The season is looming and one player on the San Antonio Spurs roster who is hoping to make an impact this season is Aron Baynes.
The big Australian chatted with Josh Jenkins of Australian site AFL Players and had a few things to say about his journey to the NBA, how he views the Spurs, and his personal goals for this season.
JJ) FROM CAIRNS STATE HIGH SCHOOL THROUGH TO NOW BEING IN THE NBA WITH THE SAN ANTONIO SPURS, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR JOURNEY FROM CAIRNS TO THE NBA?
AB) Yeah, I started in Cairns and that’s where I first starting playing basketball as a junior under the guidance of Aaron Fearne then I got some recognition playing for the Queensland representative teams.
I then got an invite to attend the Australian Institute of Sport so after attending the AIS for two years I received plenty of College interest, especially after Andrew Bogut had been through that system with Utah and doing what he did.
I chose to attend Washington State and I wanted to go there because they play in such a strong league (Pacific 10 conference) against great teams so it was a great opportunity for me to play there.
I loved playing all four years there but I also managed to get a degree whilst playing basketball so I always had something to fall back on. After my college career I went and started my professional career in Lithuania in arguably the world’s second best league. It was my rookie year (as a professional) and there was a lot to learn going from college to pro and I didn’t do as well as I wanted.
So the following year I got a contract in Germany and I did some hard yards there. I wasn’t playing very well and I didn’t get the minutes (playing time) I wanted so I took a look at what I wanted to do and I have always wanted to play in the NBA.
So that took me to Greece and I had a good season and that opened up some doors for me.
It was also the Olympic year where I played under Brett Brown (former Australian Boomers head coach and recently appointed Philadelphia 76ers coach) and he helped me developed a lot and I played some decent games over there at the Olympics.
Following that I got another chance in the Euro League when I signed in Slovenia to compete at that high level and I was able to do that, I played well and I was the leading rebounder in the league and that effort was enough to get me some interest around the NBA.
I was looking at some teams but then San Antonio came into the picture and in professional basketball there are not too many better clubs than the Spurs and I wanted to be a part of their organization.
There was a bit of a comfort zone factor being able to go there with Patty Mills who I’ve played with as a junior and also being coached by Brett with the National team.
It was a big learning curve stepping into the NBA and we made it to the last game of the season (Game 7 loss to the Heat) so it was a great learning experience.
I’ve marked down this year as my year where I wanted to make my mark in the league and carve out a role for myself. That’s what I am working towards.
JJ) HOW HAS YOUR SHORT TIME WITH THE SPURS BEEN THUS FAR?
AB) The Spurs are a very European style team so it was good me coming over from Europe where I always played with a couple of Americans and a heap of Europeans which surprisingly is similar at the Spurs where it’s a very international feel and they are up there every year when it comes to playoffs.
Everyone is so professional and it seeps down through the ranks, the veterans lead the way.
From the first time I stepped into the Spurs facility I saw how they operated and although I’m still learning the culture it’s easy to see why they have so much success.
Not too many teams in the NBA can say they are a tight bunch but we are and in my six months with them both on and off the court everyone gets along.
The older guys make the effort to include and teach the younger guys.
JJ) WHAT IS YOUR SCHEDULE AND PREPARATION BEFORE THE UPCOMING NBA SEASON?
AB) I return to the United States next week and I’ve got to get my body healthy and in peak physical condition.
The Spurs have a lot of guys there who are able to work us out.
I will be doing whatever I can to make myself better and the Spurs will set a few things up and bring in some good big guys from around the league that I will play against before training camp.
I am looking forward to that and that is the best way to get better, competing against the best players and improving your own game.
Baynes will be fighting for minutes off the bench with Jeff Pendergraph presumably.
His ability to only be a backup center instead of also being able to play power forward might limit his chances to get in the game. I’m sure Spurs fans are hoping Baynes gets a crack so they can fully see what he can bring to the game when given steady minutes.