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RaptorsHQ Goes One-On-One with Marquette’s Jerel McNeal

McNeal blows by another HQ fave, Terrence Williams

McNeal blows by another HQ fave, Terrence Williams

Franchise: How did things go today, how was the workout?

McNeal: I felt it went really well. Early on we did a lot of skills stuff, a lot of shooting; we had the breakout between the guards and the bigs, the guards did ball handling and stuff, stuff off the pick-and-roll, a lot of shots and things like that. For the rest of the time we got into some competing drills; 3-on-3, pick-and-roll situations, screen-down situations, stuff like that. It was real competitive though and I thought it went well.

F: Yeah, it looked for a while like you and Henderson were having a little discussion back and forth, a little friendly banter. I talked to Gerald about this, you guys have obviously played against each other in college, but had you worked out against each other yet?

M: No, this is the first one. But Gerald is a real good player, and it’s always fun to go against a better player – you always have to raise your own game then to a higher level so that was one of the reasons I thought it was a good workout; highly competitive. Guys were able to get after it.

F: And how many of these workouts have you attended?

M: This is my 11th one.

F: So it’s definitely a grind eh?

M: (Laughs) Yeah, definitely, definitely.

F: Take us through the process then after you were done at Marquette. You guys had an amazing season obviously, you were one of the top players in the Big East, and then you go right into this. Talk a little bit about the mental preparation and what you went through.

M: You know first, the main thing, well for me personally, I didn’t take a lot of time off. I knew this was coming up and I didn’t want to fall out of shape or anything so I took about a week off but then was in the gym ever since working on my body, getting myself ready mentally for all of this. When it comes up you know, it’s physically challenging but it’s more mentally than anything; all the travel, I mean city-to-city, you know, you’re only in every city for sometimes not even a day, then you’re back on a plane going somewhere else. Like I said it’s more mentally challenging than anything but at the same time everyday I wake up, you’ve gotta tell yourself this is an opportunity of a lifetime to come out for different NBA teams in different NBA cities working out, something you’ve dreamed about growing up. So you know, I’ll be tired later…I’ll just worry about this right now just knocking these out.

F: Is there anything in particular you’ve been working on that you felt people wanted to see more of? Obviously last year with James out you played the 1 sometimes…

M: Yeah, that’s been the main thing, is just the ability to play both positions. I think I’ve proven that I can play the 2 guard but there’s a lot of questions at the next level if I’m big enough to play the 2 guard, or how well will I translate to play the point but like you said, I spent a lot of time with the ball in my hands at Marquette this past year and things like that. The main thing I’ve been working on hasn’t been something so much on the court, it’s been something off; I’ve really been working a lot on my film breakdowns, looking at different films of myself trying to work on my decision making a lot more. You know, pin-pointing exact spots and times so that I can change my decision making so I make better decisions throughout the course of a game.

F: Just watching you today on the court and having seen you at Marquette quite a bit, and you’re executing the offense and stuff, now you see the NBA style of game where you have smaller kind of, what they used to call maybe combo guards, who are athletic and quick and getting wherever they want on the court – do you think that’s a big advantage now for someone like you?

M: Yeah, I definitely think it is. With this style of game like you said, in the NBA, I feel there’s just so much more room to operate and you have so many more opportunities to get in the lane and create help; which ultimately leads into open shots and baskets and things like that so that’s one of the things that I think is going to benefit me at the next level.

F: What about, have you talked to Wes or Dominic or any of the other guys from Marquette?

M: Yeah, I talk to both of those guys to get caught up; I just talked to Wes a couple of days ago and they’re going through pretty much the same process. We’re just trying to keep in touch as much as we can to make sure everyone’s doing alright. But it’s winding down now, we’ve got about another week.

F: And what about, have you been to Toronto before?

M: No, this is my first time. It’s a really nice city though.

F: You didn’t get a chance to look around though.

M: No, just driving in, driving through the city it just looks really nice.

F: Would you welcome being drafted by the Raptors?

