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NBA Draft Roundtable: Jarace Walker, Keyonte George, & Gradey Dick

Jarace Walker, Keyonte George, and Gradey Dick discuss pre-draft routines, lessons from NIL, and how they’ll spend their first NBA paycheck.

Three projected top-15 picks in the 2023 NBA Draft — Jarace Walker, Keyonte George, and Gradey Dick — descended on Brooklyn earlier this week on behalf of Philips Norelco as the company helps them prepare for the biggest night of their lives.

Boardroom spoke with the trio about their pre-draft routines, how NIL has helped their off-court transition to the NBA, how they’ll spend their first professional paycheck, and much more.

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How do your grooming habits and personal style reflect your brand and how you come off to businesses?

Jarace Walker, Houston: Just mostly clean and professional, making sure I always look presentable no matter where I’m going or what I’m doing.

Keyonte George, Baylor: I go to the barber every week, make sure my sideburns are nicely shaven and clean. If I can’t get to a barber, make sure my facial hair is nice and clean, my chin hair is nice, and overall my face feeling fresh. It’s so any business that wants to come my way, I want to make sure I’m looking the best I can and I’m very appreciative for any business or brand that’s coming my way.

Philips Norelco unveils Team OneBlade 2023 featuring Gradey Dick, Jarace Walker and Keyonte George, Tuesday, June 20, 2023 in New York. (Jason DeCrow/AP Images for Philips Norelco)

Gradey Dick, Kansas: For me, the important thing about that is just to get your day going. It keeps you responsible, in a way. If you wake up in the morning, you have a schedule and a bathroom routine where you look good, feel good, and then you get outside and go about your day. It sets the day up early and you get to accomplish those little things like making your bed.

What have been some highlights of your pre-draft routine so far?

Walker: Mostly it’s working out, traveling in different cities, meeting new coaches, GMs, scouts, trainers, just meeting certain people. It’s been a great time, mostly with trainers on team staffs. The process happened so quickly that one morning I woke up in Detroit and I thought I was in Indiana.

George: I’ve just been working out just trying to get better each and every day. Making sure I’m in elite level shape, trying to put myself in the best position possible to have a great career.

Dick: It was pretty busy, going to the workouts with the different teams’ routine. I think I had seven total. I flew out, stayed the night, worked out, flew to the next city, and then repeated that six more times. It was a pretty crazy world the last couple of weeks, but now we’re here in New York for the draft.

As a big time college athlete, NIL played a big part in your careers. How did that shape your business endorsement and investment strategies as you go from college to the pros?

Walker: Just focusing on saving more than anything. Trying not to spend too much on things I don’t really need. It’s not buying things I want, focusing more on necessities. I held back on some jewelry and I was looking into some cars, but it’s something I didn’t need at the time. Only spending your endorsement money and saving up your salary is a smart way to keep tracking your money and not spending too much at one time. It’s definitely a good road to take.

George: My main focus wasn’t NIL going into college. NIL is a great blessing to have with people coming to us and trying to put our face in front of brands and make money off our name. It definitely prepares you for the business side coming into the NBA. There will be many brands that want to partner with you throughout your long career in the league. My spending habits are the same coming from college. So just getting that head start learning how to carry yourself, how to be a pro not just on the court, but off the court.

Dick: Just learning the basic things of different brands and businesses from an early age, going into the business realm of everything. You’re going to start seeing crazy stuff with highly ranked guys going to different colleges due to NIL. From my personal experience, it was super beneficial transitioning from here and going to the NBA level where the business is huge. The main thing that I focused on with WME, they did the best job of making sure I was always good with everything and making sure it wasn’t a distraction and that I was keeping the main thing the main thing and I was doing what I had to do on the court.

I’ve never been a big spender, but there was one impulse buy where I got a cat. When Kansas beat Missouri, their big rival. They have a bengal cat as their mascot, so I got a bengal cat named Milky, because he looks like a leopard tiger. He’s living in Iowa right now with my cousins. We’ll see what place allows him. But just knowing that what I do on the court kind of affects what I could possibly do off the court with different businesses, it was cool to see different things I was able to do and different people I was able to meet.

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Who’s provided you with some good business advice as you transition from college to the pros?

Walker: People from the NBPA, financial advisors, and even just my parents. They all played roles in just feeding me knowledge and telling me things I needed to hear like focusing on saving money, where to put your money, what to buy, what you need, and how to say no. Just a lot of little things.

George: My circle, my family. They’ve been guiding me throughout this process. The best piece of advice is probably from my trainer. He helped me understand not to play the comparison game and try to be the best version of yourself. I really try to carry that throughout my life and it’s really helped me. I just like to keep a smile on my face and be really respectful. Everybody feels like I light up a room. That’s kind of how I would describe myself. As far as a brand, that’s going to be really joyful with high character.

