My collegiate career unfortunately ended early in an early round in the National Invitational Tournament March 17, the same day as my birthday, to top it all off. I am very fortunate to have been able to spend five years at Stanford University growing as a person and as a basketball player. The education, friends and experiences I had are priceless and I will never forget it. However, my excitement about the next phase of my career helps when thinking about the nostalgic feelings that I have for Stanford. Having entered my name into the National Basketball Association Draft last year in 2005, I know that being prepared physically, mentally, and skill-wise is essential to my immediate future. So, the following Monday after the NIT loss, I began training.
After enduring such a long season I wanted to give my body some rest, but I also felt that I should be active in some way to not lose too much of my conditioning because I was headed to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (PIT) in a week and a half. I decided to run in an underwater treadmill everyday that week to keep my heart rate up and avoid putting strenuous pounding on my lower body. The following week I began lifting and conditioning at an excellent training facility called The Reikes Center. During that week and a half, when I wasnt working out with an individual skills coach, I was working on my own to try to keep my game polished.
The PIT camp was a blessing in disguise for me. I didnt know too much about it except that it was an opportunity to compete against other nationally recognized collegiate seniors and a chance for me to showcase my ability playing the point. I arrived in Portsmouth, Virginia on the night of Wednesday, April the 5th at 6pm east coast time. It had been a long day as I woke up to head to the airport at 4am west coast time that same day. Games had already begun that night, but I was exhausted from flying all day and was more concerned about eating and crashing when I got into my hotel room. My roommate for the camp was Tony Skinn from George Mason University whom Im sure everyone knows from his play and his teams great run to the Final Four. I bugged Tony for a little bit asking him about his tournament experience and he kindly obliged. Tony is such an easy going and friendly guy, always offering to pick me up some food when he went out to eat with his family. Im glad I got to know him. During my time at the PIT, I was glad to be reunited with some of my teammates and friends from the World Championships in Turkey that I participated in this past summer where our team won the GOLD. It was cool to catch up with them and watch them play at the PIT.
On Thursday we had a welcome meeting in the morning informing the players about the PIT and The NBAs Player Union. The only practice we had was an hour in the afternoon to quickly learn the few sets that we would be running on offense. Practice also gave me the opportunity to meet my coaches and teammates of MD Design. Coach Oliver, Coach Ward and Coach Yale informed us that on paper we werent one of the favorites to win the tournament, but our team was composed of a lot of talented guys and after getting to know them, I felt we were going to surprise people. A lot of people told me that at the PIT you are just supposed to play for yourself, but thats not me. Even though we were being evaluated for our NBA potential, my primary concern was to do everything I could to make my teammates better and to WIN.
Our team was 2-1 for the tournament. We finished in third after winning our first game, losing our second, and winning our last game. We should have made it to the championship game but we missed a couple of chances to pull ahead when we were down two with under a minute left. Our disappointment didnt overcome our desire to finish the tournament on a strong note. In the first game, I felt I played solid, getting the jitters out of my system, but was set on playing better and making my teammates better as well. Despite requiring stitches near my right eye after bumping heads in the final game, I feel that an angel was with me while I was playing. I shot the ball very well (8-8 from NBA 3) and was enjoying running our squad and getting into opposing players on defense. I was also blessed enough to be selected to the PIT All Tournament Team.
Overall, the PIT was a great experience. I was fortunate enough to have great teammates around me who wanted to play as a team and who were easy to get along with. Thanks to my teammates, coaches and the PIT staff for making my PIT experience a memorable one.