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Q&A with Darin Green Jr: On Testing the NBA Draft Waters and Improving for Next Season

Green announced last week that he is returning to the Knights after declaring for the draft in April

Darin Green Jr. had an historic freshman season at UCF. As a sophomore, he says he wants to “be able to do more than just shoot.”
Photo: Derek Warden

Darin Green Jr. already knows what he does well on the basketball court. He’s a fantastic shooter, of course. The UCF record book will reflect this. NBA evaluators know it, too.

His prolific 3-point stroke isn’t why Green declared for the NBA Draft last month. He wasn’t really looking to turn pro after one season in college. He was just looking for some guidance.

So, Green, as many early-entry players do every year, requested an evaluation from the NBA’s Undergraduate Advisory Committee. This evaluation, which is supposed to contain input from all 30 NBA teams, would give Green a clear idea of where to raise his game, not only for next season with the UCF Knights, but for that time down the road when he is ready to take the plunge into the league.

In a normal year, Green would also take part in workouts and interviews with team personnel. Perhaps even participate in the NBA Combine, and generally receive an understanding of the league’s pre-draft process.

But the process is out of whack in 2020 thanks to the coronavirus. There are no in-person workouts. The combine has been postponed indefinitely. Green said he didn’t have any virtual meetings with anyone. He was judged solely off of his game film.

During his virtual press conference Tuesday, Green talked about the feedback he received from the UAC, the abrupt end to the Knights’ most recent season and what he wants to achieve as a sophomore in 2020-21.

Obligatory note: This transcript has been lightly edited.

Q: Talk about the decision-making process you went through as you decided to put your name into the NBA Draft. Whom did you talk to?

Darin Green Jr: “I talked to my dad. Coach (Johnny) Dawkins, of course. Coach Norris and Coach Drew. My whole point in doing it was pretty much for feedback. Seeing the situation we’re going through with COVID-19, there weren’t really workouts; it was kind of based off film. Coach Dawkins said he didn’t think it would hurt to at least go get that feedback from those teams. And so, I went in and did it.”

Q: Talk about that feedback. What were the positive points that you heard about your game, and what were some areas that they suggested you could work on?

DG: “It was pretty much the same that Coach Dawkins and the team tell me: That I should work on my ball-handling. I think I can shoot, but putting the ball on the ground a little more, being more vocal, things like that.”

Q: What do you want to learn more of in your return to college basketball?

DG: “Definitely just to improve my game. I want to become a better leader on the court. I want to be able to do more than just shoot. Get to the hole, put the ball on the ground. I felt like this year, when we were getting pressed, (I could have) came to the ball a little bit more. Just improve my game.”

Q: Talk about how your game evolved and how your confidence soared as you experienced success on the court this season?

DG: “I got more comfortable on the court. That came from my coaches and my teammates; they gave me the confidence. I felt like if I passed up some shots, my teammates would tell me to shoot and my coach would tell me to shoot. That just brought me confidence. I felt like I got more comfortable putting the ball on the floor toward the end of the year. I feel like I need to work on defense a little more, but I feel like I was in the right spots, and I feel like I got stronger throughout the season. I’m ready to carry that on to next season.”

Q: This season obviously didn’t end the way anyone expected. Do you feel like the team ever got a sense of closure?

DG: “I feel like we had some unfinished business, to be honest. I felt like we could have went far, further than people expected. We underachieved this year, honestly. I think we had a lot to prove come conference tournament time.”

Q: After putting up impressive numbers and getting a lot of playing time as a freshman, do you feel like you are developing into more of a leader?

DG: “Yeah, I definitely feel like I’m developing into a leader. I felt that toward the end of last season. I don’t think my role is going to change too much. That’s all on me to prove to Coach that I can do a little bit more than just shoot.”

Q: Going back to the conference tournament, what was the moment like when you found out that it had been canceled?

DG: “It was almost unbelievable. I was like, ‘Man, my freshman season is really over?’ Then seeing our seniors, their college career ending like that, it’s something that I wouldn’t ever want to go through in my senior year. I hated it in my freshman year, and I still have more time to play. Their college career ended. Coach always tells us that tomorrow’s not promised. That was the truth that day.”

Q: What does this team need to do to improve next season?

DG: “Leadership — that’s the biggest thing. We need way more leadership. Everyone fights for each other already, so we need a strong leader.”

Q: When you think back on your freshman season, what was the top moment for you?

DG: “For me personally, the game against Tulsa. Me and Matt Williams, we used to go back and forth about me breaking his record (of 11 3-pointers in a game). And then during that game, I thought I was going to hit 12 3s actually. That’s just the way I was feeling. I didn’t get 12 3s, but I hit a good percentage, and that was my career-high. That was a good game. And we got a win.”

Q: How have you been working on your game during this time?

DG: “I have weights at home. Our trainer sent us some resistance bands. I’ve been staying in shape by running, lifting, getting some squats, some pushups, situps. There’s a park not too far from my house, so I go to the park and get my shots up every day. I go with one of my old high school teammates, so we can still social-distance with that and not stay around a lot of people.”

Q: You mentioned Matt Williams’ UCF record. Is that record in the back of your mind and is it something you want to break?

DG: “It’s not like something I’m chasing after. If it happens, it happens. But yeah, I would like to beat it. I’ve told him that, that I’m going to beat his record, so we’ll see.”

Q: What have you learned from Coach Dawkins?

DG: “Coach Dawkins, he told me don’t do anything you can’t do and don’t show other people you can’t do it. With me, as far as shooting, sometimes I’ll pass up shots and drive — let’s say I pass up a shot, drive in and have nowhere to go. He’ll always get on me like, ‘Why did you not shoot?’ It’s not that he doesn’t think I can drive; it was just I made a bad decision. So, making smarter decisions on the court and then doing what you do.”

Q: Did you watch the documentary “The Last Dance”? If so, do you have any thoughts on learning more about Michael Jordan in his prime?

DG: “I watched it every Sunday; I didn’t miss an episode. I was watching it with my dad. I’ve always been a Michael Jordan fan. But getting to see how he was in practice — one thing I want to do is become more of a leader this year, and seeing how he was leading his team, telling them where to be, getting on them in practice, I think that was helpful for me to see.”

Q: What have you been doing to pass the time right now? Any Netflix shows or video games?

DG: “Not really. I don’t really play video games like that. I actually did just get a PS4, just staying in contact with some of the teammates as well. I haven’t really been watching Netflix. Once I’m done working out and everything, I pretty much sleep and then do homework. That’s pretty much my day.”

Q: What kind of goals do you have for next season?

DG: “Personally, my goals are to just lead the team. Start bringing everybody together. I think we can do more things together off the court. It’s going to be a new group, so let’s start off strong.”