Interview: Guillermo Diaz
May 2, 2006
Miami junior guard turned pro Guillermo Diaz sits down with Charlie Bury to discuss how the NBA draft process is going for him so far. Diaz talks about his training regimen, his background in volleyball, his experience at the University of Miami and a host of other topics.
Charlie Bury: If I am an NBA GM with a first round pick, why should I draft you?
Guillermo Diaz: Because I can score in many different ways. I’m a scorer, but I'm also a passer. I can be a point guard and at the same time I could be a combo guard. I can score in a lot of different ways and I can make the game easy for a lot of people. So that’s what I’m working on right now.
University of Miami Athletics
Charlie Bury: You started playing basketball when you were 17 right?
Guillermo Diaz: Yeah I’ve been playing basketball all my life, but I never took it that seriously because I was always focused more on volleyball. But at age 17 I started to take it seriously and started to enjoy it a little bit.
Charlie Bury: Tell us a little bit about your volleyball career.
Guillermo Diaz: It was great. It was at a point that I was thinking to quit basketball for the rest of my life. I just gave (basketball) one chance to see how I was going to do in the States my senior year in high school. And after that year it was okay, it was actually pretty nice. So then I decided to keep playing basketball. But my volleyball career was really nice. I achieved a lot of things and my volleyball skills were real high, it was very good.
Charlie Bury: Did your volleyball skills help make the transition into basketball any easier?
Guillermo Diaz: Yeah in volleyball it’s a lot of different reactions, jumping and how to move quickly laterally and stuff like that. So it helped me a lot in my leaping ability and ability to move quickly with and without the ball
Charlie Bury: Do you ever get a chance to play volleyball anymore?
Guillermo Diaz: No, I just focus on one sport at the moment. That’s something that I’ve never done before, so that’s what I’m trying to do now. Just focus on one sport and try to get the best out of it.
Charlie Bury: The University of Miami snatched you up pretty quickly in the recruiting process. What made you decide so early that Miami was for you?
Guillermo Diaz: I was thinking more with my family, so my family could come and see me. Plus my English wasn’t very good at that point, so I was thinking Miami because of the language. Plus the weather, it’s like Puerto Rico and its close for my family to come see me. Other than that, it turned out great. I was playing with D. Rice (Darius Rice) who was an NBA prospect and I knew playing with somebody like that was going to help me.
Charlie Bury: You mentioned you wanted to be in a nice climate similar to Puerto Rico. How would you do being drafted by a team in a cold weather city like Minnesota?
Guillermo Diaz: Well, I just need to get used to it like I did when I first got here (the United States). In life people face some stuff that’s difficult and different, and you just got to get used to it. I’m not going to be there just for the weather, I’m going to be there for business and just to play basketball. That’s what I’m going to be there for. That’s what I was thinking when I first came here. This is basketball, so forget about everything else. Basketball is my priority.
Charlie Bury: You played with two other undersized guards in the starting lineup. Do you think that hindered your development at all?
Guillermo Diaz: I played with two guards and it was kind of hard sometimes because all three guards were able to do most of the same things. I wasn’t able to handle the ball that much. But I was trying to make people know that when I handle the ball I like to create for others. Sometimes I was creating for other people and sometimes I was just creating my own shot, but it was kinda hard to do because we were kind of similar and we all did the same things. It was kind of difficult.
Charlie Bury: How is your knee? Did you have to change your style of play because of the injury?
Guillermo Diaz: No no, it was because I was kind of…I didn’t have any confidence after the injury. Now that I’m working out, I’m back like the old Guillermo. So I’m very pleased with the work that we’ve been doing and I’m excited. I wasn’t really confident. Now I have my confidence back and I started getting more and more confident, so I’m just dunking like I used to. Now my knee is better. I wasn’t confident enough to be doing a lot of stuff while I was injured.
Charlie Bury: What did you do to get that confidence back?
Guillermo Diaz: Just pushed myself. Sometimes when you don’t push yourself that much, of course you’re not going to get any part of your body stronger. That’s what Coach [David] Thorpe is doing, just pushing me and pushing me to be the player that I was before the injury. He is pushing me every day to just be excited.
Charlie Bury: Tell me a little bit about what Coach Thorpe has you doing. What’s your daily regime when you’re working out? Are you playing against other players, or are you by yourself?
Guillermo Diaz: I’m by myself. I’m working on a lot of dribbling situations and on my shot. I’m doing a lot of stuff that is great for me and I’ve seen the changes, and I’m getting a lot better. Coach Thorpe is doing a great job and I’ve never had somebody teach me the things he’s doing. It’s something that I feel great doing. It’s something that I wake up every morning knowing that I’m going to work with a guy who always has a good attitude and that’s what motivates me to get better every day. He’s doing a lot of stuff that is great for my game.
Charlie Bury: When do you start private workouts for NBA teams?
Guillermo Diaz: I don’t know yet. Not exactly sure when. We’re just going to keep working out now and they are going to let me know when workouts start. But I don’t know at this point.
Charlie Bury: Who was the toughest guy you ever had to guard in college?
Guillermo Diaz: When I first got to UM, we played against Connecticut. That was the year that Ben Gordon and Okafor won (the NCAA championship). He was the toughest guy, Ben Gordon.
