Q&A: Matt Gatens on NBA summer league
Matt Gatens will always hold a special place in the hearts of Iowa basketball fans for leading the team through a tough four-year transitional period. He now faces another tough stretch of his career — trying to make an NBA roster.
The former Hawkeye guard was not selected in last month's NBA Draft, but he signed with the Phoenix Suns the next day. Gatens is now in Las Vegas as a member of the Suns' summer league team, where he has scored three points in each of the team's first two contests.
Daily Iowan: When did it first hit you that you were on the court with professional athletes and not with students anymore?
Matt Gatens: It hit me pretty quick. At minicamp and the two-a-days we had, you realize how good these players really are. It's been an honor and I've gotten great experience from playing with such great players and learning from elite coaches.
DI: How do you feel about your progress after the first two games of the summer?
MG: I'm feeling pretty good. [Tuesday] I got some playing time where I could do a little defense and I knocked down an open jumper. We had a scrimmage on Monday where I thought I did a nice job on both ends, so the key is to play hard every second and hit some open jumpers if they're available to me.
DI: What differences have you noticed between the college and the pro-game so far?
MG: Well, the guys are bigger, stronger, and faster. There are all sorts of styles — some guys run up-and-down, and others slow it down and use the shot clock. The pick-and-roll is everywhere, too, and you have to be ready to defend any type of game each night.
DI: What adjustments to your game are necessary to catch up to such an advanced type of play?
MG: Moving with the ball, finding spots to get open, and creating my own shot. Those are the three big things and they're the most important aspects in my style of play. On the defensive end, the challenge is trying to stay with the pick-and-rolls and keep up with such good players.
DI: At Iowa, you were the star of the basketball program but now you're one of the guys at the bottom of the "totem pole." How have you handled the change in roles?
MG: At Iowa I had a lot of minutes and I knew I was going to be out there, but here it's all about being ready when you're name is called. I've been learning how to study up on guys on the fly so when I'm called in I know how to play against them. I'm trying to stay involved at all times and have the ability to jump into the game at a moment's notice.
DI: If you don't crack the roster and are faced with an alternative route, would you spend time in the NBA Developmental League or would you look overseas?
MG: It would depend on the situation and what offers I have overseas. If an NBA team really likes me and wants me to spend some time in the D-league I think it's possible. My agents seem to be leaning more towards going the overseas route if it comes to that. But there are positives both ways and we'll see what happens.
DI: What kind of opportunity has being around the NBA and it's personnel been for you?
MG: Well, it's just a great opportunity to be here in the summer league, playing for such a great franchise. I've also gotten some good experience by getting to know their coaches and front office staff, and I've met some of the different guys on the team. There are a bunch of scouts here at the games and it's such a privilege to be around this league. Hopefully I can stick around here for training camp.
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