This summer, I switched my jersey number to zero.
Number three will always be a part of me, but I wanted to change my number for a new start. I just wanted something different. I feel like I had a bad weight on my shoulders with three, so I wanted to start over and have a fresh start with zero.
It started off by me watching Gilbert Arenas.
I watched a lot of his film this summer. He was probably one of the most un-guardable dudes in the league at one point in time. They called him “Agent Zero” because when it was time to go he was unstoppable. I want to reach a point in my game where once I get in my zone no one can guard me.
Russell averaged a triple double last year which is just unbelievable. No one thought that he would be able to break that record, but he said “why not?” Earlier in his career, it seemed like the Thunder didn’t even want him on the team. Fans and commentators kept getting onto him and wanting him to fit a mold that wasn’t him. People wanted to move him out, but now they see his loyalty and hard work paying off. He is the NBA’s Most Valuable Player, and stayed true to Oklahoma by committing to play in OKC long term.
Russell fought through his adversity and kept asking “why not?” I like to think that I can relate…
When I stepped on campus here it was an atmosphere I had never experienced before. That is why I committed here. Everyone was so genuine and caring. For me I felt like that would help me and my family in a way that would take my game to a different level.
Freshman year, I really felt like I was starting to show my potential when we played West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament. When I look back, I think my teammates helped me more than anything that game. Knowing that they believed in me and trusted me to make the right plays on the ball gave me a big boost of confidence. Knowing Buddy, the great player that he is, and knowing that he believed in me and trusted me to make the right plays – that just took my game to another level against West Virginia. That whole experience gave me confidence as we entered the NCAA Tournament.
That Final Four run was an experience of a lifetime. I feel like I will never get those days back with my brothers. Ryan, Jordan, Isaiah – I feel like that was just a great point of time in my life. Going from city to city seeing different things and experiencing different things on and off the court. Also gaining trust in my brothers and being able to bond on and off the court.
I got a lot of my toughness from Spang. On the court, he is a bully. He wasn’t taking it from anybody and was always finding a way to contribute. Even if he wasn’t knocking down shots, he’d still help the team by getting rebounds or making defensive stops. That’s who I get my toughness from.
I learned a ton about work ethic from Buddy and Isaiah. They told me to never stop working because the next man is always working as hard as you. That was an eye opener for me, and I had to find that out the hard way.
The expectations heading into my sophomore season, I knew I had to step up. I really was not sure of what was going to head my way. I did not do as much as I thought I would have to do my freshman year, when we all knew the ball was going to Buddy, Jordan, Ryan or Isaiah. My sophomore year it was different. And looking back, I felt like I had to go through what I went through my sophomore year to become the player that I am today.
My sophomore year did not go the way I had expected it to because of me. I got complacent. I felt like I didn’t contribute as well as I should have.
After our season ended in the Big 12 tournament a switch hit me. I hated that feeling of going home early. I did not want to feel that again. From that day on I just felt like I am going to work every day as hard as I can until I get to my dreams.
I hit the reset button. That was the point everything came back to zero.
I’ve never been a quitter. That’s not a part of me. I’m loyal and I’m willing to work nonstop for my team. It was at that point I really started to understand what Buddy and Isaiah had been saying to me my freshman year.
This summer, my mindset was all about business.
I just wanted to get better every day by working on my dribbling, ball handling and shooting. I feel like it is my responsibility to push this team to where it needs to be, but in order to do that I also had to push myself.
There were a lot of late nights and early mornings in the gym, working on my game. I watched a ton of film, learning where people are on the court. That’s a big part of basketball.
I’ve also been working out a ton with our strength coach, Bryce Daub. I’ve been running a lot more than I used to. I’ve been watching what I eat and put into my body. Daub helped me tremendously in losing weight. I was 228 when I got here and now I’m right around 208. He helped me get my core right and focus on my agility.
I feel like I still have a lot to learn. I feel like I still have to pick up my intensity and lead by example. I also have to lead by being vocal on defense and offense to try and get people in the right places and make plays for others.
My game, and myself as a whole are still a work in progress. But from ground zero, I aim to keep building up. What am I building to? To win.
Last year we went through that losing phase of losing by one or two points. Honestly, I feel like we were one of the best teams in the Big 12. If we win some of those few games we would have probably been in the middle or the top five.
This year, I won’t accept those close losses. This team can be special and is capable of doing great things if we put in the work. That’s the only goal for me: doing whatever it takes to win.
I can’t wait to get started.