MADISON, N.J. — Ferguson Recreation Center is a nondescript brick building on the edge of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s campus, which is as quiet as one would expect for a Sunday morning in August. A charter bus sits unoccupied along Dreyfuss Road across from the Division III gym, the only clue that something is happening inside.
Then, from the building’s rotunda entrance, a fully uniformed Boston Celtic bounds toward the street. He needs something from the bus.
It’s Carsen Edwards, the No. 33 overall pick in June’s draft. He’s one of 41 NBA newbies who have come to the Panini NBA Rookie Photo Shoot to be photographed — by themselves and with their teammates — for trading cards and marketing materials. Their official NBA shots will be used by their teams and the league throughout their careers.
But before the regimen begins, there’s time for some fun. Just walk past the room with the ball pit, within which you’ll find a submerged KZ Okpala, a second-round pick who signed with the Heat. Then enter the main gym, where the rooks will pose in front of a word-salad backdrop of faux graffiti and face red-carpet-style questions.
REMSPORT caught up with several of them between poses to discuss a variety of subjects: Tell us about the first time you dunked.
New OrleaNew York Knicks guard-forward RJ Barrett (No. 3 overall pick): “I could never dunk. Then, in a game, when I was 13, I just got a steal — everybody was there, my parents were in the crowd — and I just went for it and got it. I was one of the only guys who could dunk at the time, so I just felt great about myself.”
Chicago Bulls guard Coby White (No. 7 overall pick): “You want me to tell you everything? Well, I was at Greenfield School, in the gym at my high school [in Wilson, North Carolina], and we just got done playing pickup. There was no air conditioning. This was when I was a freshman. I never really tried before. It was a rim-grazer, but it was good for me. It was an amazing surprise because I didn’t think I was going to do it.”
Denver Nuggets center Bol Bol (No. 44 overall pick by the Miami Heat, traded to the Nuggets): “I think I was in sixth grade. We were at an AAU tournament, and all the older players were dunking, and I was 6-[foot]-4 at the time. I tried to dunk. It took me three times. It was pretty cool because I didn’t know I could dunk.”
Philadelphia 76ers guard-forward Matisse Thybulle (No. 20 overall pick by the Celtics, traded to the Sixers): “Summer of eighth grade. It was in a park on one of those chain-link nets. My friends will tell you that the rim was bent down, but it wasn’t. It was like, ‘Did I really just do that?’ I was really trying to wrap my mind around it.”
Knicks forward Ignas Brazdeikis (No. 47 overall pick by the Sacramento Kings, traded to the Knicks): “It was in my driveway. It wasn’t actually 10 feet, but that was the first time I was really like, ‘Oh, I just dunked a basketball.’ I think it was in eighth grade. It was indescribable.”