love being an aggressive, elite rebounder.
Despite being a bit undersized for your position, how do you use your size to your advantage?
DD: I am 6-foot-7. I play really hard. I try to get my hands on every ball. I’ve been working on my outside game, which will help me a lot. I just do what I’m supposed to do. There is not much to it. I’m now able to space the floor and knock down shots when I’m given the ball. Watching the NBA, there is a lot of space on the court. You have to be able to penetrate and kick but also knock the shots down. So if somebody else misses, I’m going to do my job and get the rebound.
Who are some of your favorite players that you want to play like?
DD: Great question. Draymond Green, most definitely. Most definitely. He reminds me of how I express myself as a player. I love the way he plays. He is so relentless. He and Carmelo Anthony are my two most favorite players. He is a phenomenal shooter. He doesn’t need to dribble. He catches the ball, elbow, jab, pull-up. Or one dribble, sidestep, pull-up. He just gets to his spots where he is comfortable and makes it happen. I want to work out with them, watch them do what they do. I want to sit back, pay attention and see their schedules, what they eat, how they condition.
While you mostly played at the five, where do you see your offensive role at the next level?
DD: I feel like I am mostly a tweener. Over there in Houston, the Rockets play small-ball. Then in Golden State, they played small. I like to be able to guard different positions, play different positions. I knock down shots, get rebounds, get grimy, get dirty. Do the dirty work and do my job. Being able to stretch the floor and also rebound the way that I rebound, we can get up and down quickly and get more shots up and get more points on the board. I’m very versatile. I could work on putting the ball on the deck more but that will come with time and work.
Speaking of playing quick, you played really well in transition offense. How would you play in a fast-paced tempo at the next level?
DD: Everything is more open, people are not guarded as closely. It’s really about finding the open man, running and gunning. We played like that both this year and last year. But I got more opportunities as a sophomore. It helps a lot. Getting rebounds, getting easy points. When teams guarded us 2-3, it was more difficult to score in the halfcourt. But I always felt comfortable running on the right side of the wing because I am right-handed. If I try to lay the ball up, I’m shielded with my body from the defender away from the ball so I’m able to get a clean shot off.
There are multiple players from LSU (e.g. Trendon Watford, Emmitt Williams, Javonte Smart) testing the waters of the draft. How are you inspiring each other and helping each other in this process?
DD: That is a good question. Emmitt and I are really close. We came to the program at the same time. We all talk. We make sure we are alright. We want to make sure we are all working out and keeping each other focused. For all of us, including Skylar Mays as well, the journey isn’t over. We still have to work.
You played with an NBA player during your freshman season now that Naz Reid is on the Minnesota Timberwolves. What advice has he given you?
DD: Naz is my best friend. We talk about all types of things from the workouts and what actually goes on. He tells me that if you want to make this your job, you are going to have to sacrifice. I really respected that he told me that, coming from a friend. Most people wouldn’t want their friends to tell them that. They like it when it is sugar-coated. But he told me I have to take care of my body, eat right, behave in a certain manner. I really respect him for that. When I go to the next level, I will be more ready because of it. I have to come into my own. It is different than college, where everything is so structured. Here, we have weights at this time and breakfast at this time and you have to go to class and study hall and community service hours.
How did you originally fall in love with basketball?
DD: Oh, man. I used to have a hoop behind my house. I would just be out there, shooting around. So I’d just work on my shot and find all of the spots that I like to shoot from. Then I started playing basketball for a travel team. I lost a lot of weight. I fell in love with the game. I started getting up early to go for runs and I would get shots up at the gym to make myself better. During my first or my second tournament, I played very well and realized that I could do something with this. Ever since then, I’ve just been in the gym.
What are some things you like to do when you are not playing basketball?
DD: I like taking walks, riding bikes, hanging with my friends. I love to spend time with my teammates, too. We spend a lot of time with each other on the court but we spend just as much time in the living room, talking and playing. I also love talking to my parents. My father and mother instilled hard work in me. They remind me that nothing is earned. That is why I play so hard and why I’m always yelling.
What are some things that people may not know about you but should understand?
DD: I’m from the country. I’m from a place with 300 people and really just one stoplight. If you did not stop at the light then you would have just driven through my little town. I have farm animals. I also really like to eat. I can tell you different types of food from the smell. It is crazy. I love ribs. I also love Fettuccine Alfredo. Also, I thought I would not like sushi. But I had it for the first time and I’m in love with it. I really like meeting new people and getting to know them. I’m very fun to be around. I’m goofy. That’s just me.