Former Maryland center Diamond Stone did not take part in 5-on-5 scrimmages at the NBA Combine last week. Instead, it seemed, the focus was on the interview process with team representatives as franchises familiarize themselves more with the 19-year-old big man.
And it became clear when Stone spoke to the media at the event in Chicago what his biggest public point of emphasis has become with the draft now about five weeks away.
“[I want to] show that I’m a mature young man who has some mistakes beginning of his college career,” Stone said. “But [I] have learned from it and moved on.”
Stone’s production on the floor in the minutes he played at Maryland was unquestioned. In under 23 minutes per game, he averaged 12.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks. He won the Associated Press’ Newcomer of the Year Award in the Big Ten.
But the underlying questions remained about his consistency, effort, and maturity. The most frontward-facing of those being an incident in during a home loss to Wisconsin in February when Stone shoved the head of Badgers forward Vitto Brown into the ground.
He was suspended one game by the program and issued a public apology.
Since signing with an agent and leaving College Park, Stone has been training at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. There, he says, he has continued to work on his body while adjusting to what will be a lifestyle change in the NBA.
“I was able to mature,” Stone said. “Living on my own, waking up on time, getting places 15 minutes before I was supposed to be there so I think that was the big thing with me.
“You’re all by yourself, you know. You have to wake up on time, on your own. No one’s waking you up -- you don’t have managers, your coach isn’t texting you to wake up and it’s literally hard work.”
The maturity question is one Stone will continually have to answer.
Surrounded by veterans like Jake Layman, Robert Carter, Jr., and Rasheed Sulaimon this past season, each did his part in trying to help Stone along in the process. Head coach Mark Turgeon worked to do the same. Stone credited him on Friday.
“Coach Turgeon, he’s a great coach and he knows how to get a lot out of his players and I think that he taught me how to be mentally prepared for that at the next level,” he said.
“Coaches are not really going to hold your hand at the next level. They’re just going to fine you or kick you out of practice. So I think he disciplined me, you know? I think he got me ready for the next step.”
DraftExpress.com currently projects Stone to go No. 33 overall to the Los Angeles Clippers, though team needs are not yet factored into the site’s projections.
At 6-10 with an impressive array of post moves for a 19 year old, teams will be intrigued. It may just be a matter of how many of the other questions he can answer.
The Combine was likely the start.
“It was a college town. I’m new. I’m a freshman and I think that’s just -- I experienced college,” he said. “After my freshman year, I look back at it and if I would do it again I would do -- what would I do differently?
“So I think that I learned from all my mistakes. I learned from everything and I think that IMG was kind of like a new leap, a brand new leap on and start new.”