One would think that a 6-6 point guard with the highest three-point percentage, the highest assist ratio, the highest points per field-goal attempt and the most free-throw line appearances in this year’s draft class would not have an identity crisis. Unfortunately for Spencer Dinwiddie, he’s been out of the public eye since suffering a knee injury on January 12 and has had to reestablish himself.
A year ago, Spencer Dinwiddie was representing the USA in Kazan, Russia at the World University Games, leading the team in assists and steals. Dinwiddie was fresh off a 15 point per game campaign that garnered him second team All-Pac-12 honors. Playing for USA Basketball “was a dream come true” recalled Spencer, who keeps in close contact with former teammates Doug McDermott and Adreian Payne as they compare notes from the cities they visit for their pre-Draft workout tour.
There were many who thought a year ago that Dinwiddie had great value in the 2013 Draft and after a strong showing in the World University Games, the pre-season Pac-12 First-Team selection was poised to cement himself as a first round selection. After 16 games this season, Dinwiddie showed improvement in his three-point percentage and improved his assist-to-turnover ratio while leading his team to a 14-2 record and a No. 15 national ranking.
But on January 12 at the University of Washington, Dinwiddie injured his knee.
“At first they weren’t 100 percent sure that it was torn, so it kept some hope alive,” Dinwiddie recalled. “I called my parents and they could hear my disappointment over the phone. My dad took it hard and my mom said, ‘I’ll be in Boulder tonight.’
“There I was reexamined and it was confirmed that I tore my ACL and that I would be done for the season,” he continued. “My mom was like, ‘OK, now what are we going to do?’ The doctor’s first reaction was that it will take three weeks before we could have surgery. I said, Adrian Peterson did it in six days, so they said, get the swelling out and then we could do the surgery. Eight days later they operated on my knee. After the surgery, the first few weeks were tough, laying in bed, thinking a lot, it’s hard to not dwell on why me. Big credit goes to my mom to keep me forward thinking, that the injury didn’t matter, it didn’t change our goals or our challenge. After that we just went to work and we weren’t going to treat it as a setback.”
We caught up with Dinwiddie to see where he is now with his rehab and his thoughts about the upcoming Draft:
SLAM: How do you compare yourself to the other point guards?
Spencer Dinwiddie: I stand by my statement that I think I’m the best point guard in the Draft. It was well-documented at the Combine. I’m the biggest of the point guards (height, weight and length), I’m the best three-point shooter and outside of Shabazz [Napier], no other guard has a bigger effect on their team winning.
SLAM: Physically, where are you now in your recovery?
SD: I’m currently at 75 percent with no restrictions. I have no swelling, no structural issues and appear to be ready and cleared for contact well before training camp. I don’t have my burst back yet (only five months since surgery) but everyone is happy with where I am at with my recovery.
SLAM: Was there a why me moment?
SD: The way it happened, at first—devastated, then a little hope, then the doctor crushed it confirming the tear. My mom said, “We aren’t going to feel sorry for ourselves, we are not giving up, your dream is still right there.”
SLAM: If you had it over again, would you have declared last June for the Draft?
SD: It’s hard to say, probably….you never know. I did get to be on the USA team last summer and that was a dream come true. Hindsight is 20/20, maybe I would have made more money. I don’t know if my draft status would have been significantly better. I’m viewed as highly skilled, so my draft stock stayed pretty much the same but since the class last year wasn’t as strong. I probably would have moved up through the workouts.
SLAM: Take us the decision to enter the Draft?
SD: I didn’t know I was going to leave until days before the announcement. Initially they (the medical staff) thought my recovery would take 10 months. If that was the case, I would have returned to Colorado. I loved my time at Colorado. But then I was told that I’d be perfectly fine for the season. My dream was always to make it to the NBA.
SLAM: What are you doing to prepare for the Draft?
SD: I’m working everything except contact drills. Ball handling, shooting, it feels great to work on my game again.
SLAM: Do you appreciate the game more now, after seeing it taken away from you?
SD: Definitely, I appreciate it more now. I missed practice. It’s something I always have known, it was such a big part of my life, when it was taken away, you miss it and appreciate it more.
SLAM: What do you think you can do on the floor for an NBA team?
SD: I’ve shown I’m effective, I have good size, I bring defensive versatility. I can spot up and shoot as well as run a team. I win. Depending on the team’s need, I’m focused on doing what I can to help the team.
SLAM: Any player you try to emulate your game after?
SD: I like watching Rajon Rondo’s IQ, Jrue Holiday’s pace and change of speed, Stephen Curry’s release. My body type and versatility is more like a Shaun Livingston or a Penny Hardaway, so I try to incorporate a dose of each into my game.
SLAM: Toughest player you have faced?
SD: Kyrie Irving (in high school).
SLAM: Best player you have played with?
SD: I’ve been blessed to play with quite a few great players. DeAndre [Daniels], Josh Scott, Doug McDermott, Adreian Payne
SLAM: Any message for those trying to follow in your footsteps?
SD: Never stop believing in yourself and who you are. If you put in the work, you will have a chance. People thought I was small and not very good. With the support of my uncle and godbrother, we got after it and we’ve been able to do a lot of great things. When you have a hiccup, you cast some doubt but then when you get through it, it confirms that you can do it.