NBA prospect Grant Riller from the College of Charleston recently joined Raquel Rodriguez on Babcock Hoops Q&A Sessions. They discussed him being a late bloomer, a season-ending injury prior to his freshman season, why he thinks an NBA general manager should select him, and more.
Raquel Rodriguez: Hi, Grant. Thank you for joining me today. I'd like to get right into it and talk about your high school days. From what I understand, you were not really heavily recruited by Division-1 schools, and now you're an NBA prospect. Do you think that you flew under a lot of the coach’s radars?
Grant Riller: I think so, but at the same time, I think I'm a late bloomer as well. Coming out of high school, I felt like I had the raw talent, but there's a lot of stuff that I was missing. The biggest thing I think was my body weight coming out of high school. I was probably about a buck fifty. So I know that kind of scared a lot of the coaches away, but all it takes is one to love you. So Coach Grant and his staff put a lot of trust in me. That was all she wrote from there.
So you injured your knee before your freshman season and were forced to redshirt. I'm sure that was a really challenging time for you. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Yeah, it was tough. Before that injury, I had never suffered a major injury like that. Coming in, I'm expected to help the team right away, but unfortunately, I tore my ACL. I had a ton of great people in my corner. My family, of course, all of the coaches, and then my teammates as well. I have to give a lot of credit to them and the training staff there. It was easy not to feel sorry for myself and just get to work. I knew I had the whole year to get better, and that's what I did.
You definitely bounced back and had a really productive redshirt freshman season, followed by a terrific sophomore season. At what point in your college career did you realize that playing in the NBA was a very real possibility for you?
I think after that sophomore season that we had where we won the CAA championship as a team. But for me individually, I feel like that was the year where I really saw my hard work kind of payoff on the floor, and I knew I had two more years left of eligibility. I mean, I knew I had no choice but to get better, so I knew if I kept working then there was a chance that I could get there one day.
Do you think that there have been some advantages to you playing at a smaller school in regards to preparing for the NBA?
I'm not sure there are advantages, but when you go to these smaller schools that are mid-major types of schools, you usually know you're not going to be a one and done type of prospect. So, you know, you have a lot of time to kind of work on your game and mold yourself into an NBA player. So I knew coming into college that it would be a longer process for me than a lot of other people in my class. I knew I would probably be there for four years, which ended up being five, but I knew I could get better during that time. And that's what I tried to do.
Would you mind describing your game for me?
Yeah, I think I'm a guard that can first score on all three levels. A guard that puts tons of pressure on the defense, whether it's in transition or in the pick-and-roll. A guard that can play either guard spot, regardless of what he's asked to do. I'm somebody that is kind of a score-first guard, but at the same time I love to play the right way and I have no problem making the easy basketball plays.
What is the biggest adjustment that you are expecting to have once you do make it into the NBA?
I think just the speed of the game. Every level is different. You always got to kind of make that adjustment coming from high school to college and then now from college to the NBA. I think the speed is just a lot faster. It's something I haven't experienced yet. So I think just trying to get reps, as many reps as I can, and as much experience as I can at the speed of the NBA game will be huge.
Long-term: Would you prefer your primary role to be on or off the ball?
I think this is where I'm unique compared to other guards in the draft, just because I played both guard spots so much in college. I got tons of experience at either spot. So whatever role I'm asked to play I feel comfortable in either one and I can truly say that.
Is there any current or former player that you compare yourself to?
I'll go with a former player. I look at a guy like Deron Williams from back then and I see a lot of similarities in my game. Kind of a score-first guard, he could score on all three levels. He was good in the pick-and-roll for himself and creating for others, he could create for himself as well off the bounce. So I look at a guy like that and see tons of similarities, and that's definitely somebody I've watched a ton over the years.
What are some things that you would like to work and improve on your game?
Definitely my jump shot. With the line moving back and stuff like that at the NBA level, I definitely have to be ready for that. So I've been working a ton on my jump shot. Then probably a floater as well, because in college a lot of the time it was so easy for me to find myself at the rim just because of the size I was playing against and the level of athleticism, but I know in the NBA the personnel is so much different. Guys are so much more talented. So I kind of need an in-between game and that's definitely something I'm working on.
This is going to be our last question. Let's pretend that you've just entered an elevator with a general manager of a team that's considering selecting you. What is your elevator pitch as to why you're his guy?
Well, I'll tell him if he's looking for a guard that’s selfless, a guard that will put the team first, doesn't have any problem with whatever role you'll put him in, and a guy that's humble enough to work for anything he wants -- just a guy that's looking to play the right way, then I'm that guy.
We really appreciate you coming on Babcock Hoops Q&A sessions.
Definitely. Thank you guys for having me.