In his own words, Nic Claxton’s rookie year has been a roller coaster … but in a good way.
“It’s definitely been a roller coaster season,” Claxton said. “I learned a lot though. I am happy to be here and I am happy I left college. I’m definitely in a good spot so I just been trying to be a sponge to all the vets on my team and learn wherever i’m at. Just trying to stay locked in and take advantage of my opportunities.”
The 20-year-old has made quite the impression on the Nets organization and their fan base, seen as a bright light in the near future ... and someone who despite his limited minutes is much talked about.
Take it from Shaun Fein, the head coach of the Long Island Nets.
After scoring 19 points on a near-perfect 8-of-9 shooting from the field, snagging nine rebounds, and swatting four shots in 22 minutes off the bench in the Nets win over the Greensboro Swarm Monday, Fein said he believes Claxton dominates the G League
“Nic is Nic,” Fein said about the Nets rookie. “I think he is the most talented guy on the court when he is with us in the G League. He does everything. Setting screens, rolls hard even if he is not getting it he is drawing people to give guys open shots. He had four blocks tonight. He played really well defensively, can handle it, and hit a three tonight. Just a really good overall performance from him tonight but that is kind of what I expect from him and that is what he expects from himself.”
Claxton acknowledged he will be playing for Long Island in Thursday’s game against the Erie Bayhawks, rather than being sent back up to the parent club. Claxton said he wants to take advantage of every opportunity thrown at him no matter which Net team he is playing for.
“I know I am playing Thursday against Erie but I am not too sure after that. I’m just taking everything day by day.”
“Just try to learn and take everything day by day,” Claxton said when asked about goals. “If I am playing here, taking advantage of the opportunity. That is all I can do. I don’t necessarily know my schedule for the rest of the season but if I am playing here, play to the best of my ability.”
The Nets rookie is part of three-headed set of centers on the parent club. He is one year younger than Jarrett Allen and credits Allen for teaching him a lot in his first year. Claxton has also learned from DeAndre Jordan, who has been one of the most consistent centers in the league for a decade. They offer distinct voices ... in a number of ways.
“They are a lot different,” Claxton said. “DJ is a lot more vocal out there and Jarrett is more of a lead by example type player. (Allen) is only a year older than me so I can learn a lot from him.”
Then there’s what he’s picked up from the two superstars: Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
Claxton credits Irving for helping him adjust on and off the court. From recommending certain books to read to different concepts on the basketball court, Irving has been a mentor for the 20-year-old rookie.
“It has been huge,” Claxton said. “Kyrie is more vocal. I have learned a lot from him. He has told me to read certain books and just preaching confidence and preaching certain things to me. When he was coming back from his shoulder injury the first time, we played three-on-three and he was just telling me different concepts so I have just been picking his brain.”
Despite not yet sharing the court with Durant, Claxton hinted the two big men have some summer workouts planned. Not surprisingly, the Nets rookie cannot wait to learn under one of the NBA’s best players.
“KD; his resume speaks for itself,” Claxton said with a big smile. “I look forward to working out with him this summer and I have spoken with him so we are good.”
As for the NBA Draft, Claxton is rooting for the home team. Claxton’s alma mater, the Georgia Bulldogs, has a special talent on their team who is eligible for the 2020 NBA Draft. The Nets rookie strongly endorses Anthony Edwards, a 6’5” guard as the first overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
“He is amazing,” Claxton said. “First pick for sure, no question. He is doing this thing out there. He is going to be something special in this league for a very long time.”