Dazzling Frosh Favors Playing Sweet 'Toon at Georgia Tech
Wall, Kentucky's freshman point guard, is the consensus choice by scouts to be the No. 1 pick in June's NBA Draft while Georgia Tech freshman power forward Derrick Favors is the consensus No. 2 selection. But there's a world of difference between the two when it comes to hype.
Google "John Wall Kentucky basketball'' and you get 685,000 results. Google "Derrick Favors Georgia Tech basketball'' and it's 194,000.
"I don't really like all that pressure on me,'' Favors said recently in an interview with FanHouse. "So give him all the pressure. Let it stay like that. I don't need none of that. Just staying under the radar (is fine with Favors).''
But, if the pressure does build, what will Favors do?
"I watch cartoons just to get away from it,'' he said. "I grew up watching cartoons. When I was young, I didn't like any of the other shows that were on TV. Cartoons always just kept me happy and calm and made me feel good.''
Some of Favors' favorites include the Looney Tunes classics and Popeye. He claims to make like the sailor, eating spinach to get strong.
Some more strength couldn't hurt for the 6-foot-10, 246-pound Favors. However, he's already got enough for NBA scouts to be ogling about him.
One NBA executive said he recently asked 10 scouts to each project the 10 top picks in June's draft. The only two names provided by all 10 were Wall and Favors.
"It's a two-man draft,'' the executive said.
While most observers believe Wall has a pretty big lead for the top selection, it's not out of the question Favors could end up going No. 1. For instance, what if Utah, which is set at point guard with Deron Williams and holds New York's first-round pick, were to end up at No. 1?
"If I'm ready, I'll go,'' Favors, averaging 12.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.2 boards, said of coming out after one college season. "If I'm not, I'll stay another year.''
Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt has experience with one-and-done players. Forward Chris Bosh spent just 2002-03 with the Yellow Jackets before being taken No. 4 in the draft by Toronto and forward Thaddeus Young played only 2006-07 prior to going No. 12 to Philadelphia.
Bosh, an agile big man, is an obvious comparison to Favors, who is still adjusting to the college game and sometimes needs to be more aggressive. However, Hewitt said he'd rather wait until the end of the end of the season before comparing the two.
"It's never been a distraction for us,'' Hewitt said of the possibility Favors only will play one season for Georgia Tech. "Kids know they come here to work and get better. At the end of the year, we'll sit down with every kid with that option (of entering the NBA draft early) and think about it... (Favors has) played very well for us. We're very pleased with his effort.''
Favors has talked with Bosh but it's been more along the lines of what he can do for Georgia Tech (11-3, 0-1), ranked No. 20 heading into Saturday's big ACC home game against No. 4 Duke (13-1, 1-0).
"He said to continue just working hard and don't take any days off,'' said Favors, who teams with likely first-round selection Gani Lawal, a 6-9 junior big man, to give the Yellow Jackets a duo of doom. "He said to listen to coach Hewitt and don't get the big head thinking that you're supposed to be this.''
The last thing anybody has accused Favors of is an expanded cranium. He's one of the most mild-mannered big-time NBA prospects you'll ever find.
After a 66-59 home loss to Florida State on Dec. 20, Hewitt asked Favors what he had learned. In a game watched by 25 NBA scouts, Favors totaled eight points and 12 rebounds but Florida State big man Solomon Alabi also grabbed 12 boards.
"A lot of young guys will make excuses,'' Hewitt said. "Some will say, 'The refs didn't give me any calls.' Some will say, 'I've got to get the ball more.' He said, 'I got to box out. I got to box out against those dudes'''
Favors said he "doesn't complain about anything.'' Sometimes, though, Hewitt wishes he would be at least a little demanding.
"He had blisters on his feet,'' Hewitt said of a practice earlier this season. "I was like, 'How did you get blisters?' We looked and we saw he was wearing some ratty, old socks. He (had lost team-issued socks) in the laundry and he didn't want to ask for another. I was like, 'C'mon, Derrick, you can ask for socks.'
"But that's the way his mom raised him. He's been around some really good people at the Atlanta Celtics (AAU team) and people at South Atlanta High School. They really raised the kid to be a hard worker, humble and a high achiever.''
Hewitt said Favors isn't a typical player in that he doesn't "live and die with basketball'' by watching games all the time and hanging out with other athletes. Hewitt said "half his friends are computer geeks.''
Favors earned a 3.3 grade-point average at South Atlanta High while leading the team to a state title and being a McDonald's All-American. He credits his upbringing to his mother, Deandra Favors.
She raised her son in Atlanta as a single mother. Favors said he never has met his father and doesn't know anything about him, including his name.
"She gets me to stay humble and tells me, 'Don't try to get big-headed,''' Favors said. "She's really religious. She says, 'Once you get big-headed, God will take things from you. Instead, just try to stay level-headed and go out and work hard.'''
Favors' attitude has made an instant impression on his teammates. Even though he has a chance to at least tie Kenny Anderson, who went No. 2 in 1991, for the highest-drafted player ever from Georgia Tech, Favors remains grounded.
"He works extremely hard,'' said Lawal, who is averaging team bests of 15.3 points and 9.4 rebounds on a team that has great balance. "He's not one of those guys coming out of high school, and they got the big head and know what they're worth. Derrick just wants to play basketball. He doesn't read all the magazines and see the Internet and all that stuff. He's a great talent... He's had some struggles and some adjustments to the physicality of the game, but he's coming along well and it's fun playing with him. He's very talented. You can't coach 7-5 wingspan.''
Nor can you coach a reach of 9-1. Favors' long arms allow him to play like a 7-footer while he has the agility of a smaller man.
Scouts have compared him to Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire. The player Favors admires and has patterned his game after is Boston's Kevin Garnett.
"That would be a great honor,'' Favors, who never has met Garnett, said of facing him in the NBA.
It could happen next season. Count Winston-Salem coach Bobby Collins as one who believes Favors easily could be the No. 2 pick in June's draft.
"Absolutely,'' said Collins, whose Rams fell 78-43 at Georgia Tech on Dec. 29, with Favors totaling 13 points and 11 rebounds in 30 minutes. "He's a specimen. He can do a lot of things. I thought he was a special talent. He definitely can score inside. You can't let him go one-on-one because he can score against anybody in the country. But he's been double-teamed so much that he can pass out of the double teams and that makes him even more special.''
Scouts know all about Favors, but he's been flying under the radar for the casual fan in part due to Georgia Tech's underwhelming preseason schedule. The Yellow Jackets have yet to play a game on a major television network, and their only ACC game has been against Florida State, not exactly a traditional power.
But the Yellow Jackets will face Duke on ESPN. Plenty more big TV games will follow.
The hype surrounding Favors could increase rapidly. But Lawal isn't concerned.
"He's mild-mannered and easy going,'' Lawal said. "He'll just look at cartoons. He says cartoons are the realist thing out there, and that you know what you're getting with cartoons.''
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter@christomasson