HoopsHype aims to provide you the best coverage of the NBA draft. We went beyond the scouting reports, mock drafts and player rankings to give you an inside look at the human side of these players.
Many fans did not get a chance to learn about the top college basketball players and a class of future NBA prospects after the annual March Madness tournament was canceled due o the ongoing pandemic.
So we produced a series of exclusive, 1-on-1 conversations with dozens of the players projected to hear their names called on November 19. We have stories with prospects ranging from likely lottery picks to potential undrafted free agent sleepers.
With the big night on the horizon, familiarize yourself with in-depth looks at several players in the 2020 NBA draft class:
ONYEKA OKONGWU, USC
Big, 19 years old, 16.2 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.2 spg, 2.7 bpg, 61.6 FG%
Okongwu was high school teammates with Lonzo Ball and LaMelo Ball, winning a “national championship” for Chino Hills. He is a two-time recipient of California’s Mr. Basketball, awarded to the top high school player in the state.
“First, you’re going to get a defender. I take a lot of pride in playing defense. I love defense. I’ve been playing elite defense since I was a little kid. I take a lot of pride in defense coming naturally for me. You’re also getting an athlete. I’m a player who can run up and down the court with a high motor. I am trying to improve my jump shot but I know I have good touch and polish. I can be a great face-up, low-post scorer. I had a lot of rip throughs and jabs. I know teams will have to respect that.”
KIRA LEWIS JR., ALABAMA
Guard, 19 years old, 18.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 5.2 apg, 1.8 spg, 36.6 3P%
Lewis, who was recognized as 1st Team All-SEC last season, will be one of the fastest players in the NBA once he is drafted into the league. Lewis explained why he chose basketball over football, his time playing with Team USA and plenty more.
“It helps me a lot, just being able to play fast. I like to use different pace and different speed – sometimes going from fast to slow then from slow to fast. Just having that burst, it helps a lot. It really got carried down from my family. My mom ran track, and my dad was fast just from his body type and his family members. It’s really just always been in me.”
SADDIQ BEY, VILLANOVA
Wing, 21 years old, 16.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.4 apg, 45.1 3P%
Bey is one of the most polished, pre-ready sharpshooters in the 2020 NBA draft. But one thing we did not expect: he broke down ancient Greek philosophy with us during this interview.
“I wanted to make it clear that I don’t have a low ceiling. I kept proving I still have a lot more potential. Also, I was able to show that I can play and guard multiple positions. Coming in, I was focusing on defensive rebounding and being able to defend guards and wings and big men. On the other end, I wanted to be a threat on every end. Our head coach Jay Wright gave me the opportunity to play on the ball a lot. I played some point guard. I played in the low post. I played in the mid-post. I played at all three levels. That helped my team win. It was also a credit to the guys around me who helped me a part of that amazing culture at Villanova. That paid dividends too.”
AARON NESMITH, VANDERBILT
Wing, 21 years old, 23.0 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.4 spg, 52.2 3P%
We touched on his injury recovery, how his remarkable sharpshooting will translate the pros, his mentorship from NBA All-Stars Jerry Stackhouse and Khris Middleton and his interest in eventually owning a Starbucks franchise location.
“I try to take anything I can from an NBA-level player that can be transformed into my game. I don’t just look at catch-and-shoot guys. I also look at guys who like to come off the dribble, like Dwyane Wade and Khris Middleton. Those are guys who are able to create for themselves, too. I’m just trying to take any little thing from other people’s games and try and put it into my game to be the best player I can be.”
TYRELL TERRY, STANFORD
Guard, 20 years old, 14.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.4 spg, 40.8 3P%
Terry has been the prospect who has most improved his draft stock in recent months, shattering a record for a basketball-IQ measurement that is conducted by several NBA teams.
“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.”
DESMOND BANE, TCU
Forward, 22 years old, 16.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.9 apg, 44.2 3P%
Bane, thanks to his athleticism and sharpshooting abilities, is one of the two seniors most likely to hear his name called in the first round of the 2020 NBA draft.
“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.”
