Noah Vonleh was one of the fastest rising sleepers in this NBA Draft class, despite many fans having never seen him play. He wasn’t a ballyhooed recruit out of New Hampton School, finishing as just the No. 13 overall prospect in the 2013 ESPN 100. At Indiana, the team finished an underwhelming 17-15 and Vonleh averaged only 11.3 points.
But scouts loved his wingspan, talent, and skill. (They also love that he’s still only 18 years old.) Most of all, they loved his hands. At nearly 6-10, Vonleh’s hands measured 11.75 inches at the NBA Draft Combine. That makes them the second largest in combine history.
So, in somewhat odd taste, once I knew I’d be catching up with the big man just before the NBA Draft, that’s what I wanted to see. Would his hands measure up to Dr. J’s, whose mitts were so big the Hall of Famer could still dunk at age 63? I’ve shook hands with the Doctor, and now I’ve shaken hands with Charlotte’s newest player. There’s no difference.
Last week, Vonleh was in New York to film an exclusive NBA Roundtable as part of the American Express “Off the Court” experience. Along with other draftees Marcus Smart, Gary Harris, and Aaron Gordon, they talked with former NBA champion Rick Fox about what their journeys have been like and what’s next now that they’re going into the NBA. They also took questions from fans over social media through a live chat.
Afterward, I spoke with Vonleh about music, the NBA Draft process, and what life was like at Indiana. A few days later, he’d be drafted No. 9 overall by Michael Jordan and the new-look Charlotte Hornets.
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What are the top five sneakers that you’re wearing right now?
Noah Vonleh: Right now the Carmine VIs, the Concord XI Lows… I got a few others that I haven’t worn but I’m probably going to wear. I got a couple pairs of IIs, the Nightshade IIs I’ll probably wear those soon. I got the Kobe 9s to play basketball in. I got some Kevin Durants, some KDs. I like all of the KDs.
What type of music are you listening to right now?
NV: A lot of rap, r&b. I’ve been listening to Migos lately, a group out of Atlanta. Fat Trel, he’s from D.C. Ty Dollar $ign, YG, guys like that, Drake also.
If someone were to ask you about the most embarrassing thing in your headphones right now, what would you say?
NV: I’m pretty sure I do. I just can’t remember it. I probably got some Miley Cyrus or something like that.
How big of a role does music in your pregame routine?
NV: It plays a pretty big role. I try to listen to something that gets me amp, that bumps. During the season I was listening to Rich Homie Quan, Young Scooter, stuff that gets my mind right to help me focus and go into the game with that mindset to kill that opponent. Music definitely plays a big role in that.
Do you listen to the same songs all the time or does it differ?
NV: It depends on how I’m feeling that day. Sometimes I’ll be listening to Fabolous. Soul Tape 3. All his Soul Tapes. I like Fabolous a lot. Mix it up with him and, like I said, Rich Homie Quan, Young Scooter. There are a few other guys who fall in there too. It depends on how I’m feeling that day.
How big of a role does geography play in what you listen to?
NV: For me, personally, I try to mix it up and listen to everybody. Like I said, I listen to Migos, YG. YG is from the West Coast. Ty Dollar $ign is West Coast. Migos is from Atlanta. Drake… he’s from Toronto so I’m listening to guys from all over. But I think geography definitely plays a big part. Aaron [Gordon] and most of the West Coast guys, they like to listen to YG, Ty Dollar $ign, guys like that. The guys on the East Coast, they like to mix it up with both sides.
Last year with Indiana, who had the best taste in music on the team?
NV: I’d probably say either Troy Williams or Stanford Robinson.
Back in the day, people had music playing in the locker room. But now it seems like everyone just puts their headphones on and sticks to their own thing.
NV: Yeah, everybody has their headphones going on. They listen to what they like.
Do you have any musical talents?
NV: Nah, I don’t have any music talents. (Laughs) I wish I could sing but nah.
Do you listen to r&b?
NV: Yeah, hip-hop, r&b, rap. In r&b, I listen to some old groups like 112, stuff like that. The new stuff that’s out, I like Drake.
During this whole process has their been anything that’s surprised you? Maybe something you weren’t prepared for?
NV: I think everything has been pretty much what I expected for the most part. At the combine, we had a lot of interviews. Here, just meeting with a lot of people, getting a lot of free stuff, getting Stance Socks, headphones. I’m just enjoying the process and getting all this stuff.
Who’s been the coolest person you’ve been able to meet so far?
NV: Paul George. Back when I was in Indiana, I talked to him a little bit. He’s a real cool dude, laid-back, humble.
Do you have anything specific that you’re working on right now and trying to show off?
NV: I’m trying to show my versatility playing inside and outside, and showing off how well I can handle the ball for someone my size. I think it’s definitely helped me out with my draft stock and teams are really intrigued. I got a lot of upside.
Since you’ve declared for the draft, are your people monitoring everything you eat, everything you do in workouts? Is it intense like that?
NV: For the most part, I eat pretty well myself. I was in Long Island working out with Tyler Ennis, Melvin Ejim, LaQuinton Ross, Khem Birch, and Jordan Clarkson and they had this place set up for us where we could go to make sandwiches, get rice and beans and things like that at this deli spot in New York.
For the most part, I ate pretty well. I only have seven percent body fat so I think I was doing pretty well for a young kid.
So there’s nothing you can’t eat anymore?
NV: They’re saying you can eat whatever you want. You’re still young. You got some talent. But I think I handle that stuff pretty well to keep myself in shape. You gotta eat the right things if you want to perform well and have a long career so you gotta look into all that.
What’s a regular day in your life like right now?
NV: To prepare for a workout, I’ll fly out to a city the day before the workout, go out to dinner with the GMs and the staff, get a feel for them, and then they want to get a feel for me to so it’s pretty good. After that, I’ll go back to the hotel, get enough rest, wake up the next morning. We’ll go through the combine agility work, do some vertical testing. They want to test our balance. When I went out to Utah, they tested how well I balanced on each foot and some other weird things that they have going on now. I went in there and competed against some guys and showcased my skills.
How many times before this whole process had you been to Los Angeles?
NV: I’d been there a couple of times for some AAU Tournaments and some camps but I had never really got to just hang out and look around and workout for the team. It was pretty good. I had Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles for the first time. It was really good.
Oh yeah? What did you get?
NV: I ended up getting the Obama Special with the waffles and a couple of wings. It was good.
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