---- — EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is Mike Muscala's own account of his journey to the NBA through the league's "Draft Diary."
Please visit the NBA's "All Ball Blog" at http://allball.blogs.nba.com/category/draft-diaries/ to read more on Muscala and other NBA rookie hopefuls.
I graduated from Bucknell University yesterday — what a feeling. I posted a Vine video from graduation on Twitter to commemorate the day, so check it out here: https://vine.co/v/b97IhKEutOr You can find me @mikejawz.
It was a great day where I ended one chapter and turned the page to the next. It was great, but a little bittersweet. I had an amazing time at Bucknell on and off the court, and it is truly a special place that I will miss. That being said, I'm definitely excited for all that is to come.
The last few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind. I was at Bucknell in Lewisburg, PA, a couple weeks ago finishing up classes and taking a final. Then, it was back home in Minnesota for my little sister's confirmation. Last week, I flew out to Chicago for the NBA Pre-Draft Camp (more on that later), and I came straight to Lewisburg on Saturday night to make it in time for graduation on Sunday.
In between all of that, I've been working out and getting ready for the NBA Draft in Long Island, NY. With graduation behind me, I can now completely concentrate on basketball and am looking forward to traveling to different cities to work out for NBA teams.
n Pre-Draft Recap
I knew coming in to the Chicago combine that I had a lot to prove. I've always worked hard and had confidence in my game, but coming from a smaller school with less exposure, I wanted to make sure that I performed well. While it's easy to think that being from a small school can hurt you, the coaches I played for and the system I played in at Bucknell put me in this position to make the NBA.
Truth be told, I am happy with my performance in Chicago. Of course, you can always look back on every game or workout and wish you had done even better, but overall it was a very good week. I was proud to hear that I had the best shooting percentage in the combine on Thursday. When we did conditioning tests, I came in first place and I felt like I played well in the competitive aspects of the camp. I think I surprised people with my athleticism, strength and agility testing. It was a good experience, and a challenging one, which I knew it would be going into the weekend. It was a good month of training leading up to it, so I felt prepared. Even though I'm happy with how I did there, there's a ton more work to do, so I'm moving on to this next phase.
n The Off-Court Chicago Experience
All of the guys in the camp stayed at the same hotel. I roomed with (Lehigh's) C.J. McCollum, who I am also working out with in Long Island.
When all of us first got there, people were a little more reserved. But by the time we finished up on the court on Friday, guys were a little more relaxed. It was great to get to know different guys' games, and a positive experience off the court as well.
I had a chance to see my friend Nate Wolters, who is also a Minnesota native. We were in the same high school class. He went to South Dakota State University, but we have kept touch every now and then and followed each other's progress. I also saw Trevor Mbakwe, another old friend from Minnesota. We grew up in different parts of the state, but I knew him because we played in a lot of summer leagues together.
While in Chicago, we interviewed with the NBA teams. There we were, all of us in these nice, well-tailored clothes, and before you knew it, we were all nervous and sweating. We were teasing each other about it, but everybody was experiencing the same thing, which was reassuring in a way. I was a little nervous before my interviews, but I didn't think it was too bad. The experience was good for me.
Anyway, when I wasn't at the gym, I was back at the hotel catching up on sleep and having some time to myself. It was nice to be able to mentally relax a little bit. We went out to a few dinners, but the biggest thing for me was to relax and stay focused on the task at hand.
I watched as much of the NBA playoffs as I could (if I didn't fall asleep first). One night, some of us went to watch the games at Jimmy Greens, a restaurant in downtown Chicago. It's exciting and interesting to watch the amount of defensive focus and intensity that the guys in the playoffs are playing with…every shot they are making or taking is a contested shot. If anyone were to say there's no defense in the NBA, tell them to watch these playoffs!
n Next Up
Now I'm back in Long Island working out. I'll be flying back and forth to have workouts with different teams up until the Draft. I'm really focused. I try not to get too up or too down. If I have a good day in the gym, I take it for what it is and move on and work hard the next day.
I'm feeling confident. I really like the people I am training with, and I know I'm in good hands working with good people. As long as I keep working, I think good things will happen!