MALACHI FLYNN, SAN DIEGO STATE
Guard, 22 years old, 17.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.1 apg, 1.8 spg, 37.3 3P%
Flynn, who won Mountain West Conference Player of the Year and led the nation in win shares last season, spoke about growing up as the youngest of seven children. He also discussed his journey from being the shortest player on his high school squad to eventually winning MWC Defensive Player of the Year.
“I’m aware of everything that’s happening on the court, I’m someone who plays with a high IQ but is very skilled at the same time. I know how to make the right play and I can shoot it. Overall, I’m a playmaker – not just a scorer or a passer – I would just consider myself a playmaker with a high IQ.”
ISAIAH STEWART, WASHINGTON
Big, 19 years old, 17.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 0.8 apg, 2.1 bpg, 57.0 FG%
Stewart was recognized as Mr. Basketball USA and Naismith Prep Player of the Year, both given to the best high school player in the country. He spoke candidly to HoopsHype about why he feels that analysts are wrong to have turned their backs on him after his sole collegiate campaign.
“People forgot who I am. I’m not sure if it’s because we had a losing season or not. But these guys that they have in the draft over me are guys I’ve been beating my whole life. I won every matchup. You talk about guys that are sleepers in this draft and I’m the biggest sleeper. I’m the guy that’s slept on the most. I’m a guy who has always been showing up, taking care of business from day one. Every level I’ve played, there was always doubt. But people smart enough know not to bet against Isaiah Stewart. People didn’t want me to be a ranked guy. But they knew they had no choice because every matchup that I’ve played against, I dominated. My game isn’t sexy. It’s not attractive. But at the end of the day, it gets the job done. People like flashy and people like potential but potential means you haven’t done anything. At the end of the day, I know I’m a winner. This past season was a losing season but people who know Isaiah Stewart know I’m going to be successful at the NBA level. They know the guys that are ahead of me, I’m better than them.”
XAVIER TILLMAN, MICHIGAN STATE
Big, 21 years old, 13.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.2 spg, 2.1 bpg, 55.0 FG%
Tillman, who played three years for the Michigan State Spartans, opened up about having his second child right before quarantine began. He also touched on his plans to start an AAU youth basketball team in Michigan, why he would love to go into broadcasting after his playing career is over and plenty more.
“Sometimes, I see little Twitter clips of me playing. It would be like 10 or 15 seconds and it will be me like hedging a stagger screen and going back, helping on the ball and going back to my man, get the block, get the rebound, an outlet to Cassius Winston, run down the floor, set the screen for Cash, get Cash open, Cash gets a floater down the middle of the lane. I’m like: ‘Man; you do a lot. You don’t just guard your man and run down the court. You impact on the ball, you kick guys open and when it’s your turn to score, you score.’ I think I’m a guy who just does a lot on the defensive end, and that’s what I pride myself on so it’s kind of cool.”
TYLER BEY, COLORADO
Wing, 22 years old, 13.8 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.5 spg, 1.2 bpg, 41.9 3P%
Tyler Bey discussed how he needed to change his mindset to become more focused when he was in high school so that he could be eligible to play D-I NCAA Men’s Basketball, why he is inspired by his mother and plenty more.
“I’ll never forget my past, where I came from, what I’ve seen and what I’ve been through. Growing up, it was just me, my mom and my sister. I watched my mom struggle from day one. So for me to not go out there and compete, it would not be good enough for her and my family. So what motivates me is all the struggles we have been through, all the struggles I’ve seen my mom go through. I want to see my mom happy.”
DEVON DOTSON, KANSAS
Guard, 21 years old, 18.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.0 apg, 2.1 spg, 46.8 FG%
Dotson is perhaps the quickest end-to-end prospect in this class. He was able to catch up with HoopsHype about what he can provide to a professional team, what he learned while playing at Kansas and some insights on a recent workout with Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell.
“I’m a guy where you don’t have to coach effort. I’m a great locker room guy. I’m a player that loves to work. I want to get better. I’m hungry to learn more. Every time I step on the court, I’m going to give it one hundred percent. I’m just a competitive dude that wants it a lot.”
