Noah Vonleh seems pretty calm for a guy who’s about to realize his life’s dream.
The 6-foot-10, 240-pound 19-year-old out of Haverhill, Massachusetts sits at the Westin Hotel in New York City hours before the NBA Draft, looking unassuming in a black T-shirt, Nike basketball sneakers and a pair of cut-off Team USA sweat-shorts. His nonchalant demeanor is even more surprising when you consider that some mock drafts have him being picked as high as fourth.
In just one season at Indiana University, Vonleh nearly averaged a double-double (11.3 points and 9 rebounds) per game. He sat down with STACK to talk about his expectations for the draft, reminisce about his college days and look ahead to the next stage of his career.
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What does it feel like, knowing you’ll be drafted by an NBA team this evening?
Vonleh: It’s a great feeling, especially watching the NBA for so many years as a little kid. It’s a great feeling finally being able to see my dreams completed, walking across the NBA stage and shaking the commissioner’s hand.
Describe what the NBA Draft process has been like?
It’s been a long process. [I’ve been] doing a lot of workouts. I had about six workouts. I went to the combine, tested pretty well there. Teams were really impressed when I came in for the workouts, with my versatility, so it was pretty good.
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What teams have you worked out for?
I worked out for Philly, Utah, Boston, the Lakers, the Magic and the Sacramento Kings.
Were there any workouts you thought went particularly well?
I think they went well for the most part, but I’d say Philly, Sacramento and Utah [were the best]. I just felt, when I left those workouts, I felt like I left a good impression.
Let’s talk about college for a moment. What were you looking for in a school, and what made you decide on Indiana?
I wanted to go to a good program that could get me ready for the NBA. As I was being recruited, Coach [Tom Crean0] came, and [former assistant coach] Kenny Johnson told me how the players come, develop, get better and get ready for the NBA. I was a top-10 recruit out of high school. I thought that if I go [to IU], I could develop for one year and be ready to play in the NBA.
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How did you feel when you declared for the NBA Draft?
It was a great feeling when I declared. During the season I just wanted to see how I’d do in college, because a lot of people didn’t think I was going to do [well.] I just kept working hard. Ever since I stepped foot on the Indiana campus I just stayed in the gym, kept working on different things, kept seeing myself get better. Toward the middle of the season, when we were in Big 10 play, I was just seeing how well I was performing, and I thought this will be the year that I definitely come out.
What do you like to do when you’re not playing basketball?
Video games, hang out with friends—just be a normal kid. NBA 2k14, that’s really all I play. It’s going to be crazy to actually be a player [in the video game], because usually I just create players and name them Noah Vonleh. Put their ratings up to like 99. Now I’m actually going to have my own player, so it’s going to be a surreal feeling to play the game.
Describe the most challenging aspect of being a student-athlete at the D-I level?
The most challenging thing about being a student-athlete is just the workload. Having to do work on some of the trips, that was pretty tough.
Who are you most excited to play against in the NBA?
Kevin Durant, that’s my favorite player. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, all the guys I watched growing up.