When Kenneth Faried was just 9 years old and learning the ways of pick-up basketball in Newark, New Jersey, his mother Wuadda told him not to expect any passes. The only way he was going to get the ball, she told him, was if he got the rebound himself.
Faried, also known as "Manimal" for his physical style of play, grew up as an "energy guy" with "working class game." He's the type of player who will bust his butt to get buckets, even if he's not someone most would think of as an exceptionally skilled scorer.
That could be about to change. Before the All-Star game last season, only 15 percent of Faried's scores came via post-ups. The majority of his shots came off of offensive rebounds or fast breaks. After the break, his numbers skyrocketed. He was posting up on nearly 30 percent of his possessions, taking about four of those shots per game (via his right-handed hook), averaging 18.8 points and 10.1 rebounds per game.
Faried made even bigger waves over the summer. At the FIBA World Basketball Tournament, he averaged 12.4 points per game and led Team USA in rebounds with 7.8 per game. And if you think those international games don't matter, think again. Both Kevin Durant and Kevin Love had title runs with Team USA, and they used the experience as a springboard to play the best NBA ball of their careers up to that point.
Right after the World Basketball Tournament, STACK had the chance to catch up with the 6-foot-8, 230-pound power forward in New York City, where the NBA announced a new partnership with JBL by HARMAN audio. Faried, who has been the subject of trade rumors, said he's aiming to take his game to a new level this season. Check out the STACK video above to see Manimal tearing it up at the 2011 adidas Rookie Orientation Dunk Contest his first year in the NBA.
STACK: How was your Team USA basketball experience?
Kenneth Faried: It was a wonderful experience. It was just a bunch of us going out there every day, having fun on the practice court and having fun in the games. Being part of a squad of 30 or more players, there were a lot of smiles.
What was it like to travel with all of those guys?
KF: Experiencing the world and experiencing Spain with a group of guys who were just as happy as I was to be out there was just incredible. And it's incredible to be able to represent our country. Putting on that USA jersey just felt so amazing.
Did you plan to do the Shmoney dance on the podium?
KF: Oh yeah, that was something we said we was gonna do…We all said it, but Rudy [Gay] made sure we got on it. They didn't play the song or anything, but as soon as the confetti went into the air, it was on.
Besides winning the championship, what was a defining moment for you?
KF: For me, it was just walking around in the streets, people just knowing who you are, showing you respect. That really helped boost me confidence-wise.
How did that recognition feel different from the usual?
KF: You know, not just "Kenneth Faried, he plays for the Nuggets," but "Kenneth Faried, he's a great player and he plays for the Nuggets." Not just "he brings the energy," but "he can score."
What is your focus now as far as hitting the gym goes?
KF: Just trying to relax. But I have lots of appearances and events coming up. Interviews and more interviews. Hectic right now, pretty busy schedule.
What will be your main area of focus for this upcoming season?
KF: Just being a leader on the team—that vocal leader, that step-up leader that I guess I've been bred to be. I'm really starting to show and get it. I'm going to be able to show my true colors.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock