NBA draft workouts: Jake LaRavia and Kevin McCullar

What's a day in the life for NBA prospects? Here is what I saw and heard from two players at pivotal moments in their basketball lives

Last week I had the opportunity to watch NBA prospects Jake LaRavia and Kevin McCullar work out and train up to five times per day in Toms River, NJ, a township 70 miles south of Manhattan and 55 miles east of Philadelphia.

They are preparing for the NBA draft, though — as you’ll see — they are at different points on the decision timeline.

While many prospects are doing their predraft training in Miami or Los Angeles, NBA agent Aaron Reilly, co-founder of AMR Agency, has his 2022 recruiting class grinding in his hometown on the Jersey shore: 

I chose Toms River because you have so many distractions (in larger cities). We always talk about how these guys are literally at the finish line for the 30 most important job interviews of their life.

For us, this last month and a half of our guys getting ready, we want to make sure it’s distraction-free.

LaRavia is coming off a breakout season at Wake Forest after transferring from Indiana State. He should hear his name called on draft night, with a strong shot at being selected in the first round.

Jake LaRavia drives in Wake Forest’s ACC Tournament game vs. Boston College. (Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

McCullar’s draft process is a bit more complicated. Despite being one of the top wing defenders in this class, he finds himself outside of the top 60 on most draft boards and is currently deciding on his best option for next season. This week McCullar placed his name in the NCAA transfer portal, even as he’s testing the waters for the draft.

While LaRavia is looking to solidify himself as a first-round pick in his workouts, McCullar is focused on proving he’s worthy of being selected in June’s draft:

I’ve just been out here grinding, doing three-a-days, four-a-days and sometimes five-a-days. I’m picking up little things along the way, adding to my game and building repetition and building confidence in my game. 

McCullar was a semifinalist for Naismith Defensive Player of the Year as the leader of a physical Texas Tech defense that ranked as one of the best in the nation. 

Kevin McCullar helped Texas Tech reach the Sweet Sixteen. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

While there is no question about his value on the defensive end, McCullar is looking to show teams he has more game on the other end than he was able to showcase in Texas Tech’s system, where he played primarily as an initiator in an offense that lacked spacing.

The biggest knock on McCullar is his shooting, as he hit only 31% from deep this season. But he shot a respectable 42% on open catch-and-shoot 3s, a positive sign for a player who projects as, at a minimum, a 3-and-D specialist. 

When I asked about his shooting regimen, he replied:

I’d say for sure, it’s over 600 shots per day — I feel like 6 or 700 shots per day. I feel like with shooting it’s mostly about confidence and building your confidence in your work, and I can’t wait to get in front of teams and showcase that.

While the two prospects are at different places in the draft process, their goals are similar: to outwork their peers in this draft class and to be the most prepared for their team and individual workouts. According to LaRavia, this is possible because of the opportunity to pour all of his energy into draft preparations:

I’ve never really been able to focus just on basketball workouts. I’ve always had to focus on school as well, so being able to workout four or five times per day has really helped, especially my conditioning.

LaRavia’s rise from mid-major recruit to potential first-round draft pick is a true underdog story. He was a lightly recruited prospect coming out of Indianapolis who lacked exposure because he didn’t play for one of the powerhouse AAU programs:

Out of high school I was super underrecruited. I had a huge growth spurt from sophomore to junior year where I grew from 6’0” to 6’6”. I really didn’t get a lot of opportunities in high school to be able to showcase my talents at the top level. I played for a super under-the-radar AAU team, and when you don’t play one one of those top teams it’s harder [to get recruited].

After a strong junior season at Wake Forest where he impressed NBA scouts with his versatility, averaging 14.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game while shooting 55.9% from the floor and 38.4% from deep, LaRavia has the same chip on his shoulder and is carrying an underdog mentality into his predraft workouts:

I’m definitely going to be showcasing everything I have going into workouts. I want to show teams I’m able to create my own shot, whether it’s a 3, a midrange, midrange post fade. I want to be able to show I can score on all three levels at a high level.