Charlie Bury: Miami is known as a football school. How was the fan support when you were down there?
Guillermo Diaz: They are good people but of course the strongest sport is football so they really didn’t follow that much basketball. But these past two years there were a lot of fans in the arena that gave a burst to all the players. Everything changed and there were a lot of fans. People were everywhere asking you stuff. It was real nice the last two years. At the beginning it wasn’t that much. People didn’t know about our team. But at the end it was getting better.
Charlie Bury: How have those fans reacted to your decision to turn pro?
Guillermo Diaz: The people I have talked to were supportive. I haven’t seen anybody negative. Of course you’ve got to look sometimes…this is my life and I need to make tough decisions sometimes. But most of the people have been supportive. I haven’t seen anybody being negative about it.
Charlie Bury: You decided to sign with an agent pretty quickly, when many guys in your position take advantage of the rule allowing underclassmen to “test the waters”. How come you decided to sign with an agent and give up your eligibility?
Guillermo Diaz: Signing with an agent was better for me, because it let me put more focus on my basketball skills and working on things that I’m not very good at, so I can learn them before I go to NBA workouts. This process goes quick, so you need to give yourself the best chance you’ve got. I signed with an agent and put more work into my game so when I go into the workouts I will most certainly do well. When I go to the next step, I’ll know a lot of stuff already that others who started later might not.
Charlie Bury: What was the agent selection process like for you? How did you go about picking an agent?
Guillermo Diaz: My dad has been helping me in my career, and he was the one who brought me to Miami. So he knows a lot of people and he was meeting with a lot of guys. He recommended this guy and I met him, and for me it was nice and it was nice for everybody, so that’s why I picked him.
Charlie Bury: In today’s NBA with the new rule changes it seems like every team has a combo guard. You mentioned Ben Gordon; guys like him, Eddie House, Maurice Williams have all had success in the league. Do you see yourself as more of a scoring guard like those guys, or as more of a point guard?
Guillermo Diaz: I can be both. I can play as a point guard because I like to pass. But I will do both, man. I can score if you want, I can do anything. I can do anything on the court, whatever the team needs.
Charlie Bury: Who would you compare your game to?
Guillermo Diaz: The style of my game is a little like Ben Gordon and Gilbert Arenas. That kind of style, a scorer who can finish strong, is athletic, and can shoot.
Charlie Bury: What NBA team do you think best suits your style? What type of coach would you like to play for?
Guillermo Diaz: The style that I would play would be the Phoenix Suns, that style. The run and gun and get up and down. My team in college, we didn’t run that much so I got used to that a little bit. So I can do both, set offense or just go a lot of fast break. But I think a great fit is Phoenix. Their team just gets up and down and runs. They’re athletic and run the court.
Charlie Bury: What are you hearing from scouts or your agent as to how high, or how low you might be going in this draft?
Guillermo Diaz: I’m not paying attention to any of that stuff. I just got to work hard on my training right now and prove to people when I go to these individual workouts that I’m a good player.
Charlie Bury: Tell me about basketball in Puerto Rico. The national team has really been on the upswing the last couple of years. Is basketball becoming more and more popular in Puerto Rico?
Guillermo Diaz: Yeah, it has always been popular but now a lot of kids will come to the States to play college basketball and go back to play in Puerto Rico, so we have better players now with more skills. Now a lot of people have started playing basketball. Everywhere you go in Puerto Rico there is a court full of guys just playing pickup. It’s getting a lot more popular now. Baseball is the biggest sport in Puerto Rico, but now basketball is in the top two.
Charlie Bury: Do you have a relationship with any of Puerto Rican guys that are in the NBA now, like Carlos Arroyo or Peter John Ramos?
Guillermo Diaz: Yeah I know Carlos Arroyo a little bit.
Charlie Bury: Has he given you any advice about the draft process and what you should be looking out for?
Guillermo Diaz: Last time we talked, he told me like my brother would: ‘Now is your chance. You just got to go out and take it. You don’t always get two chances. You got to take this one like it’s that or your life. You have to work hard and know that nothing is going to be easy now. From here to the end, it’s not going to be easy’. So I need to work hard and forget about what I have in front of me and just do the best for me, Guillermo.
Charlie Bury: Getting back to when you were saying you chose Miami because you thought it was a good fit for you and your family. Do you think your Hispanic heritage might be able to help you out in terms of marketing, and do you want to play in an NBA city with a large Puerto Rican community?
Guillermo Diaz: Oh of course, yeah. Of course. There are not that many Hispanic players in the NBA, so it would be great to play in front of a large Hispanic population. Now we see a lot of European guys, but we don’t have that many Hispanics in the NBA. So it would great to be in a place that I could just be a part of a city. You know, represent Hispanics, that’s how it is.
Charlie Bury: Who are some Puerto Rican guys that we might be sleeping on?
Guillermo Diaz: Dennis Clemente is the one. He played with me at Miami. He’s a guy who is real fast. He has a lot of ability to change speeds and he has handles and scoring. He can do a lot of stuff that a lot of people can’t do. He is the one people are sleeping on. You will see him next year.
Charlie Bury: Alright Guillermo, that’s it. Thanks so much.
Guillermo Diaz: Okay. Alright man, take it easy.