NBA Draft Blog Interview with Julian Mavunga

As I have discussed before, the route to get to the NBA that doesn’t run through a major conference, or select mid-major schools, can be a very long one.  That road can get even longer when your team hasn’t done well and has little television exposure.  This is the road that Miami (Ohio) University’s star forward Julian Mavunga is on right now.  Mavunga, a two-time all-state player in Indiana, could have gone to a school with a bigger name, but the coaches and closeness to home led him to Miami.  He finished up his career there being named First Team All-MAC for the second straight year after leading the conference in scoring and rebounding, as well as finishing in the Top 10 in assists, and garnering an invite to the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament for the top seniors.  His numbers have very little to do with what conference he played in.  This past season alone, Mavunga had 26 points and 12 rebounds against Big East member Cincinnati, 20 and 10 against Ohio State, and 14 and 11 against Vanderbilt.   The thread that runs through them all – he posted those numbers directly against players whose names are mentioned often, or prominently, in connection with this year’s NBA Draft.  I had the chance to talk to Mavunga, who is out in Las Vegas at Impact Basketball preparing for upcoming NBA team workouts, about his game, playing at Miami, and more:

Julian on why he chose to attend Miami:

“The biggest thing for me in deciding to go there was how I gelled with the coaching staff.  Miami was a school that showed me that they wanted me more than a lot of others, and I could go there and grow as a person and player.  I could have gone to a bigger name program.  Butler, Southern Illinois, Wichita State are some that had made offers to me.  But, the coaching staff and how close it was to home were the big reasons to go to Miami.”

 

Julian on playing for Charlie Coles:

“It was an honor to play for Coach Coles.  He wanted us to have fun and enjoy the game while we played.  He would never let me take any short cuts; if I was going to get better, I was going to have to work for it.  He, and the whole coaching staff, helped me a lot to become the player I am now.”


Julian on how his game developed at Miami
:

“It developed in a lot of ways while I was there.  I became a better shooter, ballhandler, and learned to be a better passer.  I adjusted to playing different positions and different roles, all things which will only help me at the next level.”

Julian on his strengths as a player: 

“I think my biggest strength is my ability to play in the mid-post area.  I can score or make a good pass when I set up there.  I am working on becoming more consistent as shooter from there, a 17-18 foot jump shot, and also working on being able to knock down a shot from three-point range.  Rebounding is another strength of mine.  I am a guy who will always go hard after the ball.  It’s something I think I can do well at the next level, being a guy who can score when he needs to, but is strong at hitting the boards.  Like an Udonis Haslem-type of player, but a better shooter.”

 

Julian on what parts of his game he still wants to improve:

“I have a good first step, but what I do after that step is what I am working on.  At the next level, I will need to have a good dribble pull-up shot.  Overall, I am working on every part of my game, ballhandling, agility, and especially my lateral quickness on the perimeter.  That’s something I am working on a lot.  I need to be able to step out and be an effective defender out on the perimeter.”

Julian on his experience at Portsmouth:

“It was a great opportunity for me.  I hadn’t really played or practice since the end of the season.  I was dealing with a foot injury (plantar fasciitis) so by the time Portsmouth came around, I was just beginning to work my way back into playing shape.  Being able to go down there and play well and show my versatility, while not in the best shape yet, was definitely big for me.”

Julian on flying under the radar:

“I’m not sure exactly why, maybe lack of team success has something to do with it.  I don’t let it get to me though, like some players might.  For me its motivation and all I need is a chance to prove what I can do.”

 

Julian on what he wants teams and fans to know about him:

“I am really still developing as a player.  I had never played before my freshman year of high school, so I haven’t been playing very long.  I will continue to work hard and get better as a player.  I am a team player, and I will commit to what the team is doing and what system they want to run.  I have a lot of upside, and I still have more to learn, both mentally and physically, about the game.  I am never going to take the easy way out, and just be happy about making it to the next level.  I want to get there and make a big impression.”

I want to thank Julian for his time and I wish him the best of luck as he looks to fulfill his dream of getting to the NBA.  I also want to thank his agent, Dino Pergola of HOF Player Representatives, for helping to set up this interview.  Not knowing much about Julian before he got to Miami, I was stunned to find out he just started playing in high school.  Watching him play, he has the instincts and awareness on the court of a professional.  It may or may not be immediately, but Julian certainly has what it takes to not only be in the NBA, but to be a valuable contributor.  Should be interesting to see how good he can be when he has played another few years.

 

Check back in the coming weeks for more great interviews and scouting reports as we head towards the 2012 NBA Draft.  Follow me on Twitter – @NBADraftBlog – for updates, leave your comments below, or feel free to email me at ed@nbadraftblog.com