I always say the best part about covering the NBA’s G League is how you’re able to discover something on any given night. Whether it’s watching players you haven’t seen in a long time or the incredible stories told, this place is a treasure trove for writers like myself. Throughout all of my years of covering the Westchester Knicks, I’ve heard plenty of great stories, but few have matched the one that belongs to Kenny Wooten.
You might know Wooten because of his standout 2018-19 season at the University of Oregon — where he led the Ducks to a Sweet 16 appearance — but there’s more to his story. The California native actually spent a portion of his childhood not believing he was good at basketball, because funny enough, his mom withdrew him from a local basketball clinic when he was younger. But things have quickly changed.
Now standing at 6-foot-8 and possessing incredible athleticism, Wooten has become a shot-blocking machine. Dating back to his performances in the 2019 NBA Summer League, the Oregon product was recognized for that specific skill before ultimately signing an Exhibit 10 contract with the New York Knicks. Nowadays, Wooten is the defensive anchor for the W-Knicks, as he leads the G League in blocks per game with 3.6.
I spoke with Wooten last Wednesday, following his team’s 104-100 win against Santa Cruz.
Arden: As someone who’s known as a good defender, have you given any advice to your teammates on that side of the floor?
Kenny: Yes and I do so as much as I can. Even if it’s something little, I tell them so they can know and we go from there. As a group, we work very hard on our defense, and my job is to help to clean anything up in case there’s a breakdown.
A: How do you not only develop that kind of shot-blocking ability, but timing as well?
K: Most of the time, I just wait for the ball to get in the air before I react. Sometimes I get very antsy, but I usually stay patient until it’s time to attempt a block. It really helps that I’m athletic and have been looking for ways to improve on that end of the floor, and it’s a balance between my athleticism and timing.
A: Is it difficult trying to work on your entire game while also mastering a specific skill?
K: A little bit, but it really depends on your effort to balance everything out. I can still work on my entire game without negating other things, especially the skills I’m good at. As long as I’m progressing and regressing, then it will be just fine.
A: How would you describe your experience with the New York Knicks since being with them in the Summer League?
K: It’s been really good, in all seriousness. They’ve helped me with becoming a confident and better player. I honestly can’t complain.
A: Being a California native, what makes your home more unique than others in basketball?
K: The spotlight. When you grow up in California and have all of these places filled with talent such as Los Angeles, the Bay, and a few others, it creates a bunch of opportunities for those to shine and get attention along the way. The competition is very good too.