Damian Lillard staying close to "home" as Ogden honors Weber St. product, NBA star
Lillard considers his unanimous selection as Rookie of the Year ?— he averaged 19.0 points, 6.5 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game and set a single-season record for 3-pointers by a rookie — as a reward for all the hard work he's put in, but he knows he's still got a long way to go to become the player he someday hopes to be.
Despite it being his first year in the league, Lillard emerged as a true team leader. And now he wants to help lead the Blazers into the NBA playoffs, an accomplishment that eluded them this season, and he wants to be an All-Star performer along the way.
He realizes, too, that this opportunity is a rare one indeed, one that many athletes might never receive. And although his talent had an awful lot to do with his emergence as one of the best young point guards in the league, he realizes that he also benefitted from being in the right place at the right time.
"I came into the league at the perfect time," he said. "... The best point guards in the league are all scoring guards, but they can make plays. They can make the right plays and they understand the game, and I think that's the type of point guard that I am.
"The way that I play really suits how the point guard position is in the NBA now, so I think I came along at the perfect time for the type of point guard that I am.
"For me, I want to be an All-Star next season. I know that's going to take a lot of work, but that's what I want for myself," said Lillard, who will receive a tryout with Team USA this summer. "But most of all, I want my team to be in the playoffs. ... I want us to be a playoff team and make a run at a championship."
Sure, being a professional athlete brings fortune and fame, but there are other aspects of being in the spotlight that aren't so glamorous.
"It's good and bad," Lillard said. "Everything that I do, I've got to watch what I'm doing; I've got to watch what I'm saying. I've got to know what's around me, just the way you've got to conduct yourself because you don't know who's around you.
"You're so much more under the microscope and it becomes kind of difficult to live and be yourself. But I'm still me, man, and it doesn't bother me much because I'm not pretending to be somebody that I'm not. As long as I can continue to be myself, it won't be a problem for me."
Indeed, being Damian Lillard — both on and off the court — is a pretty sweet gig. And one which Weber State should always be mighty proud of.
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