Damion James has two good friends who have gone through the NBA Draft process to turn to if he ever has any questions. During his four years at Texas, Damion got to see two teammates who he calls brothers go in the NBA Draft lottery, Kevin Durant and DJ Augustin. As he tells us, they helped each other through their college careers, so there’s little questions that DJ and Kevin would be quick to give Damion advice if he ever needed it.
“They’re like my brothers. I love them to death. There is nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for them. I had a great college experience with those guys and all the other players that I was able to play with,” said Damion of his relationship with Durant and Augustin.
So far, James hasn’t had to rely on the advice of others, bringing unparalleled heart and work-ethic to all of his workouts. The circus known as the NBA Draft process has taken Damion all over the country, from Miami to Oakland. In his workouts he’s been going up against players like Al-Farouq Aminu, Gordon Hayward, Luke Babbitt, and Patrick Patterson. The blend of players he’s going against suggests that James might have a different role in the NBA than he did at Texas.
“People really don’t know how well I can handle the ball. I’m really not a four, I just played that at Texas you know because that’s what was best for my team because I was the best rebounder. It’s gonna be a lot easier for me now because I can play the wing which is my position. But sometimes I’m gonna have to play the four because, you know, the way the games played now smaller fours are playing a lot so that’s what makes me so valuable in this draft.”
While he may have been playing out of position at power forward, it didn’t stop James from putting up All-American like numbers while in Austin averaging 18 points and over 10 rebounds per game. As a senior year, he improved across the board, so when people talk of limited potential James just shrugs it off.
“I really don’t know what to say about that. I just know that the team that drafts me is gonna have a player that’s ready to come in and play right away. You know, they won’t have to wait for me to develop. I’m gonna come in right away, knowing what I do and I’m gonna do it to the best of my ability. Guys with potential sometimes it might take them 2, 3, 4 years to develop. Sometimes that potential stuff might not work out so I think a team that gets me is gonna have a great competitor, a player that plays hard and knows what he’s doing.”
Currently, James is projected to be the first senior off the board and go somewhere in the mid to late first round. He told us that he wasn’t exactly sure when his name would be called, but he said that things were looking good. Whenever his name comes off the board any team that passes on him, and the player they select, may come to regret it over the course of James’ career.
“Ah man. I’m just gonna let them know there ain’t no way you can’t compete with me and bring the things I bring. Really just take it personal man, and not only take it out on a player but on his team.”
(Please read the full transcript from our interview with Damion)
The Rookie Wall: You had some pretty freakish numbers in high school but weren’t selected to the McDonald’s All-American game. How did that affect you?
Damion James: Umm, it really, I’ve always been a hard worker so I mean I looked at statistics and a lot of the time like 25 dudes make the team but only really like 5 or 6 really have great college careers or even have a chance to play in the NBA. That really didn’t matter to me, I’ve always worked hard and it would have been special to make it but I think my situation worked out perfect.
TRW: What was it like playing with Kevin Durant and DJ Augustin at Texas?
DJ: Unbelievable man, they’re like my brothers, I love them to death. There is nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for them. I had a great college experience with those guys and all the other players that I was able to play with, so it was great.
TRW: What did you learn from [Kevin and DJ] either on or off the court?
DJ: Really, I think we learned from each other. I think just being around each other and everybody’s different personalities really helped each other. We all came from different backgrounds so I learned how to carry myself better. I’m a country kid, and [Kevin’s] from D.C., and [D.J.’s] from New Orleans. So I learned how to carry myself better, and how to act around different people, and when to be Damion and when not to be Damion. I really learned a lot from them.
TRW: What do you mean by be Damion or not be Damion?
DJ: I’m a cool person but when I get around people I kinda like to stick to myself so they just told me to just be myself.
TRW: Your junior year you entered your name into the NBA draft, but ended up coming back to school. Why was that? What did you want to come back to work on?
DJ: Really, I just went back because I wanted to be in a better position of getting drafted, go as high as possible, and also I was going back to a great team. We still had a great team, we just went through some bumps in the road, and things like that happen but I just went back to prove to myself and the country that I could play college basketball.
TRW: What do you think about fellow teammate Avery Bradley declaring for the draft? Have you talked with him at all about it?
DJ: I think Avery will be great. He works hard, he’s a competitor, and those are the types of things I think NBA teams look for; a player who can work hard and compete because that wins ball games. I think he’s gonna be great. I told him to just follow his dream.
TRW: A lot of the top rated prospects are underclassmen, and playing four years gives scouts time to pick your game apart. What do you say when people say you don’t have the potential of some of the other players?
