The images on the screen were almost three years old, but D’Angelo Russell said he remembers them vividly.
Russell was watching himself get selected in the 2015 Draft, the climax of an upcoming short film about his journey to the NBA. It was a moment, he said, filled with emotion and one that has new meaning now that he has three years as a professional under his belt.
“You go back to that [day], putting the cap on. It brings back butterflies to my stomach,” Russell said Monday evening at a screening of “Path to the Cap,” which documents his time as a child in Louisville, Kentucky, through draft night. He was taken with the second pick by the Lakers that evening and played two seasons for them, before being traded to the Nets last June.
“When you play [the video game NBA] 2K, you get to do ‘my player’ and get to see yourself up on that stage,” he said, but added the game hardly prepared him for the real thing. “There are so many things: I hope I don’t trip, I hope my hair fits [under the cap]. That’s that one day and you don’t get it back. You want it to be perfect.”
Russell grew up in Louisville, where he attended Central High School for one season. From there, he transferred to Montverde Academy in Florida, where he played for three seasons and won two national titles to become one of the more coveted recruits in the nation.
He said that the transition from playing close to home to boarding at one of the top prep programs in the nation was difficult at times but ultimately one that was critical to his development.
This development continued at Ohio State, where he was a first-team All-American player and the Big Ten freshman of the year.
While the film ends on draft night, Russell’s journey has since taken him to Los Angeles and Brooklyn, where he averaged a team-high 15.5 points per game last season. He was also second on the team with 5.2 assists per game, though he is still not the finished product. He will need to improve his shooting (he shot 41.4 percent from the field) and ball security (his 3.1 turnovers per game were ninth-most in the NBA).
He said his time in the league, with those ups and downs, has given him a new perspective on his journey.
“I try to reminisce about a lot of stuff,” Russell said. “I’ve seen those pictures, I know where I’ve come from. I’ve come a long way.”