Southern Cal's Evan Mobley, a projected lottery pick, calls himself ‘a generational player’
In less than a week, USC’s freshman center Evan Mobley will join an NBA team eager to accelerate its rebuilding process. In perhaps a decade or beyond, Mobley already envisioned what his NBA resume will entail.
“I think I will be a generational player that no one has really seen before,” Mobley said Friday on a conference cal. “That’s what I’m aspiring to be. I’m going to keep working and stay in the gym until I get there.”
Will that happen? Too early to tell, obviously. That did not stop Mobley from outlining ambitious goals entering the NBA Draft on July 29. After becoming the first player in Trojan franchise history to sweep the Pac 12 awards in conference, freshman and defensive player of the year honors, Mobley has since become inspired with another trophy.
“I definitely want to be an NBA champion on whichever team I end up on,” Mobley said. “Hopefully I get a lot more championships besides just one. I definitely aspire to be on that level or even higher.”
Mobley declined to share which teams hosted him either for pre-draft workouts or interviews. He also declined to answer questions specifically about the Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, other than offering general praise about fitting in with any team. As Mobley said, “All the conversations I had with every team has been well so far.”
Nonetheless, Mobley is projected to land somewhere within the top three. Although he stressed that he “can play with a lot of different people,” Mobley sounded precise about what qualities he would like in the team that selects him.
“Just a team that really believes in me and really believes that I can be an impact player coming into the league,” Mobley said. “That would probably be the main aspect – believing in me and trusting me and trying to develop me into a better player.”
After all, Mobley said he has become motivated to show in draft workouts and interviews that “I’m not just an average pick.” During his lone season at USC, Mobley offered promising signs he’ll leave a lasting mark in the NBA.
Mobley led the Trojans to an Elite Eight appearance after leading the Pac-12 in rebounds per game (8.7) and blocks (2.9) along with 16.4 points and 2.4 assists. He oversaw a USC defense that held opponents to a nation-best 42% clip from shots inside the arc. And with his listed 7-foot-0, 210-pound frame, Mobley developed into a modern-day center that can dominate inside the paint and beyond the perimeter while defending multiple positions both big and small.
“My agility, length and defensive presence are the top things that make me different,” Mobley said. “I feel like I can guard almost every position and move my feet really well. On the offensive end, I can shoot the ball at a good clip as well as put [the ball] on the floor. I can run up the floor as well. There are some aspects that are different and better than other bigs.”
It remains to be seen how quickly it will take for Mobley to establish himself among the NBA’s listed centers (Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic; Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid) or versatile forwards (Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis; Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo). But it might be telling that Mobley became the first player in Division I college basketball to sweep the conference awards since Davis did nine years ago during his lone season at the University of Kentucky.
Still, Mobley scoffed at any comparisons both out of modesty with the current stage of his development and out of confidence with his long-term trajectory.
“I wouldn’t say I have a perfect comparison to anyone. My game is my game,” Mobley said. “I’m already very motivated to come into the league and be a very impactful player on whatever team I land on.”