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NBA Pre-Draft Interviews 2




/ June 23, 2004

Wednesday in New York, the basketball media world and a group of top prospects for the 2004 NBA draft met for interviews. Here's some of what Shaun Livingston, Sergei Monia, Jameer Nelson, Emeka Okafor, Josh Smith and Kirk Snyder said. Be sure to see Interviews Page 1 with more players.

SHAUN LIVINGSTON, Peoria Central HS (Peoria, Ill.)

Q: Can you talk about the emotions your going through today.

Livingston: Itís exciting. Iím very happy to be where Iím at and Iím just trying to enjoy it -- a lot of nerves going on right now and just happy that itís here.

Q: Are you anxious to prove wrong the critics who say youíre too skinny or too young to play in this league?

Livingston: I just want to let my game take care of that and just go out and play. I have to improve on a lot of things. But as long as I keep that mentality, I feel that things will work out for me.

Q: What are some of the things that you need to improve on?

Livingston: Definitely strength. I feel like I can get stronger. Perimeter shooting Ö I think my perimeter shooting can get a lot better. And, using my length to my advantage.

Q: What part of your game is most ready?

Livingston: I feel my ability to make others around me better is going to help me out. I feel like a lot of people can feed on that and it can become contagious to the team.

Q: Playing at ABCD Camp last year, did you ever think you would be here today?

Livingston: No, it didnít cross my mind. I planned on going to college. I didnít have any idea at all that I would go straight to the NBA. I always knew it was my dream, but you just have to prepare for things as they come at you.

SERGEI MONIA, CSKA Moscow (Russia)
(A translator provided these responses)

Q: Is it your plan to be in the NBA next season, or will you have to spend another year in Europe?

Monia: Iím under contract with CSKA and thereís a chance they wonít let me go right away, but for sure I can come next year. But the situation depends on where I get drafted.

Q: Will it have to do with CSKA hosting the Euroleague Final Four and wanting badly to win?

Monia: CSKA took on the responsibility of hosting the Final Four and obviously they want to have the best team possible.

Q: How do you think youíll be able to adapt to the more physical style of the NBA?

Monia: I think everything will be okay. Iíve always played on teams with a lot of athletic players. Iíve been practicing with athletic American players every year and so Iím pretty used to it.

Q: At the beginning of the season, did you think it was possible to become a top-15 pick in the NBA draft?

Monia: Of course, I didnít think about this. Itís just how it turned out. Iím very happy that teams took such an interest in me and I guess this the result.

Q: Thereís talk that Utah has serious interest in you with the 14th pick. With that be a good fit, seeing as how they have Andrei Kirilenko?

Monia: Utah would be a very good option. I know Andrei very well. Heís told me a lot of good things about the Utah Jazz and I think it would be a great situation.

Q: What position do you think youíll play in the NBA?

Monia: I can play either the two or three, depending on the situation in the game and who Iím playing against.

Q: Is the language barrier a major concern?

Monia: Iím studying English and trying very hard to become better at it. My coach in Russia only speaks English, so Iím getting better all the time and I donít see it being a problem.


Q: Your last workout was for New Orleans. Why go there when they pick 18?

Nelson: There is no guarantee that Iím going to go Ö wherever people project me to go. I feel it was a good idea for me to get out and try to do as many teams as I could, so they could see me up close.

Q: How would you feel backing up Baron Davis?

Nelson: I would love to back up anybody in the NBA. Baron Davis would be great for me because he is a veteran player but he is still young. Iím quite sure he could teach me a lot.

Q: Do you think you could play together?

Nelson: Yes. We are two strong guards. Heís probably 6-3, 6-4, so we can definitely play together.

Q: What was the most difficult thing about all the traveling involved in this process?

Nelson: Not be able to see my son.

Q: Every year, someone in the Green Room goes later than expected. Do you have any fear of that?

Nelson: Iím just fortunate to be in the Green Room. Thatís how I look at it. Iím going to take advantage of the opportunity. Iím going to get drafted somewhere. So, when I do get drafted, Iím going to be happy; whether thatís 29, one, or wherever, I just want to get drafted.

Q: Youíve been linked to Miami. How did that workout go? What kind of fit do you think that would be?

Nelson: That was one of my better workouts. That was fun, too. Me and Delonte (West) were there together. It would be a great fit. Whether Iím a starter or backup, Iíll come in the game and fulfill my role.

EMEKA OKAFOR, Connecticut

Q: Do you have a feel for where you might go?

Okafor: I donít know. Itís a crazy time of year, trade rumors, this-that. Picks get swapped. You never really know what happens until tomorrow night.

Q: Thereís talk about you or Dwight Howard going with the No. 1 pick. Have you thought about how it will feel if your name is called first?

Okafor: I mean, thinking about it really isnít going to do anything. I can think about a lot of things that wonít necessarily happen. Itís completely out of my control. Iíve done all I can do. I went through the season. I have a national championship. I went out and played hard through the years. So, itís up to the GMís to decide what they want, what theyíre looking for, what direction theyíre trying to go with their team.

