As you all know, we spent June covering the potential mid-major draft picks, and followed up with a brief round-up of those players who (drafted or otherwise) would be participating in the NBA's Summer League games.
The other day, through the incredible wizardry that is Twitter (and the surprising politeness of a very busy basketball player), I was able to procure an interview with Zack Rosen, a point guard out of the University of Pennsylvania who was not drafted but will be playing for the Philadelphia 76ers on their summer league squad in the upcoming Orlando tournament.
I did my research on Zack to make sure that I wasn't rehashing old material in our interview; his blog posts for DraftExpress, his interview with Sporting News, his profile in the Penn school paper and so on - so how'd it go with the potential future NBA point guard?
Zack is running late, but under-promises and over-delivers - after saying he will be fifteen minutes late he arrives on the other end of the phone with three minutes to spare. I personally am impressed by his well-spoken and rather humble approach, though I can't be shocked at that from a man who passed on better basketball schools for the chance to play at Penn. We jumped right into talk of being drafted (or not):
Mid-Major Madness: Did you have contact with any teams on draft day about a possible selection, or did the calls come after when the summer league rosters were filling up?
Zack Rosen: We had done our work in advance and weren’t expecting anything on draft night. GM’s were up front with us that draft night likely wasn’t going to go our way, but that we’d get a good shot at a summer league. I wasn’t part of the conversations, but I’m going to capitalize on the opportunity.
MMM: You have regularly brought your blog posts over at DraftExpress, tweets, and other forms of communication with the world back around to that one simple phrase - "why not"? So I'll ask you that - why not you? What would keep you out of the NBA?
ZR: Looks – I think the draft this year shows that it’s really about cosmetics. For me now, it comes down to performance at this point. They [the teams that have scouted you] obviously recognize some things about you. If a guy like me doesn’t absolutely tear it up in the summer league, you’re going to have a difficult time. This will also be an interesting year since, due to the lockout last year, a lot of guys who didn't get looks in a summer league last year are trying to get in on top of this year’s crowd.
MMM: Now that you are headed to the summer league, are you gunning to wind up on Philadelphia's roster specifically, or will you be happy to wind up on any roster that is willing to give you a chance?
ZR: To me you try to take care of every area, you’ve got to have every stone unturned in the process. Do everything you can to maximize your potential – strength, nutrition, everything. I’m just going to go down with the mentality to compete my butt off and whatever that means, it means.
MMM: Do you think that your (deserved) academic reputation as a Penn graduate causes scouts to steer towards "smart Ivy League kid" versus "smart and athletic"?
Yeah, that's definitely the case. Everyone is going to look at (Ivy League guys like me or Jeremy Lin) and say things like "he’s so cerebral" or "he’s a student of the game", and sure they apply, but I think they are naturally overstated.
MMM; With regard to athleticism - you mentioned being surprised at your having the fastest shuttle time in the Jersey combine - do you think that is an undervalued aspect of your game?
ZR: We played a low possession game in college because we had to – we had a small number of guys, so we had to slow the game down and grind it out, but I both play and find guys well in transition. I haven’t been able to play that way because we don’t have those kinds of athletes (at Penn), but I think that's an area I can be an asset.
MMM: Speaking of Jeremy Lin, do you think his success has any impact on your ability to succeed in the league?
ZR: It can’t hurt, it can only help. What he has done and will continue to do can definitely only help, but I’m going to do it myself and if I succeed that’s great.
MMM: You previously mentioned the possibility of heading overseas, namely to Israel Have you had any talks yet with European teams or Israel in particular to have a contingency plan in place if the NBA doesn't pan out?
ZR: We have inquiries overseas, and that's just as serious a pursuit - that’s not something I would take or talk about lightly. The opportunity to play over there and live the lifestyle (those kinds of salaries) would afford, could be a great thing. For now I’ll go to the Sixers and have a nine day thing where I try to perform, be a good teammate and leader, and see where that takes me.
MMM: You mentioned being a big fan of your past coaches - do you think you might ever try and follow their footsteps down the coaching path?
ZR: I don’t see myself outside the game of basketball, and that’s a ways off. Coach Hurley (Rosen’s coach at Saint Benedict) had the greatest impact on me, and I see being a high school coach as a way to change the trajectories of young kids’ lives. That’s special, that wakes you up in the morning.
MMM: Would you seek out those similar community service opportunities if you succeed in making an NBA roster?
ZR: Absolutely. I think that’s the greatest and underutilized opportunity for players. Steve Nash’s new company (Liquid Nutrition) is great - because he plays the way he does and performs, kids like to emulate him and he’s using it as a way to promote healthy living and nutrition.
MMM: One last question - any plans on visiting Disney World while you're down in Orlando?
ZR: I’m not a big rollercoaster guy, but I might go and play with the Disney characters. No, I' don't have any plans for that, I'm sure they'll keep us plenty busy - and exhausted - with whatever they have us doing for the league.
Many thanks to Zack for the time he set aside in his summer league preparations to talk with us here at Mid-Major Madness. Keep your eyes on all the summer action and check back later for a possible post-Orlando conversation with Zack.