You scored on a dunk on the first possession that you played for the Dallas Mavericks. Were you surprised that they called a play for you on your first possession right off the bench?
Yeah, the first play was Jet dropping it to me and I just dunked it. When I got the ball I was wide open, so I just hammered it down. The call was a high pick-and-roll. It was just a read really. It was right when I got into the game. It surprised me that it happened that fast. But I was ready for it because ever since I got to town, everyone was telling me just be ready for the passes. They just kept reinforcing it. The coaches, players, everyone was just telling me to be ready to finish because all these other guys (Dirk, Josh, Kidd, Jet) are so good at getting you the ball because they draw so much attention. Seriously, EVERYONE here...you name them...they have been telling me to be ready to catch the ball and finish. So it was great when it actually happened. It felt great to get that ball and dunk it. It was a big confidence builder that the guys went to me right away. It just proves that they are good teammates and that if you are in the game, they trust you enough to get you the ball so you can score. I was excited to score in that game and it was a great game. It was an exciting feeling when Dirk hit the game winner at the buzzer. It was a great way to start my Mavericks career.
You obviously have great leaping ability and agility for a 7-footer…when did you realized that you could jump out of the gym?
I always knew that I was pretty athletic and when I started participating in track and field (high jump), I ended up taking third place in the state. I knew then that my skill would definitely translate to basketball in college and beyond I hoped. I didn't start track until my senior year in high school. I was just trying it out, and then ended up being pretty good. I seriously didn’t think that I would carry on so long with it. I was just out there to have some fun. I used the scissor kick method. Just kidding.
When did you reach the height that you are at right now?
I grew gradually. I was 6'2 going into my freshman year in high school. Then at the end of the year I was 6'5. I think I only grew an inch in college, so I was basically 6'11 when I was a senior in high school.
When was the first time that you dunked in a game?
I started playing basketball in my sophomore year. I got cut from the team my freshman year. So my first dunk in a game was during my sophomore year. The first time I ever dunked was in my backyard. I was in the 9th grade. I went right down the middle and dunked one.
Do you want the NBA to ask you to be in a dunk contest for All-Star weekend?
Definitely! I would love to be in the dunk contest. It would be a great experience and an honor to be asked to compete with NBA greats. The contest itself is so good for the league, and it would be great if I could represent the Mavericks.
Do you think you could come up with some original dunks?
Oh, I would definitely have something to show. I would represent myself well for sure.
Did you play a lot of pick-up basketball growing up?
All day, every day. Probably in the 6th grade is when it started. I would leave early in the morning and get back late at night. I would go with my friends, by myself, or whomever. We would go from park to park. It didn't matter. We would walk. We would get on our bikes. We would do anything to find a game.
Would we know any of the guys you used to play pick-up with when you were in high school or college?
There are a few guys that you might know but they were older than me. Stacy Augmon is from my neighborhood, and so is Jacque Vaughn. But as for guys that I played with in my neighborhood, none of them made it to the NBA. As for my college team…are you kidding? Shoot, I went to UCLA. You name it. Well, there is Arron (Afflalo), Trevor (Ariza), Jordan (Farmer), Luke (Walton), and Jason Kapono. There are a lot of us.
Who was your favorite NBA player growing up?
I loved Shaq.
What was it like to play for such a famous basketball program in college?
It was great to play for UCLA. You really feel the pressure to perform. I definitely learned a lot about myself. When I went in I expected UCLA to be great. We were rated top ten in the preseason. Then we ended up having the worst season in UCLA history. I think it was something to take that team from there to making it to the championship game in the NCAA tournament my senior year. Unfortunately we didn't win, but I feel like I left the school in good hands because we went to three straight Final Fours after that year. I really feel like I helped rebuild the program and put it back to where it should be.
Were you a BMOC? (Big Man on Campus)
It was a little different because I originally signed with St. Louis University. I wasn't going to UCLA from the jump. I got out of my letter when coach (Lorenzo) Roma left, so it was a different feel for me going to UCLA. There wasn't a lot of hype. But I matured right away, because I knew I had to take it seriously and take care of my business because nothing would be handed to me. I had to work for everything I had and everything I wanted to have at UCLA.
You were also a high jumper for UCLA?
I made it to the regionals and I just barely missed getting out of the regionals that year. But fortunately it ended up working well, because I made the 19-under national basketball team and it had more prestige. If I would have qualified for nationals in track, I would have missed out on the basketball team. Yeah, I know JJ (Barea) from the national basketball team. I was playing for the U.S.A team and he was playing for Puerto Rico. Deron Williams and Dee Brown were on that team too. We actually came to Dallas and practiced on the Mavericks practice court.
When you were coming out of college in 2006 did you think you would be drafted?
Oh, I knew I would make the NBA. I mean, honestly, I was surprised that I went to 50. But I knew that if I was still there at 50 that the Bobcats were going to take me for sure. I wouldn't have been surprised if I went as high as 15th with the way my workouts were going. But it was tough because I wasn't a guy that had a great high profile college career. I really came on at the end of my college career and I think that scared teams away, but I think it could have gone either way. But even if I didn't get drafted I knew I would make it in the NBA. Like I said before, I was going to Charlotte no matter what if I fell that far down the draft. I knew that for sure going into that night.
What is your overall thought of playing in the NBA to this point?
Oh, it is a dream. That is the best way to explain it. Really that is the only way you could sum it up.
You seem to study a lot about the game and “your game” specifically. What are you looking for when you review your playing minutes on DVD?
I am still learning the game. It is very beneficial to see yourself out there playing once it is over, because when you are out there, you feel like there is nothing wrong with how you played and that you did all you could during your time on the court. But when you see your minutes and realize what was really going on during your time on the court, you see places where you could do a little more to help your team.
Have you ever been intimidated by any of the big men that you have faced as opponents so far in the NBA?
No, I haven't at all. I think if anyone in this league can intimidate you, then you probably don't belong in the NBA. Or maybe you won't be here for long. Maybe if I played against Shaq in his heyday I might have had some rough nights, but I am naturally a competitor so I would have given it my all anyway.
What size of shoes do you wear?
What was your first pair of basketball shoes?
Wow, probably some Nike.
Are you living in a condo, apartment, or hotel?
Hotel right now.
What is in your refrigerator?
I don’t even have one in my hotel room.
Do you eat fast food?
I do, but I really try not to.
Favorite late night snack?
I don't really have late night snacks.
Favorite sweet snack?
A food that you hate?
Mushrooms and olives.
How do you take your coffee?
I don't drink coffee.
Sweet tea, Equal, or Arnold Palmer?
What is the best pair of tickets you have gotten to any event because you are an NBA basketball player?
I went to the All-Star game last year in New Orleans. I didn't sit in the front row, but it was right behind the front row in the middle of the court.
Do you come from a big family?
No, I only have one sister, Julie. She is older than me. I think she is 28 right now.
You dress really fancy. Where did you get the last suit that you bought?
Woody Wilson in LA, off of Pico at Robertson.
One last question: Not a lot is known about you since you have only been in the league a few years and in Dallas a few weeks. What is something about you that no one knows, and that Mavericks fans might find interesting? The clock starts now….
Well, I can tell you real quick…No, not really...sorry. You can stop the clock!