In terms of potential big men prospects for the 2008 NBA Draft, DeVon Hardin is in a class of his own as far as raw physical tools are concerned. Standing a legit 6'11 and blessed with an outstanding wingspan, Hardin owns ideal size for a center prospect. His well proportioned frame and broad shoulders leave strength and conditioning coaches enamored, as he has a tremendous amount of room for growth in this area. The body possessed by the Northern California native is resemblant of physical freak Dwight Howard. Already weighing 235 pounds, DeVon easily has the potential to reach a comfortable playing weight around the 260 pound mark. The combination of strength, ability to run the floor, and freakish leaping ability are simply unparalleled by any center prospect this draft has to offer so far.
In addition to his sheer physical abilities, Hardin has a developing skill set. The dunk is generally his best scoring weapon in the paint, given his tremendous strength and pogo-stick jumping ability. In the low post, he has shown the ability to consistently hit a jump hook with his right hand, and also has a turnaround jump-shot in his repertoire While Hardins moves may be a bit mechanical, he is very consistent with his jump-hook, which has proved to be tough to stop.
Aside from his jump hook and a powerful drop step, DeVon has very little as far as post moves are concerned, leaving him a bit predictable at times. While the Cal big man has improved greatly over his stay at Cal, he is far from a finished product on the offensive end. His shooting range extends to around 17 foot mark with solid mechanics, but inconsistent accuracy. Hardin struggles mightily when faced with a double team, turning the ball over often. This is surely an area that the near seven footer will need to improve upon, as he and fellow frontcourt mate Ryan Anderson will be the focal points of the Cal offense.
On the defensive side of things, Hardin serves as the enforcer of the paint for Ben Brauns defense. His strength and leaping ability allow him to intimidate opposing offensive players who come into the lane with his shot blocking prowess. DeVon is the second leading returning shot blocker in the PAC-10, surely looking to improve upon the 1.9 rejections per game he accumulated last season. The athleticism that is displayed on the offensive end translates to both sides of the court, with DeVon exhibiting nice lateral quickness and reaction time. His brute strength translates into his rebounding ability as well. Although averaging a solid 8.3 minutes per game, he did it in limited minutes in what transcends into an average of 12.5 corrals per 40 minutes.
While there is plenty to like about the big man on the defensive end, he still has plenty of room for growth here as well. At times, Hardin gives up position far too low on the blocks, allowing opposing offensive players to catch the ball five or six feet away from the rim. Also, he has the tendency to bite for opponents shot fakes, leaving him out of position and prone to picking up possible fouls. Both of these areas should be improved upon with experience and advanced coaching however, but could prove to be issues with Hardins extended role for Cal this upcoming season.
All in all, Hardin is a player who has been on the mind of NBA personnel for two years now. There just arent too many big men in the draft that can offer his package of size, strength, and athleticism. In a league that is now predicated by strength and athleticism, Hardin is a perfect fit. The question that everyone has however, is how much more he will continue to develop and whether he will ever reach the immense potential that he has. Being a offensively raw big man at 21 years old is generally a serious blemish in the eyes of NBA scouts, however Hardins consistent improvement leaves optimism. With the recent trend of NBA teams reaching for raw big men with nice upside (see Saer Sene and Patrick OBryant), it would certainly not be out of the question for Hardin to land somewhere in the lottery if he is able to continue his refinement offensively.
DeVon Hardin Interview
Rodger Bohn: Coming out of high school, you were a very highly touted prospect who had the choice to go to virtually any school in the country. Why did you choose Cal?
Hardin: Mostly because it was close to home so that I could be around my family. Also, because the academics were second to none. Those were two of the main reasons that I came here.
Rodger Bohn: How big of a factor were academics in your decision to go to Cal, given that you were a 4.0 student in high school and had a really high SAT score?
Hardin: It was definitely something that I had to consider because basketball isnt a guarantee for anybody and Im definitely going to have a degree to fall back on. A degree from Cal is something that is going to last you a lifetime, so it was a big part of the decision.
Rodger Bohn: Why did you decide to enter the NBA Draft last season, after playing only 12 games?
Hardin: I entered the draft just to basically see where I was, and where I was in comparison the other premier players in the country. I wanted to get feedback from NBA scouts, NBA general managers...not just scouts, as to what I could work on for this upcoming season. It was a consideration at one point to keep my name in there because I was getting such good feedback, but I figured Id go back to school for another year and if I get a solid year under my belt, I could really make some good things happen this year.
