DEERFIELD, ILL.—When Tony Snell embarked on his pre-draft workout tour, he had a feeling that his very first visit was to the same team that would select him in Thursday night’s 2013 NBA Draft.
“I really did,” claimed the New Mexico swingman, reached by phone. “That was my very first workout. I felt really good, had a little taste of what it’s going to be like and I really felt great about the workout.”
Snell, who averaged 12.5 points per game for the Mountain West champions as a junior last season, knows he’s expected to add perimeter shooting for the Bulls, as well as maximize his length and athleticism to become a solid defender, a must under Tom Thibodeau.
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“Definitely,” Snell said of his ability to grow on the defensive end. “I feel like I’m really good enough to defend anybody, so yeah, I feel really good about that.
“I can see myself being a good catch-and-shooter or coming off the curls and shooting. I really shoot the ball pretty well. I really feel good about shooting the ball,” he continued about his offensive game. “I can bring the ball up a little bit and create, make plays.”
A high-school teammate of San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard at King High School in Riverside, Calif., where the duo won a state championship, Snell takes some inspiration from the continued development of his friend, an emerging star in the NBA.
“Both of us are hard workers. I see how hard he works and what it takes to be a great player,” he explained. “The position he’s in right now, he did a fantastic job and I feel like I can do the same thing.”
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Snell was tutored in college by Steve Alford, the former college star who had a stint in the NBA, now the head coach at UCLA after leaving New Mexico, which was upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Harvard.
“I learned a lot from Coach Alford. When I first got there, my footwork was terrible. I kept chopping my steps. He kept helping me on my footwork. He really emphasized the defensive side, too and I did really well defensively,” Snell recounted. I definitely had really good years there. He taught me how to be good mentally. He got me mentally tougher and just helped me develop in a lot of ways.”
Like many players, Snell was a fan of Michael Jordan and was pleased to learn that he’ll end up in Chicago.
“It was crazy, knowing that I’m going to the Bulls. I watched Jordan my whole life. I never knew I was going to be here, to get picked by the Bulls,” he said. “I watch Derrick Rose, he’s a really great player and I can’t wait to work with him and help the team get wins.”
He spoke to Thibodeau and Bulls general manager Gar Forman after being selected. Their advice was brief and to the point, according to Snell.
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“I talked to them and they said, ‘Congratulations for working hard and everything,’” he deadpanned. “Get ready for the workouts.’”
Whenever Snell arrives at the Berto Center in the coming days, his trademark cornrow look—shared by former teammate Leonard—could be gone.
“Not right now, but I’m going to cut it real soon,” he admitted.
On a more serious note, Snell does understand what he needs to do to be a contributor for the Bulls.
“Just get stronger, get used to the court and everything,” he explained. “All the veterans helping me out and just having that confidence to be ready.”