GRANT RILLER, CHARLESTON
Guard, 23 years old, 21.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.9 apg, 1.6 spg, 49.9 FG%
Riller is one of the more NBA-ready guards in this class and he spoke about why can be a plug-and-play option for any team as soon as next season.
“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.”
CASSIUS WINSTON, MICHIGAN STATE
Guard, 22 years old, 18.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 5.9 apg, 44.8 FG%, 43.2 3P%
Winston told HoopsHype that you can “write a book” about his amazing relationship with legendary head coach Tom Izzo. He also shared that his favorite movie character of all-time is Donkey from Shrek.
“I’m very confident in my jumper. It’s what I do. I have the ability to knock down shots. I feel like I need that to make plays to be successful productive on the floor. I’m constantly working on my shot. I’ve been working on my 3-pointer from the NBA range for about a year and a half now. I’m comfortable from that level. The more variety and ways I can get my shot off can help me expand my game. You can’t box me in as just one type of shooter. I’m more than just good off the catch. I can take whatever the defense gives me.”
ROBERT WOODARD, MISSISSIPPI STATE
Wing, 21 years old, 11.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.1 spg, 1.0 bpg, 49.5 FG%, 42.9 3P%
Woodard is a fantastic basketball player but told us that he also loves to play guitar and go hunting and fishing and horseback riding. He said that he has at least seven guitars and likes to cover Daniel Caeser and John Mayer.
“I really want them to know that I’m a hard-working guy on and off the floor. I’m very competitive when it comes to just about anything. I’m an all-around guy on the floor on both the offensive end and the defensive end. I’m able to create for my teammates without having the ball in my hands. A lot of the times, I’ve been able to back-door cut. I also take things personally on the defensive end. I’m able to switch one through five, especially when teams are playing small ball. I’m versatile on both ends of the floor.”
PAUL REED, DEPAUL
Forward, 21 years old, 15.1 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 1.9 spg, 2.6 bpg, 51.6 FG%
Reed, who won the Big East’s Most Improved Player in 2019, announced a goal for himself during this interview: he would like to lead all rookies in rebounding next season.
“I expect to be an energy guy on offense. I can be a cutter and slasher. If you pass it to me and I’m open, I’m going to shoot it. I’m going to be an all-around type player, getting offensive rebounds. Defensively, I think that I’m going to be the person who is guarding the best player most of the time. I can use my length as well as my athleticism to block shots and get steals and turn defense into offense. I am going to be a glue guy for any team I play for.”
PAYTON PRITCHARD, OREGON
Guard, 22 years old, 20.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 5.5 apg, 1.5 spg, 41.5 3P%
He became the first player in Pac-12 history to have 1,900 career points, 500 career rebounds and 600 career assists.The guard caught up with HoopsHype to speak about winning four straight high school titles, his favorite memories playing at Oregon and his NBA future. He also talked about learning from his parents, who were both collegiate athletes at the University of Oklahoma.
“Everybody likes to win. I separate myself because I hate to lose. I can’t stand losing. So when it comes to the time at the end of the game and there is going to be a deciding play, I want to be the one to make it. I can take the blame. Of course, you have to know your role going into the NBA playing with all-stars and unbelievable players. That’s when you listen to your coach and you know your role. But for me, I’m always going to stay ready. If the ball does come to me, I will be ready to take that shot.”
CASSIUS STANLEY, DUKE
Wing, 21 years old, 12.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.7 spg, 47.4 FG%
Stanley, who played high school basketball in front of Kanye West and the Kardashians under the spotlight at Sierra Canyon, told HoopsHype that he wants to become the commissioner of the NBA after his playing career is over.
“[Becoming the commissioner of the NBA] has been a thing of mine since probably a couple years ago. Maybe even junior high school. That’s about the only dream job probably for me if anyone had to ask. I feel like the sport of basketball is the field I want to take on. So right now, I’m obviously working on the playing field in that sport. But I feel like you are only going to play the game for 10 or 12 years max, if you are lucky. After that, you have a whole life story. I feel like I want to stay in the field of basketball and I feel like I don’t really want to be a broadcaster or a coach, so I feel like being the commissioner would be the best thing. I’m really interested in it. I’ll see what I can while I’m playing, what internships and things I can do to get involved.”
