Redshirting as a freshman can be a discouraging experience. You’re stuck on the sideline and have to watch your team play without you.
For Justin Patton, former Creighton center, redshirting was exactly what the doctor ordered. He took this time to develop his skills and body, and became one of the most dominant big men in college basketball in his first season as a sophomore.
Patton is now projected as a first-round prospect in the 2017 NBA Draft and will join the annual group of one-and-done athletes playing only a single season before entering the Draft.
We caught up with Patton as he was training at IMPACT Basketball (Las Vegas) before the NBA Combine to learn more about his meteoric rise.
STACK: Let’s start from the beginning. When did you start playing basketball?
JP: I was in the fifth grade when I first started playing basketball seriously. I used to play at recess and stuff, but it got serious in fifth grade when I was playing for an AAU team, and that’s about it.
When was the first time you dunked a basketball?
I dunked my freshman year of high school. I was 6-2 at the time and was pretty good at jumping. I was in high jump in track.
What was your support system like growing up?
I got a big support system being from Omaha. I feel like everyone is behind me. I would say the most influential person who’s helped me the most has probably been my mom. I can always call her. She keeps me in the right spirit and she keeps me motivated every single day.
What’s the basketball culture like in Omaha?
Basketball is actually pretty big in Omaha. It’s either basketball or football. Not very many people are interested in any other things. My uncle, he played at Creighton, and my cousin was an AAU basketball coach for a good team in Omaha. So, I just flew into it. It’s pretty fun.
Where I came from, everyone was looking up to me just because I was one of the hardest workers where I came from. My brother and I were always at the gym early and we were the last people to leave the gym. I don’t want to say we started a trend, but we kind of started a trend with this and we just took it far. Now, I’m here and I can say that I’m the one of the only people who made it to the NBA from Omaha.
What was it like redshirting your freshman year?
It was tough going out there every single day, working hard and not being on the floor. But it helped me a lot mentally and physically. I learned a lot of things. Some days I didn’t see any differences. Other days, I was like, “Wow, this is actually paying off.”
How does it feel to play only a single season after your redshirt season and be considered a top NBA prospect?
It means a lot—not only for me, but for where I come from. I hope it inspires a lot of people that redshirt now. It’s good to see it’s all paying off, and hopefully some people can see redshirting as a blessing.
It’s a testament to hard work and going through that process every single day. It’s kind of weird when I tell people I redshirted last year and they’re like, “What?” It’s a good accomplishment for myself.
What’s it been like training with other top basketball players at IMPACT?
It’s been great. It’s like you have a magnifying glass on you every single day because they look at every single detail. Everybody has different needs and things that help them get better as a player. So it’s fun to have somebody designated to you and to help you get better.
What have you been focusing on?
I’ve been focusing on getting a routine down, and going in every single day realizing that it’s a job now and giving my best every single day. It’s been great. They’ve been pushing me hard. Now I’m doing everything on my own, and being independent.
How has your body evolved over the years?
I was about 203-204 before college and I got up to 233. It was just all about repetition and being on a strict plan, and following that plan. I executed and I was able to put on a little weight. I was small at first but I ended up being big at Creighton.