Rodger Bohn: What seemed to be the feedback that you received from NBA GMs and scouts in regards of what you needed to improve upon most?
Hardin: Improve my shot. Be more consistent with my shot. Consistency on offense was the main point that I got from the coaches. Physically, they say that I am very dominating over most of the big men that I was playing against in the camps. Offensively, they said I just need to develop a little finesse, and a little more touch around the basket. That was the general feedback. You cant dunk everything.
Rodger Bohn: How many teams did you work out for?
Hardin: So I traveled to eight cities, but there were a bunch of different teams that I worked out for. I think that I was exposed to at least 20 teams.
Rodger Bohn: Who was the one player that you were surprised with throughout the workout process, and why?
Hardin: There were a couple of guys that I had a good time going up against. In terms of my favorite, I would probably say Jason Smith from Colorado State. I was just really impressed by his athleticism, because I normally dont come across any big men faster then me. If he wasnt faster then me, then he was just as fast. He may not be able to jump as high, but he definitely has great foot speed. Another guy that I was really impressed with was Josh McRoberts. I was pretty surprised with his turnout in the draft. He surprised me with his athleticism. I didnt expect him to jump the way he did. He really surprised me with that.
Rodger Bohn: Talk about the workout process in general. Was there anything that surprised you about it?
Hardin: No, not necessarily because I trained very well for the workouts. A lot of people tell me that the workouts are tailored to guys like me. Im not sure if thats true or not, but I know that when I went in there I was in great physical condition. I was able to go in there and basically dominate whatever they asked me to do for that period of time. Most of the workouts that I went into, I came out with a really good feeling.
Rodger Bohn: How do you feel that your pre-draft experience will help you this season at Cal, and for preparing for next years NBA Draft?
Hardin: I think going through that experience is going to help me definitely in terms of my level of confidence that I have going into the season. Confidence not only in my own abilities, but the ability of my teammates and what we can collectively do. Just building that confidence in knowing that I went up against the best of the best. These are the best college players all trying out for the draft. I felt that I held my own, but in some cases I felt that I actually dominated. Not only just the confidence, but also the experience. It was more playing, and more competition to get up under your belt. I learned from the guys that I played with. Just the experience will allow me to bring more to my team.
Rodger Bohn: What type of feedback were you receiving from NBA personnel in terms of where you would have been selected had you stayed in the draft last year?
Hardin: It was a very difficult decision. It pretty much came down to what was the best decision long term. Really, Im not sure that I made the best decision, but I feel like a made a pretty good decision and I stand behind that. It was hard because a lot of people were saying that I had a chance of going in the middle to late first round. I heard rumors of going as high as 18 to the Warriors. All of that was good, but I think that there was a little too much uncertainty for me because you never know with the draft. In the case of Josh McRoberts, I thought personally that the guy was a first round pick, but then he ended up falling all the way to the second round. There was definitely a small level of uncertainty. Basically I looked at it as Will I regret my decision if I fall into the second round?, and the answer was yes. I feel that if I come back for a full year and not only dominate the PAC-10, but all of college basketball this year, I would definitely limit the chances of this happening.
Rodger Bohn: What was your reaction to the San Francisco Chronicle piece that came out reporting that you had signed with an agent?
Hardin: Hey, they jumped the gun. Thats all that it was really, that they jumped the gun. They figured that it was the 11th hour and DeVon hasnt said anything yet. Hes pretty much going to be a first round pick, so lets say he signed with an agent. It was pretty much just rumors that I believe that they might have come up with themselves. I dont really know, but I feel like they just jumped the gun and it kind of caused a lot of confusion that day because people are calling me and saying man we heard this happen, and I told them that I didnt know anything about that.
Rodger Bohn: So how have your injuries healed?
Hardin: The injury?
Hardin: Ugh...I dont know what injuries youre talking about man (laughs). No, I actually feel in better physical shape then I ever have before. My foot is at full strength, its at 150%. My shoulder, I havent even thought about that for a year. Physically, I'm stronger then Ive ever been. I'm in the best physical shape of my life right now. I think its they best physical condition that Ive ever been in. I mean EVER, ever since Ive played basketball.
