TJ Warren has been proving people wrong for half a decade now. He wasn’t big enough when he was younger, then he wasn’t athletic enough, then he couldn’t shoot it well enough. Well, TJ Warren has constantly proven everyone wrong to the tune of 25 points per game and the ACC Player of The Year honors, and doesn’t appear to be stopping now.
Hailing from Durham, Warren has been well traveled at the high school level. Going from Durham Riverside to John Wall’s alma mater of Word of God, he ultimately finished his high school career at prep powerhouse Brewster Academy. Despite being in rural New Hampshire, the experience of playing every day alongside future NBA talent such as Mitch McGary, Semaj Christon, and Jakarr Sampson prepared him to do his thing at the next level.
“It helped me a lot because we had five big-time Division 1 guys. It helped me a lot for both college and the process I’m in now preparing for the Draft,” Warren said of his decision to move to the northeast for his senior campaign. “I’m really glad that I made the decision to go to Brewster.”
The preparation that he was referring to was immediately evident from the time he stepped foot on campus in Raleigh. Playing alongside the likes of Lorenzo Brown, Rodney Purvis, CJ Leslie, there weren’t too many shots to go around. Still Warren managed to average 12 points per game on just eight shots and shot a sizzling 62 percent from the field. With the departure of that trio via the NBA Draft or transferring, it was clear that TJ would be the man during his sophomore campaign.
From opening night of his second year at NC State, he set the tone. He dropped 27 points against Appalachian State and never looked back from there. There were 13 games in which he dropped 28 points or more, an upset W over the Syracuse in the ACC tourney, and a win in the big dance. He wasn’t blowing by cats off of the dribble, nor was he soaring above them to the rack for dunks. He wasn’t crossing guys over like AI and wasn’t bombing NBA range threes, either. Instead, TJ was using his unorthodox style of getting buckets that has worked for him at every level.
“It’s going to help me a lot,” he said. “The League is really spaced out. I’m going to be able to get off shots very quickly, so it shouldn’t be a real hard adjustment for me. I’ve been able to adjust to every level of basketball since I’ve been playing.”
In LA, TJ was grinding alongside CJ Wilcox, Glenn Robinson III, and Elfrid Payton with former UCLA/Bullets forward Don MacLean. Focusing on a different thing with each and every one of his pupils, MacLean really stressed finishing high above the defense and creating with the ball in his hands. The scoring machine showed off his patented pull-up and floater from mid-range, but knew that there was still plenty of work to do.
“I want to get my footwork down, and he wants to make sure I finish above the rim,” the 20-year old humbly admitted. He [MacLean] makes sure that I play hard on both ends of the floor and I have been learning how to guard the pick and roll.”
Perhaps the biggest concern around TJ’s game centered around his J from deep. A 25 percent shooter from beyond the arc in college, there was some major work being done to enhance his consistency from the NBA line. After starting off a little slow, the Garner Road AAU product got things rolling and shot it at a 62 percent clip during his last set of NBA three pointers. Still, Warren understands that will be the most frequently criticized part of his game by scouts and fans alike.
“Everyone has something that they can work on. I didn’t shoot too well this year, although my freshman year I did shoot pretty good,” Warren said. “It’s just something that I need to improve on. Nobody is perfect, so I have to just keep improving.”
With the Draft about a month away, things are beginning to finally sort themselves out. Warren is firmly in the first round, potentially jumping as high as the top half of the Draft. Teams love his size (6-8 1/4), ability to create his own shot, and proven body of work. While there are definite concerns that will go through war rooms on Draft night, TJ has confidence that the franchise who selects him is going to do so for his ability to straight get buckets.
“I’m going to bring all-around scoring from inside and out. I’m a small forward with great size and I want to get better. I’m real coachable and I’m going to stay in the gym.”