CHICAGO – When prospects at the NBA Combine last week were summoned to a meeting with the Trail Blazers, they were in for a surprise.
Unlike meetings with the Clippers, where waiting for them inside a hotel room was NBA legend Jerry West, or unlike meetings with the Lakers alongside Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, prospects walked into their Portland meeting to find …. Dana Sinclair.
“It was … different,’’ Duke wing Gary Trent Jr. said.
Sinclair is a sports performance psychologist who has been working with the Blazers since 2007. When she was first hired by then-general manager Kevin Pritchard, Sinclair would sometimes convene with the team on the road. But now, she is mostly in charge of handling the Blazers pre-draft intel.
According to some of the players Sinclair interviewed last week, they were given a checklist with various character traits. After they checked what they felt applied to them, there were a serious of questions.
“It was questions like, ‘What would people describe you as?’’’ Brian Bowen said. “And ‘What would you describe yourself as?’ It was interesting. It was her getting to know me personally. I liked it.’’
After the checklist and questions, the players talked with Sinclair and discussed the results. Some of the players said she nailed their personality.
“She was close,’’ Oregon’s Troy Brown said. “But she said she thought I was a little unsocial, and when she said that I was a little shocked. I was like, not me. Not me.’’
Bowen, the former Louisville recruit, said she nailed him.
“She formed and said things about me that were so accurate it was crazy,’’ Bowen said. “It was eye opening.’’
Bowen said there was nothing weird about the questions and noted that Minnesota asked him the most interesting question: If you were driving and approaching a yellow light, what would you do?
WILL BLAZERS’ SHAKE?
One of the prospects the Blazers interviewed in Chicago was SMU’s Shake Milton, who notes that he has “had my fair share” of adversity in his life.
This season as a junior, he broke his right hand, forcing him to miss the season’s final 11 games. And when he was 15, his father, Myrion, died in 2012 at age 43 because of a heart issue.
“My family was in my corner, and that’s all I needed,’’ Milton said.
A 6-foot-5 guard, Milton was the American Conference player of the year after averaging 18.0 points and 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists. He says he figures he will standout because of his shooting, his basketball intelligence and his defensive versatility.
“With my length, I can guard multiple positions,’’ Milton said. “I feel like I can do anything the coach asks me to do. The way the game is going – positionless basketball – you have to be able to guard multiple positions and knock down shots.’’
Even though his father is gone, his memory lives on with Milton’s nickname. His father, during his playing days at Texas A&M was called “Milkman.” So when his son was in the womb, he started calling him Shake … as in Milkshake.
So even though his proper name is Malik, Milton has always gone by Shake since he was born.
IN THE GENES
One of the top scorers the Blazers appear interested in is Boston College guard Jerome Robinson, who like Milton, has a father who played collegiately.
Jerome Sr. was a small forward who played at South Florida before a nine-year professional career overseas.
“I remember playing 1-on-1 against him when I was young and he would show no mercy,’’ Robinson said. “He was dunking and everything.’’
It wasn’t until high school that he beat his father and he says he hasn’t lost to him since.
Lonnie Walker, a standout defender at Miami who is expected to be a lottery pick, was asked at the combine who was his toughest player to guard. He didn’t hesitate.
“Jerome Robinson,’’ Walker said. “He gave me 30 points. I have to respect a guy who gave me a whole lot of buckets like that. He is a vet. You have to pay respect when it’s due. He knows his spots, how to shoot, how to score. It was definitely a challenge.’’
Robinson, who this season as a junior averaged 20.7 points while shooting 40.9 percent from three-point range, has been training with Noah LaRoche, the owner of Integrity Sports and the trainer of Russell Westbrook.
Robinson says he will be defined by two traits: hard work and character.
“Nothing was given to me, not even in my own household. I will work in the dark until I see the light,’’ Robinson said. “I don’t have a ridiculous wing span or ridiculous height, but I know that I have a mental advantage against guys I play against. That’s the way I attack the game.’’
One of the top names scheduled to workout in Portland in June is Duke wing Gary Trent, Jr.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because his father Gary Trent played with the Blazers from 1995-1998.
“He always he told me stories of those teams, and the name they had, the Jail Blazers,’’ Trent said. “But he told me funny stories, stories of him, JR (Rider), Rasheed (Wallace).’’
Trent Jr. as a freshman with Duke averaged 14.5 points and 4.2 rebounds. He carries himself with a brash confidence and says he will show NBA teams that he can be a prolific scorer. He is projected to go anywhere from the mid-teens to the second round.
“I honestly feel like I’m better than that,’’ Trent said. “I can score with the best of them – post, mid range, three, off the dribble, catch and shoot. I feel like there is not situation on the offensive end that I can’t do. ‘’
Part of that confidence comes from being schooled by his father, not only in the nuances of the game, but also the draft process.
“It’s almost as if I had a cheat sheet,’’ Trent said. “My father has been through it all – the combine, the one-year deals, the three-year deals. He’s been at the bottom of the bench, a key contributor off the bench. He’s been through every situation, and that’s the plus of having a father who played.’’
Trent is also well-schooled on the current Blazers, and said he felt he could make an immediate impact in Portland.
“I think I could come in right away and help be a nice spark, come in and knock down shots,’’ Trent said. “There is so much pressure on Dame and CJ, I would probably just get easy buckets just spotting up and doing little things like that.
“And scoring when I need to – drive, catch and shoot, play make, drop off to them and Harkless and all them guys … the big man, how do you say his name again? Nurkic, yeah, he’s a talented player, too. They have a lot going on, a lot of good things.’’