Note: This piece is the 2nd part of a two-part interview series with current Delaware Blue Coats wing Haywood Highsmith. In this part, Highsmith discusses learning from veteran forwards Ryan Anderson & Cory Jefferson, his recent free agent workout with the 76ers and what he wants to work on during the remainder of the season. If you’re interested in reading part one, where Haywood talks about his journey from Division II basketball to the G League, go to this link.
Ridiculous Upside: During the build up to the season, how important was it to get a chance to compete in training camp against experienced players like Cory Jefferson and Ryan Anderson?
Haywood Highsmith: Those guys call me “Young Bull” or “Rook” because I’m the youngest guy on the team. I talked to them a lot because they had great advice and told me that I had a ton of potential. They’ve really taken me under their wing and help me out both on and off-the-court. Demetrius Jackson who has been like a big brother to me who always talks about how I can be the next Kawhi type of player because of my defense. So yeah, I feel like the veteran leadership during training camp did a lot to help me prepare.
RU: Do you think getting a chance to compete against those guys help allow you to start the season on a high note?
Highsmith: Yeah. Those guys went to big time colleges, Cory (Jefferson) went to Baylor and Ryan (Anderson) went to Arizona and Boston College. Competing against those guys was definitely the first step towards me getting adjusted to the pro level. Obviously, there were a lot of differences compared to Division II like style of play, speed of the game and shorter shot clocks.
RU: Do you feel like the G League fits better with your strengths as a player compared to the slower pace of Division II ball?
Highsmith: Yeah. I’ve always been the kind of guy that likes to run up and down the court and have always been in great shape so I feel like this style of play fits my game because I’m very versatile on both ends of the floor and guard a lot of different position.
RU: In my eyes, you’ve shined as one of the better facilitating wings in the G League. Is that a skill that’s come natural to you or does it come from mastering your team’s offense and building chemistry with your teammates?
Highsmith: I think it’s a little of both. I’ve always been a solid passer but I definitely feel like I’ve gotten better over the years. During my college career is where I definitely improved because I definitely had to make solid passes since the defense was focused on me a lot of the time. It’s definitely a little of both since we have a lot of chemistry because we have a lot of athletic guys that like to shoot 3’s, dunks, layups.
If you throw it up towards the rim then someone like Cam Oliver or Norvel Pelle, they’re definitely going to go up and get it. You know, it’s not me but rather the guys that I’m with. Because we have that can make shots and dunk the ball, which is a good combination for a facilitator to work with.
RU: From the start of the season, you’ve been able to shine as a pretty well-rounded player. Which parts of those games are you still trying to refine as the season goes on?
Highsmith: Yeah, I definitely think that my ball-handling is a thing that I’m working on because it opens up different parts of your game. Also want to be better at finishing around the rim because I’m still getting adjusted to the G League’s pace and the strength of the players. Just want to continue to become more adjusted to the pro style.
RU: Have you had a chance to pick the brain of former NBA All-Star and current 76ers GM Elton Brand?
Highsmith: Yeah, I talked to him back at the Portsmouth Invitational last spring for an interview. He definitely had good things to say about me and also listened to what I was saying, which I really appreciated. Brand is a former #1 overall pick and played a long time so he definitely has a lot of knowledge of the game. When I was done working out with the Sixers or practicing with the Blue Coats, I always ask him about what he thinks I can do to become a basketball player, he always tells me little things that I should work on. I definitely appreciate him looking out for me.
RU: Even though he’s the GM of the 76ers, does he still come down and watch the Blue Coats?
Highsmith: Oh yeah, we had a game at the Wells Fargo Center, which is the 76ers arena, and he was there watching us. He also comes to watch our practices every now and then. A few weeks ago, I had a workout with the 76ers because they had a spot open and he was there watching that as well.
RU: A few weeks ago you got an opportunity to participate in a workout with the 76ers, what was that experience like being a former DII player getting a chance to compete against some NBA veterans?
Highsmith: I was definitely excited about that. There were some guys there like Sean Kilpatrick, Brandon Rush and Arron Afflalo who are all solid players that can probably play on any NBA team. We competed in shooting drills and a bunch of off-ball stuff It was definitely a good experience for me to see how an NBA free agent workout is and be able to get adjusted to that. Also getting an opportunity to learn from the veterans that were there.
RU: Think that has helped give you more confidence and optimism about your immediate future in basketball?
Highsmith: Definitely because I feel like I was there for a reason because they had to see something to invite me to a workout like that.
RU: As you look ahead to the final three months of the G League season, what are some goals that you want to reach both personally and for the Blue Coats?
Highsmith: Team-wise, we’re definitely not excited about the start we’ve had as we’re like 7-12. We just have to focus on playing with more effort and competitiveness is definitely a goal for the Blue Coats. Just trying to do what we can to play as a more complete team which could lead us to getting hot and going on a winning streak.
Individually, I just want to play hard and focus on playing defense. Because I’m definitely not going to have good shooting nights every time I step on the court but I can definitely affect the game in other ways. In some of the games that I’m shooting well, I want to try to focus become a better rebounder or defender.