Kansas Jayhawks guard Devon Dotson was an ace floor general and defensive anchor for one of the best teams in college basketball last year.
Dotson, who recorded the fastest three-quarter length court sprint at the 2020 NBA draft, is perhaps the quickest end-to-end prospect in this class. He was able to catch up with HoopsHype about what he can provide to a professional team, what he learned while playing at Kansas and some insights on a recent workout with Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell.
Please note that this transcription was very minorly edited for clarity.
This has probably been the longest offseason of your life. How have you most improved your game in the last few months?
Devon Dotson: I think it’s my body. That has been a huge focus of mine. I’m eating well, not eating any fried food. I’m getting my daily vegetables in and eating right. That is going to help out a lot with the 82-game season at the next level. It’s all about finding that edge. I’m also just getting stronger.
Your speed is obviously such an important part of your game. How do you think it most impacts the way that you play on the court?
DD: I can do many different things. I can change the pace of the game if I get the rebound and push the ball, I can be a one-man fast break to the rim. Then in a half-court set, I can break down my man and create an open shot for my teammate and great opportunities come from that. I can use my quickness on the defensive end, which helps my teammates because I can provide extra rotations and extra closeouts.
What is your athletic background? Did you play other sports or just basketball?
DD: I played a lot of sports growing up, which helps out a lot. I played soccer, baseball, football. I tried to do it all. I wasn’t one-dimensional growing up. I was also always just racing around my neighborhood. I wanted to be the fastest kid in the neighborhood so we would have a group and we would just all race. I think that’s kind of where it came from. I never ran track, which is kind of surprising.
Kansas had the second-best defensive rating in the country last year, per KenPom. What was your role in the defensive mentality of that squad?
DD: I led the Big 12 in steals, which really sticks out. I think I did a good job in anticipation and reading passing lanes with my quickness. We bought into everything that coach Bill Self wanted us to do. We really took it seriously. My job was to pressure that guard up top and make the offense feel disrupted when they wanted to get in their groove. I made sure to always knew the coverages, always knew the rotations. Defense is a team thing and that was our strength. But it’s like a snake. If the head guy messes up, that can mess everything else up. I tried to stay on my coverages. I think I did a great job at that last season.
Your team was one of the favorites to win the national championship. How have you been able to reconcile with the fact the season ended suddenly and early?
DD: The team we had was special. The pieces fit right. We had all the right pieces to make a deep run and win it all. But it’s bigger than basketball. It was hard at first. I had to come to my senses and realize it was over. I learned from that and I grew from that. It was just a learning experience: things can be taken away from you in a split second.
What were some of the things you learned from Bill Self that will most prepare you for the NBA?
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
DD: I think it is the mental toughness and the competitiveness that he taught me. He is a coach that doesn’t shortchange anything. He is going to try to get the best out of you every single day in practice. For me to play like a program like that made me feel like I was in a machine because you have to bring it every single day and you have to be mentally tough. If you don’t, you won’t play. I feel like you see that in guards like Devonte’ Graham that come from Kansas. He is ready to play. Coach is also big on the point guards running the team, taking that ownership and that leadership and having it be your team. I think that’s one of the biggest things I learned is how to run a team.
I love that you started every single game that you played. What are some of the memories you will look back on for your experience at KU?
DD: It started off with the Champions Classic. My first college game was in Indiana. We played against Michigan State and we won that game. That was a super memorable, exciting, fun time. My sophomore year, Maui, that trip was unbelievable. We had back-to-back-to-back games and it was so beautiful. I had never been to Hawaii and that was super fun. Also, winning the Big 12 Conference championship was amazing. I got to see Udoka Azubuike and Isaiah Moss do their thing on senior night. Those are some memories that I cherish.
You were very productive and effective in the pick-and-roll and you played with some NBA-caliber big men like Azubuike. How will that help your transition to the pros?
DD: I think it will turn out well. I showed this year that I can throw that over-the-top lob. That is not necessarily an easy pass to make but getting to work with Udoka made that better. Also, my freshman year, I played with a pick-and-pop big in Dedric Lawson. I got to learn how to make a variety of different reads and passes during my time at Kansas.
Your efficiency was above average when shooting both off the catch and the dribble. How important was it for you to be able to create your own shot as well?
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
DD: That makes it tough for my defender. That keeps the defense honest. If you’re making moves and dribble hard, you can rise up and knock the shot down. If the ease up and give you too much space, you can rise up and shoot it as well. That opens things up because if the defense has to pressure me a little bit, because of my speed, I can go right around them. It makes it a lot easier for my teammates.
What were some of the biggest ways that you improved from your freshman year to your sophomore year?
DD: I think that going through the NBA pre-draft process after my freshman year was very beneficial. I just approached everything differently last offseason. I was very serious. I was in the gym three or four times a day. I was watching a lot of film about how to run a team and how to pick my spots better. I also wanted to make leadership more of a point. I saw that happen because I had that mindset. I just wanted it. I approached everything in a very cerebral way.
I know you tested the waters last season but what has the pre-draft process been like for you in 2020?
DD: It has been different, comparing it year-over-year. But at the same time, I’m just controlling what I can control. It’s a pandemic. I’m attacking each day, showing up and ready to work. I’ve been in Las Vegas working out. I’ve been taking the time to grow and I’m ready for that next challenge.
When you have spoken with NBA teams, what is the main thing you want them to know about you as a person and as a player?
DD: I’m a guy where you don’t have to coach effort. I’m a great locker room guy. I’m a player that loves to work. I want to get better. I’m hungry to learn more. Every time I step on the court, I’m going to give it one hundred percent. I’m just a competitive dude that wants it a lot.
Looking forward, when you were watching the 2020 NBA playoffs, how could you envision how you would have fit into one of the rotations?
DD: I think I would have fit in naturally because of my playmaking ability. The game is getting smaller. You saw big men were not always in the game. They played a lot of small ball, which opens things up and would give me more room to operate and pick a lane when the defenses collapse against shooters. That is where the lane is going: shooting. I would also do whatever is necessary on the defensive end. I am a guy who can pick up 94 feet and make it hard on that guard. I can be versatile, do whatever is asked of me.
Are there any players that you can think of who you may have a similar role to in the NBA?
DD: I try to take bits and pieces from guards in the league and apply it to my game. You can say Eric Bledsoe. He has the ability to play defense and he is fast and he is athletic and he is strong. I really love the way Tony Parker finished around the lane because he is so crafty.
What are some of the goals that you have for yourself as you become a pro?
DD: Honestly, I want to make an impact and help a team win as soon as possible. I think winning is my main priority when I’m out there on the court. Whatever team I go to, I want their winning to go up.
What are some of the things that you like to do when you’re not playing basketball?
DD: I like to play games or watch shows with my family and friends. I just picked up golfing recently. That’s going well. I was up the whole game yesterday and somehow, at the last hole, Donovan Mitchell went up four strokes on me. I don’t know how that happened. But I feel like I’m pretty good.
I know you also recently worked out with Donovan Mitchell. Can you share some of the advice he has given you about taking the leap to the pros?
DD: I tried to ask a lot of questions. His biggest thing was confidence and making the most of your opportunity. He was a guy that was lucky enough to have that opportunity right away and step in. He was saying that you might not play your first year or you might be the man. But you have to stay level-headed and make the most out of the opportunities even though everyone does not have the same path. You have to come in and work.
What are some of your biggest motivations for having success?
DD: I come from a two-parent household and they tried to do everything they could to make life better for me and my siblings. I’m just trying to do what I can to help them out. They showed how hard they were working so I’m going to do the same, work every day.