Point Guard – Oklahoma City
Copywriter, A. Arthur
Focused On His Game
With cheetah-like speed, the heart of a lion, and a falcon's focus, Russell Westbrook is one of the most feared players in the league, but the young and accomplished All-Star point guard's future may only get brighter. While it's easy to spot an established superstar, it's nearly impossible to predict whether a younger player's potential will fully blossom. Unlike high school phenoms and one-and-done collegiate standouts, Russell Westbrook's experience was quite the opposite; his early abilities were often overlooked and strongly doubted.
Russell's life might seem easy, but his road to professional basketball superstardom wasn't smooth. "There's been a lot of adversity I faced throughout my life to get where I am now," he says. Born in Long Beach and growing up in Southern California, Russell played high school ball at Leuzinger High in Lawndale, where he didn't start his first game until his junior year. "Growing up, my dad told me to stay focused, regardless of what may happen. Things may not go your way, but the key is to stay focused and everything will be alright." Even though he was an above-average player, the scrawny point guard didn't do enough to attract any scholarship offers from top collegiate programs. When UCLA's starting point guard declared for the 2006 NBA Draft, Russell received a late, and their last remaining, scholarship offer from his hometown Bruins.
By attending UCLA, Russell was able to remain near his family and friends. His first season with the Bruins started similar to his early high school playing days – on the bench. He finished his freshman season only averaging 3.4 points per game. "My family was always there for me," he says. "They were always pushing me to become the greatest I could become regardless of whether I was the best on the team or not. They were always striving for me to be the best." During his second season for the Bruins, his determination finally paid off. Nearly averaging 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists per game, he played a significant role on the team, while helping lead UCLA to the Final Four. After finishing his sophomore season, Russell was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. He declared for the 2008 NBA Draft, where he was selected with the 4th overall pick.
In disbelief that Russell was selected in the top 5, professional basketball scouts and sports analysts quickly questioned and criticized Seattle's first-round pick. While transitioning to his new Oklahoma City home, Russell, like his professional employers, wasn't going to let anything or anybody slow him down. Making a quick impact, he, with the help of his team, was named to the league's All-Rookie First Team. Since then, he has represented the Western Conference at the All-Star game, helped Team USA capture the 2012 Olympic gold medal, and made an NBA Finals appearance. "My personal goal is to become a better team player," he says. "Just come out and try to help my team win. That's my main focus every night. Whatever I have to do to achieve that, that's what I'm going to do."
Russell is a great example of hard work paying off. Like a car with its gas pedal pushed to the floor, he can't stop his drive. He has been doubted, overlooked, and criticized, but he never let it stop him from chasing his dream. Having his family and friends help guide him throughout his struggles, he would like to offer some advice to young athletes. "Stay focused and continue to work hard. Sometimes it's not going to go the way you think it will, but if you continue to work hard and keep striving to be better, it's going to work out."
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