Another Buckeye Baller
A Q + A with First Round hopeful B.J. Mullens.
B.J. Mullens always wanted a sense of stability growing up. Bouncing around to different living situations and ultimately spending a large percentage of his high school life living with a friend, instilled a desire to be close to home in the 7-footer. Maybe if more people understood that it wouldn’t have come as a surprise when the Canal Winchester native committed to Ohio State as an 8th grader. That’s right, before Greg Oden dominated the Big Ten, before Kosta Koufas was dropping mid range Js, before any of the other heralded Buckeye big men made their mark, Mullens made his.
Of course, there is such a thing as too much stability, as in Thad Motta’s offensive system. After a prep career that left him as one of the top prospects in the Class of 2008, Mullens had an underwhelming year in Columbus due to lack of playing time and an offense that restricted his versatility. While hoops fanatics got used to seeing the big man capitalize on his freakish athleticism in the high school ranks, Mullens turned into a traditional big man in college, forced to play with his back to the basket and rely on strictly his post moves.
It is for this reason that Mullens again surprised many by announcing his decision to enter the NBA Draft and sign with an agent. Don’t let the statistics fool you though, the kid can play and he can play well. Blessed with size, athleticism and ever increasing versatility, Mullens is in the same mold as many other oversized power forwards a la Pau Gasol, KG and Dirk. Not to say he is a lock to be a future All-Star, but certainly he has the potential to be a mid-first round steal when we look back five or six years from now.
Having spent the past two months preparing for individual workouts at the renowned Impact Basketball facilities in Las Vegas, Mullens took some time off from his workout travel schedule to sit down with SLAM and talk about his time at OSU and his preparations for the League.
SLAM: Since the season ended, what have you been up to?
B.J. Mullens: About a week into the offseason I decided that I wanted to go pro. Since then I’ve just been living in Vegas in this tiny little apartment. I’ve been working out with Joe Abunassar for two months now.
SLAM: What have you been working on? What is a typical training day like for you?
BJM: I wake up around 8:30 and get to the court by 10 or so. I work out there for an hour and a half, hit the weight room for an hour, and then come back in the afternoon to get some shots up.
SLAM: What aspects of your game are you focusing on?
BJM: Everything really, it’s all-around. At these individual workouts teams are going to want to look at all aspects of your game so you have to show them everything you’ve got. I’m working on everything.
SLAM: Have you worked out for any teams yet, and if so, how did they go?
BJM: I’ve worked out for Cleveland and Chicago so far and I think both workouts went really well.
SLAM: What factors went into your decision to leave school after one season?
BJM: It’s always been my dream to go pro. It was an opportunity for me to live my dream and that right there is really what made the decision a good one for me.
SLAM: You were one of the *top prospects* in your high school class. If the NBA no longer had an age rule, would you have skipped college entirely to go pro?
BJM: I definitely would have come out of high school if the rule didn’t exist; it’s always been my dream to play in the NBA.
SLAM: At Ohio State this season you didn’t get the kind of playing time that belies your status as a high school All-American. Was it frustrating for you to be brought along at such a slow rate with the kind of expectations people had of you coming in?
BJM: I feel that I was ready to play in college right away. It was frustrating, but I didn’t take it that hard. I dealt with it; many players might have wanted to transfer to another school after something like that, but I stayed with it. I contributed and helped my team by coming off the bench and bringing energy to the games. I did some important things out there to help my team win games.
SLAM: What were you able to learn from playing under Thad Motta for a year?
BJM: Man… a lot. Especially when it comes to just going to college and maturing, I’ve grown up a lot. He’s a great coach, I learned a lot from him, definitely how to play down in the paint and be physical.
SLAM: What aspects of your game are going to translate well to the NBA? How can you step in and help a team right away?
BJM: I’m going to do whatever a team wants me to do. If they want me to play center, I’ll play center. If they want me to play the four, I’ll play the four. While watching me workout they are going to see what I can do.
SLAM: You’re an intriguing prospect because of your size and versatility. Like you said, you’d be willing to play either the four or the five in the NBA. Ten years from now, where do you see yourself playing?
BJM: It really doesn’t matter, four or five. I can step out and shoot and I get down in the paint to bang with the big men. If a coach wants me to play as a power forward I can absolutely help a team that way, but the same goes for playing as a center.
SLAM: Is there anyone in the League who you think you game compares to? Is there anyone you try to model yourself after?
BJM: There’s a mixture of people; Dirk Nowitzki with his outside shooting, KG with his passion and hunger. He’s great in the post with that quick little dribble off the block. I would say those two probably the most out of everybody.
SLAM: What have you enjoyed the most about this process?
BJM: I’m really just trying to take in the whole experience of traveling around the country, meeting the different teams and coaches; even the guys I’m working out with. I’m not trying to build any friendships here, with the other players, that is. I’m here to work. Off the court we can definitely be friends, but on the court, we’re all going for the same goal.