Earlier this week, I reached out to Cleanthony Early, who was taken 34th overall out of Wichita State by the Knicks in this year’s NBA Draft.
Early, a 6-foot-8, 219 pound forward, has made a name for himself with his great athleticism, a dangerous 3-point shot, and his solid defense. Cleanthony helped lead Wichita State to the Final Four in 2013 and was a key member of this year’s squad, which went an undefeated 35-0 before losing in the 2nd round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Cleanthony was terrific in that final game against Kentucky, scoring 31 points on 12/17 shooting and pulling down 7 rebounds. Most projections had Cleanthony, 23, going in the mid-to-late first round, but New York managed to snatch him up in round 2 with one of the picks acquired in the Tyson Chandler deal.
Cleanthony, a Bronx native, was kind enough to agree to answer some questions for me. Check out what he had to say:
Tommy Rothman, New York Knicks Memes: How did you get started playing basketball? How did you fall in love with the game?
Cleanthony Early, New York Knicks: Started just watching my brother when I was real young and following after him. It then just escalated with the sport just being so easily accessed at all times, and from then on I played it so much… the interest in it just kept growing!
Tommy: What was the entire draft experience like, from the combine, to the interviews, to the draft itself, to the moment you were drafted? How did you find out the Knicks were taking you? Did you get a call, or did you have to wait until your name was announced like everybody else?
Cleanthony: It was a great experience, everything you ever asked for. I was happy to be a part of it all. I got a call a couple of picks prior [to being drafted] so I kind of knew.
Tommy: A lot of people expected you to be picked Early (insert pun here), but you fell to the Knicks at 34. How does it feel to be selected to your hometown team? Do you feel more motivated after falling in the draft to prove people wrong?
Cleanthony: It feels great, whatever team picked me up [at] 1 through 60 would of been a blessing. Not too many people get to live that moment of hearing your name called [on draft night] in general. Obviously the later you fall the more motivating it is for you… or at least me. I feel I have something to prove. I think I should of went earlier. But I didn’t. So therefore I have to make them remember the kid that was overlooked once again.
Tommy: Do you think you are ready to handle the pressures of playing in Madison Square Garden, on the biggest stage in the NBA?
Cleanthony: Yes sir.
Tommy: Who on the team have you gotten a chance to speak to so far?
Cleanthony: Tim, Swish, Shump, and Shane.
Tommy: What is the best advice anybody has ever given you, as an athlete or as a person?
Cleanthony: Keep God first, keep working hard, and make good decisions.
Tommy: How do you feel about working in a system created by Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher, two established NBA champions?
Cleanthony: Blessed. Those are two people I got a chance to admire and observe as good and educated people at a real young age, honestly, and now I get to learn from them. [That] is the ultimate advantage on my side.
Tommy: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Cleanthony: My Mom, and great people with a vision and work ethic to make what they believe in happen by the energy they put out into the world and into themselves. A lot of things motivate and inspire me on a daily basis.
Tommy: What should we expect you to bring to the floor when you are on the court?
Cleanthony: A good basketball player giving his all to get those wins and hopefully a championship.
Tommy: With the Las Vegas Summer League approaching, how excited are you to get on the floor as a Knick for the first time, even if it isn’t an official game?
Cleanthony: I’m excited just to be out there with the guys, going hard, learning the offense.
Tommy: Do you have a nickname? “Earl The Pearl” is taken.
Cleanthony: (Laughs) Most people call me “Cle”.
Tommy: What was your pregame routine in college? How about your postgame routine?
Cleanthony: I listen to music and say a prayer before the game and after. But I do that a lot regardless so I don’t know if that counts.
Tommy: What advice do you have for young athletes out there?
Cleanthony: Keep God first, keep working hard and make good decisions. Watch who you keep around you, and the things you might say or do, because someone is always watching. Be smart.
Tommy: What are your hobbies outside of basketball?
Cleanthony: I like to watch movies, listen to music, read here and there, just chill and relax.
Tommy: Bonus Question: Are you ready to get some serious fashion tips from Clyde Frazier?
Cleanthony: [Laughs} I’ll take it.
*End of Interview*