Tyler Herro: For Kentucky players, being a pro starts long before the NBA
In saying how a season as a Kentucky freshman helped get him to the NBA Combine — and he hopes beyond — Tyler Herro all but quoted the pitchman on the television car rental commercial. UK taught him to “go like a pro.”
“They really prepare you to be a professional,” he said Friday. “That’s really the reason I went to Kentucky. To enjoy a great year of college and be the professional I hope to be someday.”
In Herro’s telling, the lessons in being a pro began almost immediately upon his arrival from Wisconsin as a well-thought of, if not wildly-heralded, recruit. He credited UK Coach John Calipari.
“Since the day I stepped on campus for the first time, he just taught me and the rest of my teammates how to be pros, and how to go about everything professionally. Just do things on time. Be a grown man. Obviously, (I’m) stepping into a grown man’s world.”
Calipari and associate coach Kenny Payne continued to counsel him throughout the season and into this week’s Combine.
“Just enjoy the process,” he said of the coaches’ advice. “You can only do it once, so enjoy it. To take it one day at a time and continue to get better every single day.”
Calipari’s influence showed in Herro’s announcement of entering his name in this year’s NBA Draft. In his initial announcement, Herro kept open the option of playing for UK next season. Then a week or so later, he announced that would stay in the draft.
“Coach Cal just wanted to get as much feedback as possible for me,” Herro said of this interim period. “I pretty much told them … I was pretty much leaving no matter what. But he said, ‘Just leave it open. I’ll get the right feedback for you.’ And he got what I wanted to hear.”
“Top-20 pick,” Herro said.
PJ’s ‘little brother’
Outgoing sophomore PJ Washington and incoming freshman Tyrese Maxey are both from Dallas. They shared the same trainer. Washington vouched for Maxey being capable of making an impact for UK next season.
“I’ve been knowing him since he was, like, in the first grade,” Washington said. “He’s always been dominant. I expect nothing less of him (in 2019-20).”
Washington likened Maxey to former Florida standout and current Washington Wizard Bradley Beal: a two-way player who can defend as well as score.
Of Maxey teaming with Ashton Hagans as a defensive-minded backcourt duo next season, Washington said, “I feel they’re both going to step to the plate and do what they need to do.”
During the telecast of the NBA lottery selection-of-order show, Herro and Washington got plenty of exposure. Herro sat directly behind Duke star Zion Williamson, the expected first overall pick. Washington sat two seats to Williamson’s right.
Nearly every time the camera showed Williamson’s reaction, there were Herro and Washington.
“I was just in the background,” said Herro, who added that the players were assigned seats. “It was all Zion.”
Herro said he received photos of himself with Williamson.
Washington did not. “There’s no wifi in the hotel,” he said. “So you can’t really talk to anybody.”
After a standout freshman season, Charles Bassey of Western Kentucky entered his name in this year’s NBA Draft. He participated in the NBA Combine while keeping open the option of playing another season of college basketball.
“Everybody wants to stay in the draft,” he said. “That’s the goal.”
Bassey, who is 6-11, averaged a double-double for WKU last season: 14.6 points and 10.0 rebounds. He also led the Hilltoppers with 81 blocks while making nearly half his three-point shots (nine of 20). He was named Conference USA’s Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.
When asked why he entered the draft, Bassey said, “Just the way I played. I just feel I can do this.”
Bassey dismissed mock drafts that have him being selected late in the second round. “I just feel I’m better than that,” he said. “I don’t look at mock drafts. My game is going to speak for itself.”
In his first Combine game, Bassey made one of six shots, scored five points and grabbed four rebounds.
Grant Williams said he planned to announce Saturday if he will stay in this year’s NBA Draft or return to Tennessee for a senior season.
“I’m a very analytical guy,” he said. “I’ll weigh everything about going back or staying in. And then I’ll judge. … There’s no right or wrong in my decision. So I think there’s two rights.”
Tennessee teammate Jordan Bone said he planned to make a decision about staying in the draft or returning to UT on May 29, which is the NCAA deadline for withdrawing and retaining college eligibility.