Austin Freeman is plenty familiar with Verizon Center, having played home games there for four years at Georgetown. Former Illinois standout Mike Davis, meantime, grew up a short drive from the arena and while attending high school at T.C. Williams occasionally imagined playing for his hometown Washington Wizards.
Freeman and Davis were back in the District on Thursday morning as invitees to a Wizards pre-draft workout, where Coach Flip Saunders and his staff put six NBA hopefuls through roughly an hour and a half of drills. Other players who participated were Talor Battle (Penn State), Papa Dia (Southern Methodist) Justin Hurtt (Tulsa) and Ravern Johnson (Mississippi State).
The spotlight, though, clearly was on the two players with local ties and especially Freeman, who is from Mitchellville and played high school basketball for national power DeMatha.
“Just to be home, working out for your hometown team, it’s a lot of fun to be out here,” said Freeman, whose most conspicuous difference from when he last set foot in Verizon Center is a leaner physique.
Listed at 235 pounds as a senior, Freeman since has shed 20 pounds by his approximation thanks to rigorous exercise over the past six weeks and dietary modifications that have continued from when he had Type 1 diabetes diagnosed during his junior year.
Projected as perhaps a late second-round pick in this month’s NBA draft, Freeman graduated from Georgetown as one of the program’s most decorated players. He was at his best shooting from long distance, often the beneficiary of clean looks when point guard Chris Wright penetrated and passed back out.
Creating a shot on his own at times became problematic, though, and the hope is that Freeman’s newfound agility will allay those concerns among NBA general managers during these auditions. Freeman’s workout with Washington was his fourth overall, and he said he has a handful more with other teams before the draft in three weeks.
“It just shows I’ve got to get better,” Freeman said. “I know I’ve got to work if I want to be good at it.”
Davis doesn’t possess the level of local acclaim as Freeman, but the 6-foot-9 forward has a fondness for the Wizards from when he attended games at Verizon Center during the two seasons Michael Jordan was in town. He also has an idea of where he could fit in with this incarnation of the Wizards, who are seeking to upgrade their rebounding, among other areas, for next season.
Davis finished second all-time at Illinois in rebounding and was the only player to start all 34 games this past season. Still, even Davis conceded there were times he needed to provide more effort, and that’s been a top priority during his pre-draft workout schedule.
“In college sometimes I’d be a little lackadaisical at times,” Davis said. “I’d get frustrated with my guards a little bit when I didn’t get the ball, took possessions off, but I’m growing up. That was the old me. This season I think I played a lot harder than I did in the past. It was time to be mature, time to be a man, just work hard every possession and show teams I’m back and I can play for an NBA team.”