Damian Lillard is a popular topic among NBA draft prospects from small schools.
Lillard, who was drafted sixth overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2012 and was named Rookie of the Year, gives them hope. He averaged 19 points and 6.5 assists per game.
“A lot of people might knock where we come from but people like Kenneth Faried (Morehead State), people like Damian Lillard all set the stone hot to have a lot of reporters and scouts to come in and want to give us the opportunity to showcase that we can play with some of the bigger schools,” said Isaiah Canaan, a point guard from Murray State who was interviewed by the Wizards at last week’s draft combine. “All the mid-majors got to go in with a chip on our shoulder just due to the fact they might doubt our ability.”
Bucknell's Mike Muscala only had interviews with the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks at the combine. Several scouts were pleasantly surprised by the 6-10 center’s athleticism.
“I knew that would be the case. You look at my frame and I don’t blame them,” Muscala said. “It doesn't look like I’m very athletic. That’s a very underrated part of my game.”
Another prospect interviewed by the Wizards, C.J. McCollum of Lehigh, has been in contact with Lillard throughout the process. McCollum broke his left foot in January and returned to full contact less than a month ago. Lillard broke his right foot early in his final season before heading to the NBA draft.
“It’s definitely good to see guys like that succeed. He had a tremendous rookie year and he never played in the NCAA tournament,” said McCollum, who was interviewed by the Wizards and at least 14 other teams. “There were questions if he could play against the big teams. I think he answered that. I looked forward to answering the same questions.”
And he embraces the comparisons to Lillard, who left after his junior season averaging 19 points per game. McCollum played all four years at Lehigh where he averaged 24.
“In terms of the demeanor, the way he carries himself on the court you can see that nothing really fazes him,” McCollum said. “He has that experience, that mental edge, that push. That’s the thing we both have -- the work ethic, the will and the want to get there. Coming from a small school you got to put in more time than the other guys because you don’t necessarily get as much (attention).”