Rodger Bohn: Which injury was more serious, your shoulder or your foot?
Hardin: The foot definitely scared me more. Before the shoulder, I had never been injured. I had never had an injury that took me out of games. The shoulder didnt even take me out of games, I was just out for the summer. Then with the foot, that was really the first time that I ever had to deal with an injury that sat me down and sidelined me from any kind of play. That was hard for me to deal with, and its still hard for me to deal with now. I missed a whole year, and I still cant get that year back and all that other stuff. It happened, and I'm going to make the best of it. The foot was definitely the hardest to deal with because of the simple fact that I had never had an injury that took me out. Even with the shoulder, I could still go in the gym and shoot and stuff. With the foot, I was on crutches. I was wheel chairing it around. I couldnt do anything.
Rodger Bohn: Does it ever get frustrating to have people constantly refer to you as injury prone, given that you say that those were the only ones?
Hardin: Thats actually the first time that Ive heard people say Im injury prone. Ive never heard it being reported as everybody thinks I'm injury prone. Hey, you know what, Im built tough. I dont know about this injury prone stuff. I do a lot of injuring, thats kind of what I do. Im not usually on the other end. Its funny because its not like I go on the court and get an Owwee. My foot broke. I dont know what else you can do about that. I think Im a pretty tough, pretty sturdy guy. That injury prone stuff needs to go out the window. Get in the ring with me and well see who gets injured.
Rodger Bohn: Speaking of your strength, you look to be one of the stronger players in college. How much can you bench press?
Hardin: 325 pounds the last time I did it.
Rodger Bohn: How do you think you benefit from playing with another skilled big man in Ryan Anderson?
Hardin: Oh man, its crazy because Ive never really had that before. Every team that Ive ever been with before, I've just been the big guy. Ryan is pretty much the same size as me, and hes a guard trapped in a big mans body. Its great to have him right there because it takes so much attention away from me. You c can't leave Ryan open. You just cant do that. That would be dumb of you to do that on the perimeter. Then if you want to go one on one with me, well see what happens. It basically puts teams in a very tough position to where they have to choose who theyre going to double off of because we have all shooters on the perimeter. We have Ryan, who can score from wherever he wants to score from. It really helps to have a big man like that playing alongside me, and I think its going to be a really hard match-up for opposing teams.
Rodger Bohn: Have you spoken to Coach Braun about the larger role youre going to take on this year, given that in years past you have been more of a complimentary player?
Hardin: Yes, Ive definitely talked to my coach about that. We stay in constant communication. Youre right, Ive never been the go-to guy in terms of scoring. My role at Cal this year , the best way to put it, is going to make sure we win. I dont need to score all of the points, I dont need to do everything. Im definitely going to be one of the focal points of our defense, I understand that. With my shot blocking ability, and if not block it, ability to alter shots. Then my ability to guard smaller guys. Ive been in situations where I had to guard Nick Young from USC for the entire game. Defensively, I believe that I will be one of the focal points of the team. Offensively, Im going to get put-backs, Im going to go to my go-to moves, Im going to make a highlight reel. All of that good stuff.
Rodger Bohn: Is there any one particular area of your game that youve been trying to improve upon?
Hardin: I dont know man. Everybody says that, huh? I dont know, and it still confuses me today. My right hand is way better then my left, or at least I thought it was until I just started going to that left handed hook because it goes in.
Rodger Bohn: Tell me what the typical training day this summer was like for DeVon Hardin.
Hardin: Ohh, man. Well it started out around 5:30 in the morning. Id get some sort of food in me, usually a yogurt or a nutri-grain bar. Usually in the gym from 6 till 7 working out. 7 till 8 I had conditioning. I would then go to class in, then come back in the afternoon. Back in the gym working on the skills, then weights in the afternoon, and then finally open gym at night. It was pretty intense, but you know, I dont have anything else to do.
Rodger Bohn: Do you ever feel slighted about the lack of national media attention you receive?
Hardin: Oh no, never. I dont need to beg for attention. I dont get on the front of papers, Im not in Slam magazine or anything like that. Its fine. I actually kind of prefer being kind of inconspicuous until the very last moment and then just popping up, like whos this guy? Oh yeah, you didnt know?. The media attention, that really messes with some people. It doesnt really matter to me.