June 26, 2014 Indy Star- Candice Buckner
Mentor David West will attend NBA Draft with T.J. Warren
With all due respect to the Indiana Pacers and their No. 57th pick tonight, forward David West will not be paying attention to that late selection as he sits inside Barclays Center for the 2014 NBA Draft.
Instead, West will be in attendance for a special reason. North Carolina State’s T.J. Warren, a projected first-round pick who was invited to sit in the green room tonight, played his youth career in West’s family AAU Garner Road Basketball Club program. Thursday will make history for West and the program as Warren will become the first player whom he directly mentored to make it to the NBA.
West confirmed with The Star that he will be in attendance, making good on plans that he set even back in March as Warren was becoming the ACC Player of the Year. Believe it or not, when Warren earned that honor, West – who has the personality that he wrestles bears for kicks and giggles – was so proud that he said he nearly got a little misty eyed. For West, that’s the equivalent to a flood of tears.
“I’ve been working with T.J. since he was 11 or 12,” West said. “Once I got into the NBA and realized … you can really go into the gym and have an impact on these kids and then it’s a trip because once you see them (get) better.”
Older brother, Dwayne, runs the AAU operation throughout the year while West is away. However, every summer after the end of his season, West packs up andreturns home to work with the kids.
“He used to show us his sweet spots on the floor, the mid range to the high post and those are the easiest places to score when you don’t have a layup. He used to show us a lot of his moves, so it was good to learn from that,” said Warren, who calls his mentor simply ‘Dave.’ “When I was young I used to have the habit of having the game get away and not keeping my aggressiveness through the whole game. I had a bad habit of shooting threes and not attacking the rim. Dave told me about more effort on the defensive end.”
West has often even traveled with the team to out-of-state tournaments. Back in March, West told this story of the turning point for a young T.J….
“When he was 14, we were in Florida and we played and for some reason he just wasn’t playing (well). We ended up losing in the final eight or something and my brother and I are standing there and there’s a scout that walks by. He’s like, yeah, man, you guys got a heck of a team if you could find some pieces to go around this other kid who was NOT our best player but he had a good game. And so the scout dude walks up and says ‘if you could find some players to play with that kid…’ I looked at my brother and simultaneously T.J. walked by and I grabbed him. I mean, I just grabbed him! Yanked his (tail) up and went up into the stands and I sat down with him and I said, ‘T.J., if you ever do this again, I will kill you!’ He was like, what are you talking about? (I told him) ‘You don’t ever leave the floor without people knowing that you’re the best basketball player on the court.’ He was clearly the best ball player there, period. But he didn’t know how to just show it every single time. That’s when he was 14. It literally blew my mind that he had been that invisible on the floor.
‘You’ve got this opportunity to become a great player and every time you step on the floor, there should be no question about your ability, about what you can do and how well you play the game. That was sort of his turning moment because the very next summer, he went to Florida and we won the national showcase. He went crazy. That dude, I mean, he just started taking off. At that moment, me and my brother were like, this dude – he started growing, he started dunking. He just became himself. It’s going to be a very fulfilling moment when he gets an opportunity to get to this level. It’ll be very, very emotional moment for us. He’s just somebody that, not only me but my brother, we put a lot of time into T.J.”
Although Washington Wizards All-Star John Wall had early ties to the Garner Road program, West did not directly work with Wall. His presence with the program truly started with Warren’s generation, that includes NC State’s Terry Henderson and recent Kansas recruit Devonte Graham.
“That will be a very proud time for me,” West said about Warren’s pending draft. “To me that’s the most fulfilling thing that I do. Other than raising my own kids. That’s the most fulfilling thing that I do is really helping change these kids and helping mold them into basketball players and helping develop them as people and positive people. Trying to show them a different look.”
“This is a guy that we invested a lot of time in, not because it was up to us but because (Warren) wanted it.”
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October 13, 2014 West Returning to Site of his Education
October 1, 2014 David West is Considering Retirement
May 17, 2014 David West sets Pacers’ direction
April 5, 2014 Pacer’s David West lives life the right way: His Way!
January, 2012:Young Pacers Look to West for Leadership