KILLIAN TILLIE, GONZAGA
Big, 22 years old, 13.6 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.9 apg, 53.5 FG%, 40.0 3P%
Tillie is likely the best shooting big man in this draft class but he also told us that he likely could have been a professional beach volleyball player if he had stuck with that sport.
“My shooting has helped me a lot. I worked on it during my first year because it wasn’t very good before then. It was average but now it’s pretty good. I’m confident. I take more shots. I am still trying to work on getting quicker on the release. But it’s definitely helped me because people have to guard me on the outside and that spaces the floor. That helps me drive more, too. We also ran a lot of pick-and-pop at Gonzaga. Our point guards were so great at finding me there and it has become one of my favorite shots.”
SKYLAR MAYS, LSU
Guard, 23 years old, 16.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.8 spg, 39.4 3P%
Mays comes from a family of doctors and has a degree in kinesiology and studied pre-medicine in college. He is interested in P3 Applied Sports Science and how they’re able to apply their studies to high-level athletes.
“I feel super comfortable in the pick-and-roll. That’s what I did when I was on the ball as a true point guard. I had plenty of practice with it. I think it showed a lot this past year as I had more opportunities. I wanted to get into the paint, whether that meant getting opportunities for my teammates or getting into the paint and scoring and hurting teams at the free-throw line. I play off my ability to get in the paint.”
MASON JONES, ARKANSAS
Guard, 22 years old, 22.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.4 apg, 1.6 spg, 45.3 FG%
Jones shared an inspirational story about discovering basketball at a late age. After transforming his body by drastically cutting his weight down from 270 pounds, he transferred from junior college and eventually won SEC Co-Player of the Year in 2020.
“I want to be an All-Star. I have a lot to prove and I feel like the way I work hard and the way I carry myself and the way I care about the game, I definitely feel like I can achieve being an All-Star or being an MVP in the league. Those are things that I dream about. I want to put them in real-life situations. I have a chance to be that, I have a chance to be an MVP. I have a chance to put the work in and know that nothing is going to be handed to me, it’s going to be all hard work. I know exactly what to do when my back is against the wall or people have doubts: work hard and keep proving wrong. That’s definitely what I’m going to continue to do.”
KALEB WESSON, OHIO STATE
Big, 21 years old, 14.0 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.0 bpg, 42.5 3P%
Wesson, who recorded the best score at the three-point star drill during the 2020 NBA draft combine, spoke to HoopsHype about training for the draft with his older brother Andre Wesson, who is also eligible to be selected. He also touched on how he dramatically improved his weight and what he learned from former first-round pick Jared Sullinger.
“I’m just telling them that I’m a hard worker. There are a lot of guys who go into the league and that first year, they think they made it. But if you’ve seen my career, you’ve seen that I’ve had to grind for almost everything I’ve accomplished. I had to go from 325 pounds to get to 285 pounds to even get a chance to play for Ohio State. You saw that I had to drop even more weight to play at the high level that I play at now. You saw that I to increase my three-point shooting percentage to get where I am now, too. You can just see that I’ am a hard worker. You also see the leadership. That’s big.”
LAMAR STEVENS, PENN STATE
Forward, 23 years old, 17.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.1 bpg
Stevens was not only an incredibly productive four-year player during his time at Penn State but he also published a children’s book, illustrated by six children who met while working with the Special Olympics.
“I will be a guy who can play and guard multiple positions. I’ll be a player with a lot of energy that is a huge communicator on defense and can score. I scored at a high percentage in the Big-10 conference, which I believe is the best league in the country. My main focus will be becoming the best defender that I can possibly be, and hopefully have the chance to guard the best players.”
TREVELIN QUEEN, NEW MEXICO STATE
Wing, 23 years old, 13.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.7 spg, 47.1 FG%, 38.7 3P%
Queen has one of the most insane journeys to professional basketball you will ever hear, overcoming homelessness to eventually winning MVP of his conference tournament in 2019.
