Lester Quinones: 'I'm one of the best shooters, if not the best shooter, in this year's draft'

Lester Quinones Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Lester Quinones: 'I'm one of the best shooters, if not the best shooter, in this year's draft'

Interview

Lester Quinones: 'I'm one of the best shooters, if not the best shooter, in this year's draft'

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Lester Quinones, the three-year guard of the Memphis Tigers, officially entered the 2022 draft, which came as a surprise to some considering projections by some analysts right now.

Quinones, who recently worked out for Lakers, Thunder, Kings and Warriors, talked to HoopsHype just a day after he publicly declared about what factored into his decision, his experience playing for NBA Hall-of-Famers like Penny Hardaway, Larry Brown, and Rasheed Wallace, and what he hopes to bring to the next level.

What was the tipping point for you to declare for the NBA draft?

Lester Quinones: Going through five workouts before the actual deadline. Just going through those workouts and seeing how the process was. Really just getting out there and working on my game helped boost my confidence. And really receiving great feedback at every workout that I have been to.

A lot of teams now who been telling me that if I wasn’t on their radar, now I’m for sure on their radar after my workouts with them. I’m for sure turning heads in my workouts with my shooting. I feel like my shooting ability was going to get me in there, and I feel that I have been showcasing my ability to shoot the ball in these workouts at a level that teams were saying that I really couldn’t do at Memphis.

The deeper the workouts are to the draft and all these guys were kinda pulling out. Getting in with these guys who were projected in the first round, seeing myself in there, and shooting with them and playing with them, I feel like I’m competing at a high level. It’s kinda just a tryout, so I’m just trying to outplay everyone in the workouts. It helps boost my confidence.

Since you weren’t invited to the NBA Combine, did you use that as motivation during your workouts?

Lester Quinones

Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal / USA TODAY NETWORK

LQ: It for sure put a chip on my shoulder. Not being invited to the Combine, I felt like I had to prove myself a little more in the workouts. Really show everybody my shooting ability. I feel like I’m one of the best shooters, if not the best shooter, in this year’s draft, and it’s just my job to show it every workout I go to.

Outside of your shooting, how do you see yourself contributing at the NBA level?

LQ: My niche to get into the league right now is 3-and-D. So just going in and really locking in on defense, and hitting open shots. I feel like that’s what’s just going to get me into the league. Once I’m there, that’s when I can just really show more of my complete game, like making reads, coming off the pick and roll, making passes, showing my IQ, and stuff like that…just 3-and-D for now, and then just let my game grow once I get there.

Are there any impact players that you see in the league today that reminds you of yourself? Maybe not hyped up going into the draft, but had good workouts and now they are blossoming in the league today.

Lester Quinones

Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal / USA TODAY NETWORK

LQ: Guys like Mikal Bridges, him going into the league and being a good 3-and-D player. Klay [Thompson] has been a favorite player of mine for years now. With him being a 3-and-D player… just watching guys like that really just helps with studying film and really just perfect my craft, and get my game to the next level. Guys like Bridges and Klay are guys I look at.

What did you learn the most out of your last three years at Memphis?

LQ: I feel like my maturity is better now, as far as just understanding the game. All three years, I’ve been on a squad that’s been a different teammate each year, and different coaching staff each year, so it was a lot to learn and a lot to soak up. I really feel that it really helped me build a lot towards my maturity with all the adversity just being there. It kinda helps build and helps me grow as a player. Just the amount of NBA talent with the players and NBA coaching staff that’s been there through the years has been nothing but helpful.

What advice did Penny Hardaway give you while at college, and potentially at the NBA level?

Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

LQ: Just outworking everybody. Just the work, Penny’s a hard worker himself. He was kind of a mentor to me during the three years I was there. For our relationship, I was probably the closest to him during the three years I was there. He taught me the work is gonna show, you can’t hide it, and really just being a gym rat and perfect your craft.

He was different as a head coach as far as getting in the gym with players. In a traditional setting, a college coach isn’t going to get in extra hours at the gym in the morning or night with the players. Just practice, watch a little bit of film and go home. Penny was the coach who would wake up early to work you out if you ask or stay late nights at the gym if you ask. Just soaking it all up like a sponge of how great of a basketball player he was to help me better myself.

Has coach Rasheed Wallace given you any other different tips than Hardaway did?

LQ: Him and Larry [Brown] with them being on the staff, I feel like they were more of the old school way. Like that grit and grind, old school with Larry Brown and Sheed. Both of them having a championship ring as well, that was a great experience that they got to share. All of these golden nuggets that they had, with them being at the highest level. It was just amazing to be around.

When you say old school, were they more in your face, and call it how it is?

Lester Quinones

Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports

LQ: For sure, very unfiltered. Not sugarcoating anything with Larry and Sheed. Sheed is more laid back than Larry, but Larry is kind of the coach to get in your face. I feel like that helps because the coaches that I had played for are similar to coach Brown: those traditional old school type of coaches that were going to get on you and let you know everything.

Keep it simple, they weren’t into all that jazzy, new school stuff, like a player like myself when I’m trying to flash you with the guitar and short shorts. It was kinda the opposite, so having Coach Brown on the staff helped me a little bit. He made me more mentally mature, and more mature as a player.

He called me out on the guitar a couple of times. He joked with me about playing the banjo, but I was very close with Coach Brown, and having him there was just a great opportunity. He, coach Sheed, coach [Cody] Toppert, coach Penny, all of those guys were great coaches, and those were all NBA level guys. Just having an all-NBA staff, was just amazing.

How was it playing with Jalen Duren and Emoni Bates, do you feel like they help you solidify your role to play at a consistent level?

LQ: For sure, those guys were two top players in the country. It was just really great to be a part of their journey. I wouldn’t say a superstar level, but their paths are kinda carved to where they really been the man their whole lives.

I was like an older brother to help guide and help them with everything, and all the adversity and situations that they went through. Playing with two highly recruited guys and two No. 1 recruiting classes, I feel like I’m kinda used to playing with a bunch of guys who were really good.

You went to four different high schools and dealt with so many different coaching dynamics in college. Do you think that will give you an advantage as you hope to get into the NBA?

Lester Quinones

Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal / USA TODAY NETWORK

LQ: Just having all these different types of coaches just does nothing but help me build my character as a player and maturity as a player.

That goes into my IQ, and my ability to be flexible, and play for different coaching styles, and different players. That’s an ability of mine to where it’s going to help me at the next level to find whichever team I play for, I’m going to be the right fit.

Any last words?

LQ: I’m confident in myself right now. I’m one of the best shooters, if not the best shooter in this year’s draft, and my stock will just keep rising the more workouts I have lined up. I feel like it was my time and my opportunity to come out and fulfill the moment.

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