When Admiral Schofield was a 15-year-old high school basketball player in Zion, Ill., some friends from Dallas told him about a rising star to keep an eye on as he developed.
Marcus Smart, a Dallas-area native, was just in his freshman season at Oklahoma State then, but his tenacity and similarly muscular build made him the perfect person for an NBA dreamer such as Schofield to study.
“My friends compared me to him a lot and said that’s a guy I should watch, especially when he was in college,” Schofield said Monday after completing a draft workout with the Celtics. “So that’s what I did. I noticed his tenaciousness. He gets at you. He’s not a guy that’s just sitting back and being solid. He’s getting after you. He’s making you go to certain areas on the floor. He’s forcing you to put up certain shots.
“That type of mind-set is what separates him from a lot of guys.”
Smart just completed his fifth season with the Celtics and was just named to the NBA’s All-Defense first team for the first time. Schofield, meanwhile, emerged as a first-team All-Southeastern Conference choice, helping guide Tennessee to a No. 1 national ranking.
“In college, I tried to really model my game after Smart, being very versatile and really having the mind-set of a defender,” the 22-year-old Schofield said. “I’ve been watching him since his freshman year at Oklahoma State. His game has improved so much and I hope mine can as well.”
Schofield is ESPN’s 36th-ranked prospect in this draft class. In his senior season, he averaged 16.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, drilling 41.8 percent of his 3-point attempts .
He is a chiseled 6 feet 5 inches 5 and 240 pounds, with the tools to become an excellent defender. But he acknowledged that he still has plenty to learn on that end of the floor.
“If the Celtics draft me I’d have to get right under Marcus Smart’s wing and have him teach me positioning,” Schofield said. “He’s a physical defender, but he moves his feet so well. Having a guy like that that’s versatile as well, being able to guard many positions, I think that’s a guy I’d like to spend time with and learn from and understand how I can be physical but also a smart defender who uses my physicality to my advantage and not give that as a disadvantage.”
Schofield said he played center plenty during his freshman season at Tennessee, though by the end of his senior year he was being deployed as a shooting guard and small forward. He thinks that versatility will serve him well in the increasingly positionless NBA.
He has an excellent combination of speed and strength. At last month’s NBA Combine, he tied for fourth among 53 participants in the max rep bench press, and he placed fourth among 58 participants in the shuttle run agility drill. He believes his combination of speed and strength will allow him to keep up with smaller guards on the perimeter and bang with forwards in the post.
“The biggest thing is, in these workouts, really just show my versatility,” Schofield said. “My versatility, my energy, the way I communicate, my IQ on the floor, and just how I move. Give teams a better look at me, because sometimes they see a picture of me and they think I’m just a bodybuilder.
“It’s just great to be able to go out there and show them that I can move, I can guard, I can run, I can jump, and do different things, and especially shoot the ball well.”