M: Oh most definitely, you know, wherever I end up, whether it be here or somewhere else it would be a dream come true. Like I said, just to be on an NBA roster and be able to contribute any way I possibly can it would a big achievement, a big accomplishment for me. I welcome myself to any city (laughs!)

F: Let me ask you that, sometimes we hear up in Toronto there’s a stigma about coming up north to play in the NBA. Do you hear anything like that from other players; do you think that’s a myth or, from other kids who are coming out do you ever hear "aaah, I’ve gotta work out for the Raptors, not so sure I want to play up in Toronto," even if they’ve never been here before?

M: Everybody has their hearsay, me personally, I don’t pay much attention to it until I see something for myself and like I said, (sounding surprised), once I got here it looked like a big time city and I’m pretty sure they get really good fan support up this way as well. I’m pretty sure fans are really passionate, playing in a major city, a really nice city like I said, and being the only Canadian team you’ve probably got a huge fan base. You know, I haven’t heard a lot about that but like I said, you’ve really gotta put things aside and go and see it for yourself first.

F: Thanks man and good luck with the rest of the workouts.


-A few random HQ draft notes.

-Spent some time last night going over last year’s NCAA footage of Demar DeRozan. It’s so easy to fall in love with prospects this time of year that you find your original take on players changing, and you forget about all the game footage you spent January to April watching. Part of this was prompted by John Hollinger’s article yesterday, where a statistical analysis of DeRozan didn’t have him faring so well. Part of this was also prompted by RaptorsTV showing a replay of the Chicago pre-draft camp drills.

Watching the footage again it’s true that DeRozan is pure upside. He didn’t shoot well at USC, and didn’t stand out in any one area in particular, part of Hollinger’s issue. So I thought it might be interesting to compare the stats of DeRozan to Vince Carter and Andre Iguodala, two players his name is often linked to.

In his final season before entering the draft, Carter averaged:

15.6 points, 1.2 steals, 1.9 assists, 5.1 rebounds, and shot almost 60 per cent from the field.

Iguodala averaged:

12.9 points, 1.6 steals, 4.9 assists, 8.4 rebounds, and shot 45 per cent from the field.

Neither were great free-throw shooters (Carter was in the high sixties) but both were fairly solid from long-range (41 and 31.5 per cent respectively.)

DeRozan? Well after one season (and keep in my Iguodala played for two seasons and Carter for three before declaring) you can see that he put up very similar numbers:

13.9 points, 0.9 steals, 1.5 assists, 5.7 rebounds, and shot 52 per cent from the field.

So at face value, I’m not so sure why Hollinger is so down on DeRozan.

However looking at his percentages from the line and long-distance, 65 and 17 per cent respectively, you see the reason for concern.

But that’s not to say DeRozan can’t improve in this capacity. As my colleague Ray reported yesterday, there’s nothing "wrong" with DeRozan’s shot in terms of overall mechanics, he just needs to put in the work.

And considering DeRozan is one of the one-and-done cases that affects Hollinger’s stats, I’m not sure you can put a ton of weight into this as a fan. Instead, I think Hollinger’s grading system is useful in identifying that he is a high-risk pick. After all, we’re talking about a Hollinger grading system that while successfully identifying many "overrated prospects," it also whiffed on a number of strong yet undersized guards like Steve Logan and Reese Gaines.

Is Gerald Henderson a safer option?

Probably. But although deep down I’d still like to see Terrence Williams taken at 9, I’d be fine as well with DeRozan. For me, I’m not expecting this draft to make or break the 2009-10 season anyways and while I love the draft, am anxious to see what BC can cook up via free-agency.

-One final note. Also from the replay of the Chicago pre-draft camp, the ESPN crew spoke with Jeff Teague about where he had workouts scheduled. Surprise, surprise, one of those spots was Toronto. Obviously Teague hasn’t show up yet so I’m wondering if his agent nixed the idea for political reasons, or if this was a simple flight issue like Robert Dozier.

If it’s the latter, I expect to see Teague, a lottery lock in my opinion for next season had he returned to Wake Forest, up here in a final session early next week.