The 2017 NBA Draft is set for Thursday, June 22nd. As the stars of the college game get ready to find out where they will begin their NBA journey, CBS Local Sports’ “My Life As” series will give them an opportunity to talk about how they got to this point and what they expect from the future in their own words.
Today, we hear from Michigan Wolverines guard Derrick Walton. Derrick was a starter for most of his four years with the Wolverines and led them to a Big Ten Tournament title and Sweet 16 berth this past season. In the process he earned the Big Ten Tournament’s Most Valuable Player award. He spoke with us about his time at Michigan and how he thinks his game translates to the NBA.
I started playing basketball when I was five years old. I got started playing because I come from a basketball family where my dad and uncle played and my mom was a cheerleader, so it was pretty much inevitable that I was going to be involved in sports at the very least, and in the end, basketball was the sport I enjoyed the most.
When I was younger, I always told my coaches and my teammates that I would make it to the NBA one day like a lot of young kids do. But, as I got older and became better, it started to be more than just words and actually started to feel like an obtainable goal right around my sophomore year in high school. Every year I just kept getting better. I always loved the game and I was always one of those guys that wanted to get in the gym and continue to improve.
Our plane sliding off the runway this year prior to the Big Ten Tournament really just made me appreciate each and every day that I get. The time that I get to have a chance to work on what I want to be good at, I take that time very seriously. Being involved in that situation, it just made me appreciate even more the people that I have in my life that are important to me. The most trying time I had in college outside of that was when I got hurt during my sophomore season. It was a turning point for me because, I had to learn how to be effective without being able to play. For me, that is one of the biggest moments I’ve had basketball wise, because I couldn’t physically participate and I had to fight through injury.
The thing that I’m most proud of from my time at Michigan is the way that I grew as a person during the course of my four years there. My favorite memories are of course some of the big wins we had: the Big Ten Tournament win this year was huge, my freshman year we won the regular season Big Ten championship, and of course, just getting the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. The atmosphere that is a part of those games is just something that you can’t replicate.
It was a blessing to be able to go to the NBA Combine in Chicago and go through the drills and the interview process with the teams. Obviously, I felt that I should have gotten an invite no matter what, instead of being an alternate like I was, but at the end of the day I still got the opportunity to go and I took full advantage of it.
Getting left off the initial combine invite list definitely put a bit of a chip on my shoulder, but I’ve always had that desire to prove myself. I was a guy that was pretty highly ranked coming out of high school, but I always felt like I could be better, could improve my game. It’s the mentality that I’ve always had: to prove to others, and myself, that all the hard work I put in won’t go unnoticed.
The most surreal part of the NBA draft process – so far – was getting to shake Miami Heat president of basketball operations Pat Riley’s hand. Between that, and walking into the Lakers facility and seeing all of the championship banners hanging up, there’s been some pretty cool moments.
I think one of the biggest things that I bring to the table is my shooting, and I continue to work on that as I get ready for the NBA. I’ve always shot the ball well, but I want to continue to fine tune those things. Other than that, I’m working on learning the game at the NBA level, and adjusting to the next level. In addition, I’m working on getting stronger, playing through contact because the NBA game is more physical than college.
Being an overall good point guard is something that I pride myself on. I can shoot, but I can also run a team and distribute the basketball. In this modern day NBA where everybody is playing small ball, and shooting is more valuable than ever, I think it’s a good opportunity for me to fit in well at the NBA level.
In terms of my size, I know that’s one of the things people look at and wonder about, but I think I’ve got a good baseline of film that shows that I can score and play bigger than my size. I think teams realize that I play hard and play with heart. My size doesn’t matter when it comes down to X’s and O’s and going out and playing.
It doesn’t matter to me which team I end up on, as long as I get a chance to follow my dream. Being able to play for the Pistons of course, would be an honor since I’m from the area and they’re my hometown team. That would be a dream, but I’m ready to play for whatever team wants to bring me in.