Burlington Ontario's Simi Shittu declared for the 2019 NBA Draft on Wednesday.
Shittu thanked the many who had a hand in his development in a post on social media becoming the first of what's expected to be many Canadians to enter the draft pool this year.
⚓️⬇️❤️ @VandyMBB pic.twitter.com/i7PtRSis4O- Simi Shittu (@LanX_Sims) April 3, 2019
He leaned on his support system to come to the decision - his parents, coaches, close friends and trainers all had a say, but ultimately it was his choice.
"We just had like a long deep conversation about what I should do and how I feel," Shittu told NBA.com on the process of deciding to enter the draft. "It's more down to me, they just gave me their perceptive and I made my own decision."
The dream is the NBA. It is for every young basketball player, but choosing to enter the draft isn't easy.
Most people will never know what that pressure is like. Being a 19-year-old trying to make a decision that will not only impact your life but those around you. Having the pressure of being so close to your ultimate goal and second-guessing yourself. Being asked multiple times a day - sometimes by people you've never met - if you're going to take that risk and leave everything that is comfortable to be uncomfortable.
On the outside looking in, it looks like an easy decision. Often times it's not.
"It wasn't really stressful, but it felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders having to think about this decision," Shittu continued. "Obviously I probably got asked about it like five to 10 times a day. So making my decision was kind of reliving and I'm just ready to start working even harder now."
While Shittu maintains he didn't feel stressed through the process, they were factors to consider. The outside noise of people giving their opinions on what he should do. Is he ready for the NBA? Should he give college another year?
Then there are his parents, who like most parents, always preached education first - and they didn't just preach it, they live it. His mom is a high-school math and science teacher, so he has heard the importance of education his whole life. And regardless of how successful he becomes outside of college, he intends to deliver on finishing his schooling at the University of Vanderbilt.
"My mom is a high school math and science teacher and (education) is a really big thing to her as well.
"So, me finishing school has always been a priority for her. Whether I leave for the draft and I come back and do my other three years later on … or just eventually do something.
"It was obviously a hard decision but I have a lifetime scholarship so I'll be fine eventually."
Now that the decision is made, Shittu can look forward to being a full-time basketball player - a new concept to a kid who's been a student-athlete his entire life.
Standing 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds, Shittu has the physical make up of someone who can hold his own in the league. Coming into his freshman year at Vanderbilt, Shittu had a lot of hype. He was a McDonald's All-American and a consensus top-10 prospect. In Canada, North Pole Hoops had him as the number two player in the country behind R.J. Barrett.
But he had been out of action for a while heading into that freshman campaign. Shittu suffered a devastating ACL tear. Nine months later he was asked to be a key component to a Vanderbilt team that lacked the talent to compete in the SEC, one of the toughest conferences in college basketball.
Shittu calls the time he spent rehabbing the injury one of the toughest things he's had to do, but he now appreciates the game more than ever after having it taken away from him.
"That was probably one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life," Shittu said of rehabbing his knee. "I had to approach it like a pro in terms of fighting through the adversity. It was really hard … I was working out doing two, three workouts a day last summer - rehabbing and just running, getting conditioned and getting my body right while everyone else is in the gym just playing basketball. I was on the sideline just working on my body and everything like that, which was pretty hard for me.
"But with the extra work I had to get in, I learned how to keep taking care of my body … when I'm off the court.
"I just don't take it for granted anymore and just take every day one at a time and give it my all every day."
Shittu played in all 32 games for the Commodores this season, starting in all but one. He averaged 10.9 points and 6.7 rebounds in 26.7 minutes per game. He proved he's healthy and the knee injury is behind him. Now he has to prove he can become a player at the next level.
The college game doesn't always allow players to showcase their best talents. In Shittu's case, he's banking on the NBA's spacing and pace to truly show what he's capable of.
He said he's "most likely" going to attend the NBA's Draft Combine in Chicago in mid-May. At the end of April, he'll be working out in Arizona to prepare for the combine and the ensuing team workouts. Having been through rehab all last summer and going straight into the college season, Shittu didn't have the luxury of working on his game. There are things he knows he needs to work on - a consistent jump shot being among them - but there are attributes he thinks he can perfect for the NBA game.
"I feel like my game adapts more to the NBA because there's a lot more spacing and I'm versatile. With my size, not many guys can do what I do I feel," Shittu said of what makes him attractive to an NBA team.
"My skill set just helps me play better and I'll be able to help my teammates play better with my passing ability and my court vision. My energy and how hard I play and how I look to get my teammates involved really helps the team.
"Also just my work ethic I feel like that separates me from a lot of people as well. I feel like I work really hard. I guess also just my character and mannerisms off the court as well - how I carry myself."
Ready or not, here he comes.
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