NEW YORK — Sunday was a homecoming of sorts for Andre Drummond.
The 6-foot-10 rookie out of Mount Vernon, N.Y., made his first appearance at Madison Square Garden with the Detroit Pistons in a game the Knicks won, 121-100.
Drummond managed a game-best 11 rebounds, two points and three blocks.
“He’s got a long way to go but he works at it every day and when you have that sort of character and approach, good things will happen,” Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said before the game.
The Pistons selected Drummond, 19, ninth overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, based largely on the potential he flashed in his one year at UConn.
That year was unique because Drummond did not arrive at UConn until August after deciding to reclassify during the summer. His coach, former UConn coach Jim Calhoun, was also suspended for the first three games of the Big East season.
Displaying a lack of leadership and cohesion in the post-Kemba Walker Era, the reigning NCAA champion Huskies were then bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Iowa State.
Drummond headed to the NBA, as did teammate Jeremy Lamb, who was drafted by the Houston Rockets.
“So we just saw a guy who was an athletic guy,” Frank said. “And his character was right and it was going to take him a while to develop the skill level down the road.”
Drummond has flashed that skill level early.
He put up his first career double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds in Friday’s win over Toronto, but Drummond deflected praise.
“It’s not all about me,” he said. “It was a great team win. We all came out and played our ‘A’ game and we came out with a win.”
Frank said he’s been most impressed with Drummond’s character and work ethic.
“The thing that’s impressed us the most is his character,” he said.”He’s as coachable a young man as you can be around. Very eager to learn, super listener, wants to do well. And it’s a great credit to him and his mom and he’s a put-together young man.”
Drummond said the hardest part of his adjustment to NBA life is getting used to the pace of the game and the busy NBA schedule.
“Just how quick everything moves and how many games you play,” he said. “You gotta try and get your body right. You gotta watch what what you do because if you don’t take care of your body you gonna be hurting the next day.”
As far as his diet, he said: “I”ll cheat once in a while and get a couple things from my sister, but you can’t really do that no more because it will catch up to you.”
Drummond has kept an eye on his former UConn team and watched the Huskies beat Michigan State on a military base in Germany in the season-opener, as well as their double-OT win over Quinnipiac.
“But other than that Coach [Kevin] Ollie has them playing,” Drummond said. “They look real good.”
Ollie’s contract runs only through early April, but Drummond believes he will do what it takes to become UConn’s coach for the long haul.
“I’m just pretty sure that he’s going to be there for a long time because everybody loves ‘KO,'” Drummond said. “He’s just one of those guys that you can’t help but love because he always has the best interests at heart. He knows what he’s doing. He’s been around the game so he knows what he has to do to get the guys prepared.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.