Catching up with Raymond Sykes

Former Clemson basketball player Raymond Sykes has had an interesting year to say the least.

Back in the spring, he finished up his collegiate career and looked like he might get a nice look at the NBA. However, after a short stay with Phoenix in training camp, he was released.

Sykes was taken in the NBA Developmental League draft by Sioux Falls and made the Sky Force's roster for the 2009-10 campaign. The Jacksonville native heads to the D-League with the same goal as every once else in the circuit, reaching the NBA.

Here's more from this former Tiger as he sat down with for a recent conversation about where he's been and what he's up to entering the heart of December:

Ray how do you look back on your time at Clemson?
Sykes: It was one of the best parts of my life. I played under some great players. I got a chance to learn from a good coach. I made lifetime friends, so it was a great experience for me.

What was your favorite memory as a Tiger?
Sykes: My favorite memory, definitely beating Duke in the ACC Tournament and going to the NCAA Tournament.

What kind of impact did coach Purnell have on you?
Sykes: Tremendous, he's just a great teacher. He's a great speaker and general. On the court, he taught me so many things. I didn't know a whole lot about the game. My basketball IQ wasn't huge. He just really taught me a lot of things and was patient with me. I loved it. Off the court, he pushed me to get my grades up. We also talked about not just academic things but being a good person and being a man in society. He was a big influence on me and I learned a lot from him in every way.

Talk about playing at Littlejohn Coliseum because it seemed the atmosphere there really took off as you got towards the end of your career.
Sykes: It's amazing. When I first got there as a freshman, the crowd wasn't as it is now of course. For the past two years, it's been great. I think last year, we were supposed to have been one of the 10 loudest stadiums. It's amazing. I remember we played Wake Forest and I had made a blocked shot and a lay up. Wake Forest had to call a timeout and it was so loud because of the Corral. It was so loud to the point that I couldn't hear anything. It was amazing. It really fueled us. I loved it. I miss that.

Ray Sykes averaged eight points and five rebounds per game during his senior season at Clemson and was part of two NCAA tournament teams in his career. (AP)
You were the first player from Jacksonville to play basketball at Clemson. Do you think you will be the first of many?
Sykes: I think I am. I know we're starting to recruit a lot more down there. They were recruiting someone else who plays at my high school but I think he might have gone somewhere else. I know now that Clemson and a few other schools are targeting that area. I know the football team is big on Jacksonville players too.

Even though you haven't been playing basketball all that long, how much of a love for the game have you developed?
Sykes: I wasn't really focused on basketball until I was maybe a junior in high school. When I really focused on it, I just fell in love with it and with getting better. I fell in love with staying focused on something and a lot came out of it like a future. I was able to learn and go to one of the top 20 universities in the country. I got to meet great people and learn more things. Basketball has carried me a long way. It gave me so much more than I could have ever expected. You definitely get out of it what you put in. I have an opportunity to play in the NBA and I'm still learning things now. My future is definitely bright due to basketball. I got to play with one of the best point guards ever to play in the NBA because of basketball. I owe a lot to it.

How has the D-League been thus far?
Sykes: It's been good. It's been a learning experience. I came here to learn more about basketball. We've been working hard, staying in shape, getting in better shape but I'm still learning the game. I look forward to this season and being able to showcase my talent and hopefully get back to the NBA. It's been a good training camp and a good preseason.

What has been the biggest adjustment for you?
Sykes: The biggest adjustment has to be there are a lot more plays to get used. They throw a lot at you at one time. You've got to be able to catch on quicker. You've got to be able to counter these plays and learn how to get your shots and for your team to counter these plays. It's more mental here. You also have the responsibility to take care of your own body as opposed to college. There is a lot more responsibility to learn more here and it's more of a mental challenge.

You played football in high school. Miss it at all?
Sykes: I miss it a lot. Whenever I see a friend of mine who plays in the NFL or watch it, I miss it. I miss the contact but basketball is so much more challenging to me. It's more skillful but there are times where I do miss football definitely.

Discuss that game you had in high school where you finished with 22 blocked shots. Were you in the zone?
Sykes: I was. I don't know what was going on. I remember we were playing First Coast and they didn't have a lot of big men. They had a lot of guards. I just felt like no one was going to dunk on me and I knew if someone was coming to the hole, I was going to block that shot. I was just in the zone. I really wanted to win that game as well because that was one of our rivals. It was really talked about around the city and I was really hyped to do it. That was really an amazing night for me. I didn't know I had that many blocked shots until after the game.

What areas of your game do you want to improve on?
Sykes: I really want to become a better all-around player but right now, I'm just focused on building my basketball IQ in general. I'm working on every aspect of my game. I am working on my jump shooting every day and my post moves every day. After watching people like Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash, and playing against other NBA players, I see that I'm really not that far. Building that basketball IQ and learning the game is what I could really work on. That's what I'm doing. Top Stories