Lakers Q&A: Devin Ebanks doesn't regret decision to go pro after two seasons at West Virginia
Below is a recent conversation with Lakers rookie forward Devin Ebanks, whom the Lakers selected with the 43rd pick overall of the 2010 NBA draft. Ebanks, who turned pro after playing two seasons at West Virginia, has averaged 3.1 points in 5.9 minutes per game in 20 contests this season. He's been sidelined for the last four weeks because of a stress fracture in his left tibia and isn't expected to return until after the regular season.
You decided last year to declare for the NBA draft rather than stay another year at West Virginia. How do you feel about that decision now that you're a season removed from that?
I definitely don't regret it. I had fun my two years at West Virginia, and it was fun being around those guys, the coaches and the university. Now I'm getting to do what I wanted to do. It's a dream come true, really. I'm living my dream everyday.
So how did you weigh the variables?
College is a steppingstone and a place for me to get ready. I had a good time in college, but I was ready to go.
West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins said it was a decision that you needed to make that was best for you. What was that process like?
It was a pretty easy one. I pretty much decided after we lost to Duke in the Final Four [in 2010] that it was time to go. We had a great season. I told Huggs [after my freshman year] I would come back for another year to try to win a championship for him. I came one game short. He understood the magnitude of the decision I had to make for me and my family. Everyone rallied behind me.
Can you take me through what you were going through at that time ... coming to grips with your decision to go pro?
Just being upset. I felt especially bad for De'Sean [Butler, who injured his left knee]. I couldn't look at De'Sean or Huggs at that time. I saw De'Sean's leg. I thought he was all right, but he said he wasn't good. I couldn't look at him. I just turned around. I had my back to the whole situation. When I sat down after the game, I thought, 'You can't ask and wait for a better way to go out. I just have to focus on pursuing my career in the NBA.'
San Antonio recently picked him up. Do you know how he's doing with his injury?
I speak to him every once in a while, but I haven't spoken to him since he got signed. I assume he's doing well and trying to get right. I haven't had a chance to get a catch-up. ... I saw a little bit of the game yesterday. He looked good, real good. He was doing well offensively and defensively.
You originally committed to Indiana. But after Kelvin Sampson was fired for making impermissible phone calls, you decided to go to West Virginia. How did you decide West Virginia?
Basically I was going to go to Indiana with Coach Sampson. Then he got in trouble with the NCAA. West Virginia was my second choice.
How did you handle that?
It was difficult because I built relationships with guys on the team and the coaching staff and the general public there. It was hard. But West Virginia turned out to be a good look for me.
I had to be on my own out there and be self-motivated. I worked out sometimes when I didn't want to, but I knew it would prepare me for this level.
Your freshman year, you averaged about 10 points, seven rebounds. Sophomore was 12 and eight. And you guys went to the Final Four for the first time since 1959. Would you attribute the improvement to anything specifically?
Long hours in the gym. We had a very good team my sophomore year. There were three or four guys averaging double figures. We all put our time in at the gym.
Earlier your sophomore season, it was reported you had a fight with a teammate and a three-game suspension. What happened?
It was just a little situation. Minor. We got over it. That's pretty much what it was.
Did you learn anything from it?
You played with Jerry West's son, Jonnie. What's your relationship like with him?
We're cool friends. I haven't spoken to him since we left West Virginia. I'm just trying to get acclimated here. I haven't had a chance to catch up with my old college teammates this year, but that's what the summer is for.
Has it been hard not being able to keep in touch with your college teammates?
It's not really hard because they know it's business at the end of the day. They understand that. They're busy as well.
Have you talked with Jerry West at all?
I saw him at the Lakers' golf event. I got to speak to him, and it's good to see him again. We were just talking about how he's happy for me and [that] he knew after my freshman year I would be a pro. He was happy I've been able to follow my dream.
How are you getting through your latest injury? [Ebanks has been sidelined for four weeks with a stress fracture in his left tibia and is expected to return for the playoffs.]
