A year ago Cape Verdean Walter Tavares withdrew from the NBA Draft. Now he feels ready to face the challenge.
In this interview with supersport.com, Tavares talks about his challenges, the meaning of playing in the NBA, what the ACB taught him over the years, and he discusses aspects of his game.
The 22-year-old arrived in New York on Wednesday from Gran Canarias where he plays for the local club in Spain’s ACB Liga Endesa, and will spend the next few weeks working out with NBA teams to get a place in the 26 June NBA Draft.
“Edy”, as Tavares is known in his native Cape Verde archipelago, spent the past 12 months improving aspects of his game in the ACB in order to become more NBA-ready.
As a result of his NBA readiness, fans, journalists, players and ACB head coaches voted Tavares to the All-League youth team along with Guillem Vives, Álex Abrines, Marcus Eriksson and Kristaps Porzingis.
Like Tavares, Eriksson and Porzingis are entering this year’s Draft.
Tavares was one of the most improved players in the 2013-14 ACB season, averaging 1.65 blocked shots and 6.6 rebounds per game.
Tavares measures in at 7-foot-3 (2.21m), and is one of the tallest 2014 NBA prospects, but his size, he says, will not earn him a place in the league unless he keeps his work ethic.
“I feel prepared for the NBA now,” Tavares said. “I am confident I’ll do well during the workouts especially because I am eager to learn the NBA playing style and, more importantly, I am a hard worker.”
Tavares is a humble young man who did not play basketball until he was 16, and only discovered his NBA dream a couple of years ago when “everybody” started to tell him to try his luck “in the best league in the world.”
The Cape Verdean big man faces a lot of scrutiny. He needs to adapt to a new game style and improve his English language skills.
“I speak reasonable English. I understand the language, and I can have informal conversations. I don’t think the language will be a problem for me during the workouts. Basketball is a universal language. I am determined to play at the highest level,” Tavares explained.
His ACB career, Tavares says, always taught him that hard work pays off and to keep focused to achieve personal goals.
Being a top or late selection is not relevant for Tavares, who hopes to become the first born and raised Cape Verdean in the NBA.
“I don’t know what a good Draft selection is for me. For now the most important thing for me is to play in the NBA. Whether it is this coming season or the following season, I’ won’t give up to get a chance in the league,” Tavares says.
But what can Tavares offer to NBA teams? “My defence game is my strongest asset. Offensively, I have been gradually improving,” he says.
Cape Verde, a former Portuguese colony off the coast of West Africa, is not a major basketball country on the continent, but their passion for the game is undeniable.
The country achieved their best continental result following a third-place finish during the 2007 edition of the FIBA African Championship held in Angola. Last summer, Tavares and his national team tried to repeat or improve that record, but were denied a place in the semis after a heartbreaking 74-73 loss to Egypt.