There’s a glimmer of hope for the Philadelphia 76ers, and its name is Vander Blue.
The young former college hot shot, undrafted in 2013 despite a dazzling stint with Marquette University culminating in the NCAA Tournament, has recently signed a partially-guaranteed deal with Philly and is currently attending training camp with the team. During the tournament, he peaked at a 36.8 per cent 3-point shooting and hit an average 18.3 points per game, so perhaps the Sixers—long overdue for a rebuild—have found a guy that can help raise them up from a woeful previous year. Still, only time will tell as Blue battles for a spot on the final roster before the season opens Oct. 30. We talked with the promising rookie player about Philly, meaningful tattoos and Blue’s greatest fear.
BALLnROLL: Hi Vander. So, given that it was quite a risk leaving Marquette during your senior year for the draft, what was your reaction to getting a partially-guaranteed camp deal with the 76ers?
Vander Blue: I’m really excited about the whole situation and I really think that I can help the organization, and I’m ready to get to work.
BnR: So, are you in Philly yet? Camp starts on Sept. 28th.
VB: I got here a couple days ago, and we started to work out a few days ago.
BnR: Is it your first time in Philly?
VB: No, I was actually here working out a little bit before, I actually went up to work out with Miami, so this is my second time here and I really like the city basically.
BnR: So you’re a fan of the city?
VB: Definitely. I think it’s a great city, a lot of nice people live here, it’s all got sorts of environments. I’m just glad to be here and I want to get out and see the city a little bit more.
BnR: Have you met the team yet?
VB: Yeah, we started working out yesterday. Got a good workout in today, so everybody is trying to get ready because camp starts on Saturday so we’re getting ready for that.
BnR: You were a favourite in the college basketball arena during your time with Marquette, and your skills have some staying power with a good chance to make it onto the final roster. On top of that, it looks like Philly is pretty interested in you. So what are the strengths you want to showcase at camp to help them make the decision?
VB: It’s more about me just playing my game and doing what I know I can do. So like, God put me on this earth to play basketball. I’m going to do what I know I can do that I can control. I mean, that’s the big thing: everything I’ve done throughout my career is do what I can control, and that means I play as hard as possible every time I step onto the court.
BnR: How tough is it going to be to get onto their final roster or even the rotation? What will be the challenges you’ll face to get there?
VB: I’m not sure. To tell ya, it’s probably just adjusting to the game. I learned a lot out there in Miami from guys like Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. I learned a lot on the business side, I learned a lot of things about how they manage. So, I think the challenge here is making sure every time I always open my mind, ready to learn. I’m at the bottom of the ladder so I’ve gotta make sure I’m always listening and trying to get better. But this is my challenge, and I accept any challenges put in front of me.
BnR: You once said you prove people wrong. Anything to say to those who claim you’re on the small end for a shooting guard, at 6’4″? What do you do that proves them wrong?
VB: I feel like, man, I really don’t care what position, I’m just a basketball player. You can’t really put height on being a shooting guard or a player of how I play. I have experience on the ball, I have experience playing without the ball. So I think there’s really nothing to prove, I can make the open shot when I’m open, I can also create for my teammates to get in the paint a forward location. I just wanna have all-around game, I don’t want to be just in one position. I want to be one of those guys that can just get in the game at any time, whatever you need me to do.
BnR: It could definitely help being an all-around player. Back in Summer League play, you ran with the Grizzlies and the Rockets. Can you tell me about what was your favourite moment from that experience?
VB: Probably my favourite thing about it was when I had that big game in Vegas. We had 19 in the quarter in Vegas with the Grizzlies and it was a great moment. And then I got the crowd behind me, I was making some shots and we got a better chance to bring our team back. Sorta wish had won the game, but it was a good moment at the time, man. I had a lot of fun playing with one of my good friends, Tony Wroten. I’ve known him for a while, so it was a good experience.
BnR: Alright, let’s talk a bit more about you. Do you have any talents or interests that not many people know about?
VB: Ah, I mean I’m really kind of boring. I like to play video games, I’m always playing 2K or Madden, and I spend a lot of my time watching TV, things like that. I’m Xbox, I don’t play Playstation. I didn’t actually get [GTA 5] yet, but I heard about it. Still, I’m on the Madden spin right now and I’m waiting for that 2K14 game to come out. I’m more of a 2K guy.
VB: So, definitely Drake, it’s all I’ve been listening to. I think the album is amazing, I like to get down on that. I usually listen to Drake, I listen to a lot of Chief Keef.
BnR: I really want to ask a bit about your ink. You’ve got two sleeves going on. What’s the story behind those?
VB: All of my tattoos have stories, man. On my right arm, I have symbols dedicated to my family so I wanted to make sure I had something related to that. Every tattoo that I have has a meaning behind it. I feel like if you can just take my skin off somehow and lay it down, you can see a map of everything I’ve been through, like my life story.
BnR: And on your left arm, it says ‘death before dishonor’?
VB: Yeah, that’s on my left arm, it says death before dishonor, and I always carry that. It’s about being loyal and being loyal to the people that are loyal to you, your family. That’s really important to me and I want to make sure that I wear it on my body.
BnR: Loyalty is key in the league. What would you say drives your personal philosophy?
VB: I feel like probably I would say my ma, and my uncle who was killed in 2008. He was really important in my life, and it really hurt my family, it hurt my mom, because her younger brother, he got murdered. So, everything I do, I do for them, too. She was a single parent, she raised two kids on her own so I want to make sure I do my best everyday.
BnR: Loyalty to those around you seems like a major part of your life. Do you give back to your community in any way, or do you do any work with charities?
VB: I helped with a free kids camp where I’m from, where I went to high school in Madison, [Wisconsin]. Like I said before, family is definitely important and I’ll never forget where I came from and I try my best to be as loyal as possible to those who’ve been loyal to me.
BnR: I have to ask about back when you decommitted from the University of Wisconsin after reading those message board comments. You were 16 then—now that a few years have gone by, how do you feel about that situation today?
VB: Nah, I wouldn’t say I regret anything I do. I wouldn’t change leaving Madison and going to Marquette, I wouldn’t change going to the draft early at all. I feel like God has a plan, so no matter anybody does, I know he’s got my back and with him anything is possible. I’ve been more confident, I’ve got a lot of great games going on, because at the time I wasn’t sure if that was what I wanted to do. So that’s the reason I made that decision.
BnR: You’ve come a long way. Is there anything else really cool about you you’d like to tell our readers that not many people know?
VB: One thing about me is I’m just a laid-back guy, I’m terrified of horses. That’s probably the one thing people don’t know, I really don’t like horses. I had a bad experience with a horse when I was young at a family reunion, and one of the horses decided to take off and I didn’t know how to control it. So one of the owners had to get on another horse and ride up to the horse I was on and pull me off. I was a little kid, I was crying, it was a real bad experience and everything. Ever since, I was real scared of horses. [Laughs]
BnR: Alright, thanks for your time Vander! Best of luck.
VB: I’m just a laid back, humble guy. I just want to be the best, and the best I can be. I set goals for myself: I want to be the best, and I want to make it happen.