“I didn’t want to be that tradition. I wanted to do something different. I wanted to make a name for myself,” Schofield said. “I chose basketball because I love basketball. Football was something I was good at, kind of naturally good at. I never really worked at it, and that didn’t sit right with me. Basketball was something I had to work at; it’s a skill game.”
His basketball path — four solid years at Tennessee before becoming the 42nd pick and getting dealt to the Wizards in a draft-day trade — has led him to Las Vegas, where Schofield is slated to make his summer league debut Saturday against the New Orleans Pelicans. He feels a bit like that bulked-up kid back at Zion-Benton Township (Ill.) High who would leave football practice and find an open gym. Even during the summer league schedule, when wins and losses are forgotten as soon as teams return home, Schofield wants to show his fire for the game while trying to make a good impression with the Wizards.
“I’m still fighting to get on the roster. That’s my mentality,” he said. “I’m going out there to show what I’m going to provide this year and what I want to provide. . . . I’m going to make my mistakes, but I’m going to do it at 100 miles per hour.”
Listed as a 6-foot-6, 241-pound forward, Schofield still has the physique of someone who should play on Sundays. He remembers wanting to be like Michael Jordan as a kid, even when his body started to fill out and genetics took over, almost demanding that he play football.
Older brother O’Brien was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in 2010 and later won a Super Bowl ring with the Seattle Seahawks. Cousins Vonnie Holliday and Bobby Engram had lengthy careers in the NFL, and an uncle, Andre Carter, played at Clemson before spending time on the practice squad with the New York Jets, Schofield said. But Schofield thought basketball challenged both his body and mind.
During the Wizards’ minicamp, assistant coach Robert Pack highlighted Schofield’s physicality as one of his strengths, but the rookie said he expects summer league to reveal other elements of his game.
“Shooting the ball is tough, making layups is tough, and really defending guys who do those things at a high level is even tougher,” Schofield said before the team left for Las Vegas. “I want to bring that toughness, I want to bring that physicality, but my IQ on the floor, my ability to score, my ability to be in the right place on defense, help defense, communicate, be a great teammate, those things will show. Right now, I’ve got to do one thing at a time."
One of the first steps will be developing into an NBA guard. With his height and college shooting statistics — Schofield connected on 38.7 percent from the three-point arc — he may be suited to swing between shooting guard and small forward. However, as Schofield learned at minicamp, the speed and skill of the pro game far exceed what he faced in college, so he will need time to adapt.
That work doesn’t worry Schofield. He wanted an opportunity to learn and show his passion with an NBA team, and he found one with the Wizards.
“They’re really big on development and want me to develop this summer, so I’m going to work really hard. But it feels really good to be wanted. No matter where you’re picked — it feels good to be picked, but it feels good to be wanted,” Schofield said. “For me, it’s coming in and returning the favor.”
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