Former Kansas forward Jalen Wilson is facing some of the most pivotal weeks of his life. Each week, Wilson has worked out with different NBA teams. The workouts are Wilson’s last few chances to showcase himself before the NBA Draft.
Despite what’s at stake, Wilson is enjoying the process.
“I thought it was great,” Wilson said after working out with the Golden State Warriors on Monday. “Always fun to have the opportunity to compete with other high-level guys, especially at a winning place and winning environment like the Warriors. It’s really fun.”
Earlier in May, Wilson participated in the NBA Draft Combine. In his first game, Wilson scored seven points on 1-of-4 shooting. He also had eight rebounds, two assists and one turnover.
In the second game, he scored five points on 1-of-8 shooting and grabbed three rebounds.
Although it wasn’t his best showing, Wilson remained upbeat.
“The combine is full of guys who are hungry, wanting to produce and show what they can do at the next level — show what they can do for themselves,” Wilson said. “ I thought it was a good opportunity to play. I always have fun playing. I think it’s always fun to get out there and compete, regardless of the outcome. Just having an opportunity to play is what you can ask for.”
The All-American averaged 20.1 points and 8.3 rebounds last season as KU’s first option on offense, but he certainly won’t play that role in the NBA. In fact, the biggest question surrounding Wilson is the role he’d fill in the league. Currently, most draft experts have him projected as a late-second round pick.
Wilson is trying to prove to NBA coaches he can do whatever it takes, no matter his role.
“Just a guy that’s versatile, that can rebound at a high level, defend many positions and knock down open shots,” Wilson said.
Before last season, Wilson started the NBA Draft process but withdrew to return to college. It was a learning experience for the forward.
“It gave me the awareness of how it goes,” Wilson said. “(The) understanding you’ve got to be in the best shape of your life to be able to fly to one city, fly the next day and be able to work out.
“To be able to do it at a high level, I think it takes a lot of preparation, taking care of your body and understanding what’s best for yourself. Put yourself in the best opportunity when you’re showcasing yourself in front of all these teams.”
As Wilson tries to take the next step, he remembers all the lessons KU coach Bill Self taught him.
“College obviously isn’t as fast as the NBA,” Wilson said. “And you know, (Self) was never gonna let me settle. He may say, ‘You may get away with this now in college, but at the next level guys are going to be there. Guys are going to be jumping higher.’ … That’s why I always said — I had an advantage of having one of the best coaches of all-time coach because those are things you learn every single day.
“I had to use my opportunity with him for my four years and learn as much as possible. … Him being able to coach me on and off the floor and show me different things — not a lot of eyes can see like his — was a great advantage I had.”
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Shreyas Laddha covers KU hoops and football for The Star. He’s a Georgia native and graduated from the University of Georgia.