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How 5 players got to the NBA Draft

Brandon Clarke, 22, Gonzaga University

“When I’m playing basketball, I’m having the most fun in my life,” says Clarke, who is a forward. He got into the sport as a toddler, using a tiny hoop at home in Phoenix, Arizona. A year or two later, he joined his first team, coached by his dad. “Basketball has done so much for me, and I’m just really grateful that I can keep playing.”

3: the age at which he picked up the sport

His emotions: the biggest challenge he faces on the court. “Turning them off is a talent. If I’m too emotional, it can be bad for me and my teammates.”

The jump shot: the one thing he’s trying to master. “It takes a lot of reps. I’m not a bad shooter, but it’s been really fun getting better and better at it.”

The most important skill to have on the court: “Basketball IQ. It’s a hard thing to work on, but as you play, you learn more about the game.”

Bennie Boatwright, University of Southern California

“I’d spend countless hours shooting and playing basketball with my dad,” the 22-year-old forward says of his childhood. He’s racked up a lot of memories since then, but the one he favors the most happened more recently when he made the final basket against Arizona State University. “Hitting the game-winning shot was a good feeling.”

Dumbbell bicep curls: his favorite strength exercise

His pre-game ritual: jumping rope, currently to Future’s latest album, The WIZRD

Ty Jerome, 21, University of Virginia

“I’ve pretty much had a basketball in my hand since the day I was born,” says Jerome, a point guard from New York City. His parents both played in college and his dad went on to be a coach. “I want to be great, so basketball drives everything I do on and off the court,” he says. “It’s all I think about during the day and it gives me an escape from the world.”

Constant communication: his key to staying connected with his teammates. “You don’t want to overdo it and you want to be authentic, but it’s important to give positive encouragement. I build relationships with them off the court too because then when you hold them accountable, they know you have their best interests at heart.”

Resistance bands: his favorite strength-building tool. “I like to mix up the exercises I do so my mind and body don’t get too comfortable.”

5 minutes: the amount of time he spends meditating before every game. “I lie on my back, put my legs up, close my eyes, and relax.”

Wendell Carter Jr., 20, Duke University

“Both of my parents played basketball, so I was born into it,” says the center, who was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft. “I used to play in a church league when I was five or six, and I remember my mom and dad in the stands telling me, ‘Attack the rim, attack the rim!’ So every time I got the ball, I would just go full speed and try to score a bucket.”

How he maintains composure on the court: “During timeouts, I close my eyes to clear my mind. In the NBA, everybody’s talented. Everybody can jump high. Everybody’s strong. You have to find other ways to beat them out, and you can do a lot with your mental game.”

What’s on his mind while he plays: “My great grandma. She passed away, but she was there for me at every game when she could be.”

The post fadeaway: the one skill he’s still trying to master, which is when you backpedal (or “fade away” to the sidelines) immediately after a jump shot

300: number of pounds he can front squat, which is his favorite lift

What basketball means to him: “It’s an outlet for me. It allows me to get away from the real world and do something I love. The NBA gives me this platform where I’m able to reach other people who are trying to make it, to be a professional. That’s something I definitely cherish.”

Kyran Bowman, 21, Boston College

Bowman wasn’t into basketball from the get-go. “It took about a year,” he says. Even once he started to love it, the point guard didn’t always plan on playing the sport professionally; he was originally a football recruit for the University of North Carolina. “It’s been a journey,” he says. “The things I’ve been through in my life have made me a stronger person on the court and away from it.”

8: his age when he first started playing basketball

Juggling off the wall: the activity that helped him develop hand-eye coordination. It’s like regular juggling, but you bounce the balls off the wall instead of tossing them straight into the air.

The core: the muscle group he likes to train the most. Try one of his favorite exercises: Lie on a bench with your lower back unsupported and legs straight up, perpendicular to the floor. Find a partner to push your legs forward and use your core to resist their power. “It burns you out.”

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