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Notes and Quotes from Orlando’s Rookie Introductory Press Conference

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The Magic welcomed their ‘18 rookies to Orlando Friday afternoon

Over twenty-two feet of wingspan (well not including Coach Clifford and Jeff Weltman) walked into the Magic interview room inside the Amway Center Friday afternoon to be greeted by several Orlando media members.

Jeff Weltman, who completed his second draft yesterday as the President of Basketball Operations for the Magic, began the press conference by gushing over the three prospects that he selected just sixteen hours earlier.

“This is a very exciting day for us,” Weltman said Friday. “It’s not often that you can come away in a draft and added such immense talent and character in one night. I can tell you (like I told you guys last night), we were elated.”

Weltman acknowledged that the Magic have many steps remaining to get the organization back on the right track, but feels that last night the organization picked guys that “can help the team sustain long-term success.”

“We’re going to build this the right way, not the fast way,” Weltman added.

All three rookies were then asked about the roller-coaster of emotions they’ve all been on over the last sixteen hours since the draft.

“The last sixteen hours have honestly been a dream,” Mohamed Bamba said with a big smile on his face. “It’s funny to me how life has come full circle (being from New York), going to different places and experiencing what I’ve experienced, and then having a special night right back in New York. It was very meaningful.”

“I can’t even explain the feeling,” Melvin Frazier (35th pick) added. “Just looking at my mom and family during (all that); just a lot of emotions, a lot of joy and tears.”

“It’s been crazy not knowing exactly where you’re going to end up,” Justin Jackson said. “It was a blessing to get drafted. I just feel like it was god’s plan - at the end of the day, I’m just going to be out here working and showing you guys why you made the right pick.”

Bamba was then asked to describe the process of how he approaches both the game, and the work he’s done to get ready for the draft. Of course, Bamba has been working with renowned trainer Drew Hanlan.

“For me, it’s always been about working on my craft and the art of it,” Bamba said. “I firmly believe that you really can’t develop as a player until you understand who you are as a player (and the adjustments you need to make).”

“I really took pride in this (process). I can look back on it and say I became a professional because of the regimen of work I’ve been putting in.”

I then asked Melvin Frazier how he felt about being the first player in over twenty years to be drafted out of Tulane, and how Mike Dunleavy Sr. (his college coach) helped him get to the position he’s in today.

“Coming from Louisiana, coming from a small school, I don’t really get as much attention as I should,” Frazier said. “I take pride in my defense and it kin dof got me on the grid. Coming from the NBA, Mike (Dunleavy Sr.) taught me a lot. He got me in the gym, told me what I need to work on. AS it shows, my numbers improved in each category and I filled the stats - I just want to thank him for that.”

Bamba was then asked what it means to him to play for a franchise that has had such incredible centers, such as Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard.

“First thing I did was call Shaq and ask him if I could have his Orlando home, he hasn’t replied yet” Bamba replied, which drew quite a bit of laughs in the press room.

“It’s awesome. You can see the outreach of this organization, the type of character and personalities those guys had, it really (went) well with the city. I’m looking to integrate that into my own experience.”

Coach Clifford was then asked his opinion of Mohamed Bamba, and what his chances are at becoming an NBA star.

“First of all, he has two strengths that usually translate more than any other,” Clifford said. “Rebounding from college to the NBA almost always translates. And so does shot-blocking. When you watch him play, those are obviously the first two things that stand out.”

“When I watch him play, I see his feel for the game. His natural instincts and being able to read things on both ends of the floor. Defensively, obviously he’s gifted. I see someone who can play offensively in one of two ways (he can do both). Either to be able to play five-out, or to be a dynamic roller. He’s a fit to me on both ends of the floor, which is critical now.”

Justin Jackson was then asked about his shoulder, which caused him to miss most of last season at Maryland, as well as about his decision to come out (and declare for the draft) this year.

“My shoulder feels great, someday’s I forget I even had the injury,” Jackson replied. “I’ve been working everyday since I got cleared a couple months ago. I hit the ground running, trying to get back to the player I know I can be. At the end of the day, it’s all about confidence.”

I asked Jackson about his shooting ability (shot 44% from 3PT. his freshmen season) and what position he envisions playing in the NBA.

“I see myself as a position-less player,” Jackson said. “I can impact the game without necessarily scoring. I can do a lot - rebound, push the ball in transition, I enjoy finding people (on the floor). I’m unselfish, I feel like that’s one of my greatest qualities. I can knock down a shot, space the floor. There’s a lot I can do and it just doesn’t matter to me. Whichever way coach wants to use me, I can impact the game at that spot.”

The day belonged to Bamba, who finished the conference by touching on the sit-down interview he had with Magic brass in Chicago during last month’s NBA combine.

“I remember walking out of the meeting and texting (childhood friend) and saying I’ve got Orlando in the bag,” Bamba joked. “No, for me, the meeting was all about being as authentic as possible. Obviously anyone can tell a story or put a smile on their face. I wanted them to really feel me.”