I'm doing all right. I just keep rehabbing and doing what my trainers tell me to do as far as getting the strength back. Hopefully, I'll get there soon. I can't do any running activities. It's a lot of stationary shooting.
Regarding the Lakers, you had said how much different it is compared with your time with the Bakersfield Jam when you were down there. What stood out to you?
It reminded me of a college atmosphere. I just worked on my game. There wasn't much going on. Lots of shooting, ball handling, offensive skills. That's what I was really working on.
What feedback did Phil or Mitch give you?
Not too much. They're two very low-key guys, and they don't say too much. They said my play down there was impressive. I guess it was good enough to come back.
What feedback has Phil given to you for the overall season?
He felt when I was in there that I did well. He knows I'm on a really good championship team right now, and I'm just going to have to wait my turn. It was nothing too specific though, just that I have to wait my turn.
What's the highlight for you?
I don't keep track. I had a couple games where I scored eight or nine points. I wouldn't necessarily say there was a highlight. I just tried to do what I do, being up tempo. A lot of times in the game, it's up tempo and up and down style. That's how my game is geared to.
With this being a veteran squad, you've said before they have shared a lot of insight. Can you break down specifically what Phil, Kobe, Derek, Lamar and Ron have provided for you in terms of leadership and trying to help you out?
Starting with Phil, he tries to get me to watch film a lot and be a student of the game and study the offense and defense and know the ins and outs of it. That's what he's told me to do since it's hard to find playing time for myself. As far as Kobe and the rest of the guys, they tell me to keep working hard and they know my time will come. They know I'm very talented, but right now they're trying to win a championship.
How is Phil with you personally?
Phil and I have a good relationship. We joke around a lot between each other. Sometimes he's low key and doesn't have much to say. But when he says something, he's a funny guy. I like him. He's respectful. He's a cool guy. He's very sarcastic.
How about Kobe? You said when you're sitting on the bench, he points things out to you. What does he tell you during those times?
Sometimes when we're on the court and we're watching one of our plays or he sees something defensively, he tells me what should happen and gives me pointers. Kobe and Fisher are the same way.
What are Kobe's and Fisher's leadership qualities like?
They're two guys who are good at what they do. They're very professional. As far as being co-captains and being leaders, they're very talkative, and they're not silent. But they also lead by example. That's it pretty much every day. They're the ones talking in our huddles, pregame and halftime speeches. They're very professional.
Ron's locker is next to yours. What does his presence do for you?
Ron's a fun guy to be around. Plus I grew up under him and watched him. Ron, I lived like three blocks away from him. So I'd see him all the time during the summertime. Whenever he had tournaments, I played in his tournaments. He watched me growing up to be the player I am now, so it's definitely fun to have him around. He also tries to help me, especially on the defensive end. That's what he is great at doing.
What have you learned defensively from him?
There's a lot you can learn from Ron. He's a different kind of defensive player. He's very physical and likes to get into you, he's very good with his hands, and his timing is great. That's the things I picked up from him.
And how about Lamar Odom?
He provided pretty much the same as everybody else. He's an older guy trying to help me out in the first year of the NBA. It's a little more special because I knew L.O. since I was younger. I've known him for a while, probably since I was 9 years old. My uncle introduced me to him. That's how I've known him.
During summer league, one of the things Mitch [Kupchak] mentioned that he liked was your work ethic and attention to detail. What's been your approach with those two areas?
Watching film and trying to be a student of the game. That's how I'm going to get better. Watching other players and watching myself and the mistakes and the things I can correct. The things I do well, I'll continue to get better at.
-- Mark Medina
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Top photo: Lakers forward Devin Ebanks appreciates the support the Lakers have provided thus far. Allen J. Schaben, Los Angeles Times / October 16, 2010
Bottom photo: Lakers forward Devin Ebanks tries to score against the defense of FC Barcelona forward Boniface Ndong in their exhibition game Thursday. Credit: Andreu Dalmau / EPA