A year ago, the Nets made an unheralded draft pick: Chris McCullough at No. 29. McCullough, a PF from Syracuse, had torn his ACL a few months earlier—the Nets were on track to lose a ton of games, and made a wise long-term play.
The move should begin to pay off this season. Following yesterday’s trade of Thaddeus Young, McCullough is in line for serious minutes as a sophomore.
He should handle the promotion nicely—last season, McCullough returned in February, slow and steady, and in April averaged 8 points, 5 boards, 2 steals and a three in 21 minutes a night. At 6-11, he’s got some serious length, and his touch from outside should make him a fun weapon in new coach Kenny Atkinson’s arsenal.
McCullough, a NYC native, popped into the SLAM x Foot Locker Draft Suite this week to support his hometown buddy, Isaiah Whitehead. Coincidentally, they are now teammates. But before Draft went down, McCullough spoke with us about his rookie season and what’s still to come.
SLAM: What have you been up to since the season ended?
Chris McCullough: It’s just been a grind. Me and my team getting in the gym, working hard every day.
SLAM: The Nets hired a new coach, Kenny Atkinson. Have you been in touch with him?
CM: Yeah! That’s my dude, man. Once he got there, we clicked. I’m working with him all the time, and he’s always in the gym, working hard. He reached out to me when he got hired, so we’re well connected now. It’s great.
SLAM: What are you working on with him?
CM: My overall game. With him, it’ll be more of an up-tempo speed team.
SLAM: Brooklyn lost some games—
CM: Lost a lot of games.
SLAM: OK, lost a lot of games. But you had nice big men to work with in Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez. What’d you learn from those guys?
CM: My mentality. I listen to everybody on the team, but they play my position, so they tell me how to work out, the right foods to eat—just the lifestyle of the NBA. Those are the two main guys, them two and Jarrett Jack.
SLAM: You missed most of last season with a torn ACL. What was it like when you returned/debuted in February?
CM: It was pretty good. From the time I got there, I just worked hard. Every game, I got a little more comfortable, got a little better.
SLAM: You grew up in NYC and went to Syracuse. How excited were you to get drafted by Brooklyn?
CM: It’s pretty amazing, me being from the Bronx and getting to go to Brooklyn. It was an amazing feeling hearing my name get called.
SLAM: Are you living in Brooklyn?
CM: I’m in Jersey.
SLAM: Not down for Brooklyn or Manhattan?
CM: I’m trying to find a place, but it’s so hard!