Dick: It started early with my parents. My dad loves doing all the research and things that go into it, and they definitely laid the principles down for me and just how important it is to save, watching money. And if people in the future are going to take care of it, you have to find the right people. And that came true when I was trying to find an agency when I was at KU and luckily for me I fell into the hands of the best people I could possibly have in my life and with WME. They kept me focused this season and had the background of the deals that were going on and made sure I was all set.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to college athletes going into NIL?

Walker: My best piece of advice is let’s keep the main thing the main thing. Because hooping got you where you’re at. Even with the endorsements, demands, and traveling, always just focus on your game and let the money, endorsements, and NIL take care of itself.

George: The main goal. You’re there for basketball. When you take care of your business in between those lines, everything will take care of itself. So just make your main thing the main thing. Understand basketball is a blessing. Understand if you have a goal of trying to do something more special, your priority should be putting the ball in the hoop and doing other things to make sure you’re putting yourself in the best position possible.

Dick: Being focused. Don’t let any NIL deal distract you from anything, because that’s the last thing fans want to see. If coaches start seeing that you’re spending more time on trying to get deals than you are putting work in on the court, that’s probably the worst look you could have as a player. So just knowing that these NIL deals or being a D-I college player wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for what you put in during the offseason with your own game. You have to do what got you here and just keep focused on that. Because if you want more of those deals, you have to hoop.

Could you tell in college when people were prioritizing their deals over what was going on in the court?

Walker: I feel like you can like just with their work ethic, their daily habits, what they post, what they focus on. It’s definitely easy to lose focus, especially with everything that’s going on and having such a platform. Always try to focus on keeping the main thing the main thing.

Dick: I’ll post some of the same stuff that they post, but I know that I’m focused. It’s just kind of when to and when not to post. I think that’s a big thing. The first time you can tell if someone’s not focused is if they post something like that right after they lose a game.

What are some brands that have approached you or some companies that you’re going to endorse moving forward?

Walker: Working with Jo Malone, BodyArmor, just a couple different brands. More as time moves on.

Dick: We’re definitely meeting about them right now. We’re talking about maybe next going into a sportswear brand and debating which one we want to do. It’s definitely a special time. What it really comes down to is finding what you like in your life, your necessities. So I told them early on that music is big in my life away from the court, I had a Beats NIL deal. So it’s just finding what you personally like and building little deals off that.

Whose film do you watch as a player to model your game after and try to emulate?

Walker: I wouldn’t say I emulate their games, but I watch a lot of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Just two-way, versatile guys who can do a lot of different things on the floor. I watch the most films of those two and Jrue Holiday. Jrue does just a little bit of everything. I feel like I’m a versatile player and there are a lot of things on the court I can do. So I definitely take bits and pieces of their moves, their playing style and defense.

George: I watched a lot of Bradley Beal during college, a lot of film. I like how he gets to his spots. I feel like I’m an underrated passer. I feel like he’s an underrated playmaker, able to score, get to his spots, rise over defenders. I feel like I have that type of game, get into my spots and be a three level scorer. So I feel like it’s a good comparison and somebody I watch. I’ve also been watching a lot of Jamal Murray lately, his in-between game and pick-and-roll game. Either he’s making that pass or getting to his spots and jumping over somebody shooting the floater. He also has his post game at times on guards, which is something I’d like to add in my game.

Dick: Definitely Reggie Miller, Klay Thompson. I watched a lot of their footwork and their shot release, how they can get around the defense and the underrated part of exhausting the defense with how conditioned they are and still being able to get a volume of shots up. Guys like that that are always squared suit my game. Being a villain like Reggie was a thing I talked about at Kansas. Playing at Allen Fieldhouse was a once-in-a-lifetime type thing. But I say all the time that some of my favorite games were the away games where the fans hated Kansas and all the random stuff they said about my name. That’s what makes basketball and sports fun in general is that competitiveness and the crowds. I want as much crowd activity out there, good or bad, as you can.

What’s the first purchase you think you’re going to make when you get that first NBA paycheck? 

Walker: It’s probably either going to be a nice apartment or just something to keep me mobile. Probably a nice car or something like that. Not too crazy though. The most important thing I need in my apartment is a really big bean bag chair in the living room.

George: Probably just a nice car. Nothing crazy, just having some transportation. That’s really it. Probably a Range, the new Escalade SUV or a BMW.

Dick: Maybe a dog. I always wanted a German Shepherd but they shed so much. Maybe an Australian Shepherd. I don’t know if they shed any better, but maybe a cute little puppy.

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