Q: Howís your back feeling?

Okafor: My back is fine. Iíve got to get that shirt made, dang.

Q: With Tracy McGrady wanting out and Steve Francis saying he doesnít want to go to Orlando, why would you want to go to Orlando?

Okafor: Beggers canít be choosers. I really havenít proven anything in the NBA, so I canít really start opening my mouth and making demands, this and that. So, wherever I end up, Iím just going to play, have my fun and I really think that wherever I go I can have an impact.

Q: Would you have a preference as to where you go?

Okafor: No.

Q: If Charlotte picked you with their first pick, what would appeal to you about being a cornerstone of that franchise?

Okafor: The deal with Charlotte is that who gets picked there is going to be their first pick ever. Thatís a neat thing. Expansion teams have been known to struggle and itís going to be challenging for whoever ends up there, but it could be a very interesting situation.

Q: Everybody talks about Dwight Howardís upside, but youíre only 21 years old.

Okafor: Yeah, Iíve got a couple years of playing time in me left. I know Iíve nowhere reached anywhere near where I believe I can go. I think my upside is as big as anybody else in this draft. I think I have a lot to offer now and even more in the future.

Q: Would you take it as a slap in the face if a high school player is taken ahead of you?

Okafor: Thatís the way it goes sometimes. Everybody gets caught up in the what-could-be and doesnít look at the what-is right now. Itís kind of like everybodyís chasing for the two birds in a bush but not keeping one in their hand. But thatís they way things operate.

JOSH SMITH, Oak Hill Academy (Mouth of Wilson, Va.)

Q: Last year going to the Adidas ABCD Camp, did you ever picture yourself being in this position to be drafted?

Smith: No, I didnít picture it. But, strange things happen at strange times. I just came into my senior year feeling really confident about myself and me playing well I got a shot at going straight to the NBA, so I took advantage of it.

Q: With your AAU teammate Dwight Howard going either No. 1 or No. 2, that leaves Atlanta at No. 6. How do you feel about the possibility of being drafted by the Hawks?

Smith: Itíd be a great honor to play for them. Itíll be a great honor to play for anybody, but thatís my hometown, I know people there. So, itíd probably be more comfortable playing there.

Q: You passed up attending Indiana. Do you still intend on getting a college degree?

Smith: Yes, I do. I intend on going back in the summer time and getting my degree.

Q: Have you decided on a major?

Smith: Either business management or sports management.

Q: Have you thought that the transition from high school to the NBA is more than just being a great player but that youíre making the transition from being a boy to a man?

Smith: Yes, I do. I understand that because youíve got to think about everybody in the NBA is athletic. So, you pretty much have to have the total package to be that outstanding player.

Q: Did you watch LeBron James last year and learn from his transition?

Smith: Yeah, I saw how he was able to excel pretty well last year. Basically what he did, he opened a little bit more doors to high school players to make their decision and feel comfortable about their decision.

Q: Whatís your best ability?

Smith: My athleticism.

Q: What do you think will be harder for you, playing 82 games or the mental and emotional aspects of thinking that this is a job?

Smith: I probably have to say 82 games. I played a lot of games in a season, but not 82 games. I think that all rookies are going to struggle with that because most of them are used to playing 35-40 games. Playing 82 games is probably going to be more of a mental thing.


Q: What do you think about being invited to sit in the Green Room?

Snyder: Itís pretty special. They only allow something like 14 or 15 people to come. Itís definitely an honor for me.

Q: You didnít take the traditional route in getting to this point, going to a smaller school, not having as big of a reputation. What do you make of that?

Snyder: Iím kind of happy it didnít go like that for me. Because I got a little more out of it. I understand how things work a little bit better. I had to deal with some different things. It wasnít just a clear path to the NBA. I had to work at it in order to put myself in this position. In high school, I got invited to some of the bigger camps, but I didnít go because I had other things to do in my household. My mother didnít think it was the right thing at the time. I had to stay home and take on some other responsibilities, like taking care of my sisters.

Q: When you first put your name, you were thought of as more of a late first-round pick. Whatís happened since?

Snyder: A lot of this stuff is political. I just basically went to workouts and showed what I am, who I am, how big I am, how fast I can move. Teams realized that it didnít matter what school I went to. They saw that I can play the game. It hasnít been the easiest road, but everything happens for a reason. I had to keep at it. And it turned out okay.

Q: Is it nice to have the workout portion of this process complete and you can sit back and see where the chips fall?

Snyder: I wasnít that hard. To be honest, the workouts werenít that challenging for me. It was what Iíd be doing if I wasnít entering the draft, and itís even easier because youíve got guys throwing you the ball. You donít have to go chasing after every ball. I enjoyed that part of it.

Q: Do you think your results in some of the physical testing really opened some eyes about you?

Snyder: Iím a pretty gifted athlete. I can run and jump as high as the next person. And I think I have a pretty well-rounded game to go with it. And as long as I play defense, Iíll be okay. All coaches want guys to defend, then they get the chance to do some things on offense.

Be sure to see Interviews Page 1 with more players.

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