“I would say I’m an all-around player. I’m a two-way. I want to be the best on the offensive end and the defensive end. I like to get my teammates involved in any way possible. If I’m on the bench, then I’m giving motivation and words of encouragement or helping them with the scouting report and to just keep their heads in the game. I know whatever role they have me playing, I’m going to play 100 percent. Whether it’s coming in and getting the steal or getting the charge or getting a bucket, my role is going to be on both ends of the court. I’m going to be on both ends of the court. I want to be able to score and then defend the best player if I have to. I want to be a great two-way player. I’m also an emotional player. You can always see it on the court. I’m willing to put any amount of effort into everything. I’d fully be willing to run a thousand miles for a team to play at the highest level. This is my dream.”
NATHAN KNIGHT, WILLIAM & MARY
Big, 23 years old, 20.7 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.5 bpg, 52.4 FG%, 30.5 3P%
Nathan Knight won the Lou Henson Award for the most outstanding mid-major college basketball player. He spoke to HoopsHype about building his own statistical model, his passion for reading as well as his eventual interest in coaching.
“One of the goals I have for myself is to be the best I can be, whatever that means. I want to give 210 percent of myself every time I step in the gym because every time you get out there, it can be your last. I don’t want to take anything for granted. I want to play professional basketball. I want to play in the NBA. That is one of my dreams. It’s been a dream of mine since I could walk. But no team is going to give you anything. You have to go out and earn it. Then off the court, I want to help the people who helped me growing up. My mother, obviously, I want to give her the world. That’s going to be something that I’m going to try to do as much as possible. The city of Syracuse, as much as it has taken away from my family, they’ve taught me a lot of valuable lessons. My sister passed away, my late grandmother passed away. The city has not been kind to my family but it has taught me a lot of valuable life lessons that I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else. I want to make that city better. I want to give kids like me an opportunity to achieve everything. I also want to be a father. That’s one of the greatest gifts that God gives a man – a little “them” that they can teach to be a person. I want to be a provider. I want to be a family man. My biological father wasn’t around so I want to be the best father that I can be as well.”
YOELI CHILDS, BYU
Forward, 22 years old, 22.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 0.9 bpg, 48.9 3P%
Childs, who has already been married for two years, was one of the most efficient pick-and-pop players in the country last season. He will bring a sense of polish and professionalism to any locker room in the NBA.
“I can be someone that comes in as a high-energy, high-character and high-IQ guy. I’m going to carve out a role for myself as someone who crashes the offensive glass, plays hard, communicates on every possession and shows up to practice every day and competes like it’s the NBA Finals. Every team needs guys like that. I know that with some of the natural gifts I have, I’m able to finish with touch in different ways around the rim. I’m someone who’s able to stretch the floor and create space for a lot of high-level drivers in the NBA. I would love to come in and create a role that way, and continue to expand my game every year.”
ANTHONY LAMB, VERMONT
Forward, 22 years old, 16.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.0 spg, 1.2 bpg
Lamb, who ranked among the Top 5 in Vermont Catamounts’ history in points and blocks, also touched on his love for anime films and television shows.
“I can have an immediate effect, guarding and being someone that could do whatever you need me to do on the court with my toughness and my grit. I know I can space the floor. I know everybody needs somebody that can guard, everybody needs somebody that can space the floor. So that’s the immediate impact I can give to any team that picks me or gives me the chance. Then as I develop, I think it’s going to depend on who I’m playing with and playing off of the people I’m with. I know it’s important to be moldable and malleable. So whatever is needed on me, I can continue to develop and get better as I go. That is something I’m leaning on and trusting in. But it is mostly about winning. So whatever I need to do and develop and get better at in order to stay in and win games, that is what I’m going to do. I need to do is whatever comes. I’ll be ready for it.”
MORE ON USA TODAY SMG’s ROOKIE WIRE
USA TODAY Sports Media Group’s Rookie Wire is a partner site of HoopsHype. These interviews were conducted by Bryan Kalbrosky, Cody Taylor and Ben Pfeifer.
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