Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
By MIKE GRIMALALAS VEGAS – For an NBA prospect like Isaiah Whitehead, every opportunity to improve his draft stock has to be taken very seriously. That’s why the Seton Hall guard felt a little nervous before Tuesday’s pro day at Impact Sports Academy in Las Vegas.
More than 120 scouts and front office executives from all 30 teams were on hand to watch the workout, and after going through some shooting and ball-handling drills and playing some 3-on-3 games, Whitehead said he was pleased with his performance, even if it took him a while to settle down.
“I don’t care who you are, if you’re coming in and playing in front of every scout and GM in the NBA, you’re going to have some nerves,” Whitehead said. “I think I was solid. I felt some [nerves] last night, but once I got here and got loose and made some shots, I got comfortable. I wasn’t great and I wasn’t bad. I think it was a solid day.”
Whitehead is widely projected as a second-round pick after averaging 18.2 points and 5.1 assists per game as a sophomore at Seton Hall last season. He has been in Las Vegas since the beginning of May, grinding away in preparation for the draft. On Saturday, the Brooklyn native and former Lincoln High School star was back home to work out in front of Knicks’ brass, including team president Phil Jackson, assistant general manager Allan Houston and new head coach Jeff Hornacek.
Whitehead said the triangle offense was a focal point of that workout.
“More than half of it was triangle offense,” he said. “I’ve never run anything like that. It was a lot to pick up, but once I got the hang of it I really excelled at it.”
Whitehead said Hornacek ran the workout and that the coach was “hands-on” in teaching the offense, and that the decision makers were complimentary of his play during post-workout interviews.
“I think I did pretty well for my first time running the triangle,” Whitehead said. “Coach Hornacek showed me a few things that really helped. It was a good workout. They really like me as a player, so that’s a blessing.”
Whitehead has been working to improve his jump shot and fine-tune his ball-handling over the past month, but he knows that no matter how well he performs in pre-draft showcases, there are no guarantees when it comes to the draft.
“Every team says they like me, but at the end of the day, are they going to pick me? Everybody can tell you that they like you, but they can always like someone else better. So you have to keep going hard and compete at a high level and try to move yourself up in the draft as much as possible.”
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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.