DJ: Umm, I don’t know man. I really don’t know what to say about that. I just know that the team that drafts me is gonna have a player that’s ready to come in and play right away. You know, they won’t have to wait for me to develop. I’m gonna come in right away, knowing what I do and I’m gonna do it to the best of my ability. Guys with potential sometimes it might take them 2, 3, 4 years to develop. Sometimes that potential stuff might not work out so I think a team that gets me is gonna have a great competitor, a player that plays hard and knows what he’s doing.
TRW: You have a long frame, what aspects of your game does having such a long wingspan for your height help you with?
DJ: It’s gonna help me a lot. It will help me being able to finish against taller guys, help me in transition, and help me with defense, and continue to help me with rebounding.
TRW: You originally signed with Oklahoma out of high school but chose Texas after Coach Sampson went on to Indiana. Why didn’t you follow him to Indiana?
DJ: It wasn’t my destiny to go to Indiana. My destiny was to go to Texas. You know, God had a plan for me and it worked out great man. Coach Sampson had to do what he had to do for his family and I had to do the same. It worked out great man. He’s been successful, and I’m being successful so it’s all good.
TRW: What was the NBA combine like? Were you nervous at all?
DJ: It was great. It was a great experience, I enjoyed it, and I looked forward to it. I play basketball for a living, so if I’m not comfortable doing nothing, I’m comfortable playing basketball.
TRW: What do you think is the one thing you can bring right away to an NBA team?
DJ: When my numbers called the number one thing I’m gonna bring is heart, and I’m gonna compete. And then I’m gonna rebound, I’m gonna play defense, I’m gonna score easy buckets, and I’m gonna knock down open shots. I’m gonna do all the little things, the things that it takes to win ball games.
TRW: What do you think is the most common misconception people have about your game?
DJ: People really don’t know how well I can handle the ball. I’m really not a four, I just played that at Texas you know because that’s what was best for my team because I was the best rebounder. It’s gonna be a lot easier for me now because I can play the wing which is my position. But sometimes I’m gonna have to play the four because you know the way the games played now smaller fours are playing a lot so that’s what makes me so valuable in this draft. We’ll see what happens man.
TRW: Which NBA teams have you already worked out for?
DJ: I’ve worked out for the Bulls, Spurs, the Heat, Golden State, Utah, Indiana.
TRW: Which one of those workouts do you feel you performed at your best?
DJ: I think I performed pretty good at all those. I really can’t point my finger on one. I think I competed and did what I do best in all of them.
TRW: What’s the entire draft process like with all of the flying, meeting with team personnel, and working out?
DJ: I really cant complain because it’s the life that I chose to live. It’s great man, I can’t complain and I won’t complain.
TRW: Who else were you competing against in the workouts?
DJ: Luke Babbitt, Gordon Hayward, Al-Farouq Aminu, Patrick Patterson, all those guys.
TRW: What other teams are you scheduled to workout with?
DJ: I really don’t know man. My agent just sends me a schedule and tells me where I go from there.
TRW: Are you hearing anything about where you may end up being drafted?
DJ: I don’t know man, we’ll have to see. It’s looking pretty good though.
TRW: If you had your choice, is there a specific team you would like to play for?
DJ: Na, not one man, I’m just looking forward to playing.
TRW: What’s it like being only a few days away from having your dream come true?
DJ: Ah man, you’ll never know, you’ll never know man. It’s so exciting. Every night I go to sleep and thank God for this situation, it’s a blessing. It’s exciting man, I look forward to it.
TRW: What’s it going to mean to you when you hear your name called on draft night?
DJ: I might cry.
TRW: Do you have any plans yet on where you’ll be watching the draft?
DJ: I might be in New York, but I don’t know, we’ll find out next week.
TRW: What do you plan on buying with your first NBA paycheck?
DJ: I don’t know. I’m gonna thank God and tell him I want one million more.
TRW: How do you think you’ll stack up against the other rookies in your first year?
DJ: Ah man. I’m just gonna let them know there ain’t no way you can compete with me and bring the things I bring. Really just take it personal man, and not only take it out on a player but on his team.
TRW: I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to do this interview with us. Best of luck on draft night.
DJ: Thanks man, and look forward to me contending for the Rookie of the Year award.
TRW: Well, we’re a website that covers NBA rookies exclusively, so we’ll be covering you all season long and we can’t wait to write the piece when you win the award.
DJ: [Laughter] Alright, thanks a lot man.