Editor’s Note: I attended some of the festivities at the University of Detroit’s Legends and Traditions Weekend Sept. 22 and will have four interviews with people I ran into there over the next two days, so keep checking back for those. — P.H.
Former University of Detroit and Detroit Cooley star Willie Green enters his 10th NBA season this year as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. He’s carved out that 10-year career despite being a second round pick — second rounders in the NBA typically don’t last as long in the league as he has.
Green participated in festivities at U of D’s Legends and Traditions Weekend Sept. 21-22, including playing in the alumni game, and answered a few questions about his career afterwards.
What’s it like for you to get back to U of D and play with some of these guys, especially during a weekend like this when people from many different eras are back on campus?
It’s great. This is just the start of something big. It was successful. It’s good to get back and see players from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s and it’s a way for us to connect and continue being close to one another. It’s just a way to make the University of Detroit bigger and better.
A lot of the guys from your era — guys like yourself, Rashad Phillips, Desmond Ferguson, Jermaine Jackson for example — have not only had good, long professional careers, but they’ve also been known for their community involvement. What was it about playing for this program that helped you guys not only athletically, but off the court as well and made you want to give back?
It’s just close-knit here. We all have an understanding that we couldn’t have had the careers we’ve had without people supporting us — our families and people in our communities. Once we had the opportunity to have some success, it was our privilege and honor to come back and help.
Joining the Clippers this season, what are you looking forward to most about playing with this team?
I’m looking forward to just getting out and competing. We have an opportunity to compete for a championship this year. We have a lot of weapons, a lot of good guys on our team. It’s going to be a long season, but you get anxious, you get excited for it to start. I’m looking forward to it.
When you were traded to L.A., a lot of the coverage of how you’d fit centered on your ability to shoot the three, particularly those corner threes that have become so important in the NBA today. Is that something you always knew would help you find a role in the NBA?
It’s something I had to develop. Throughout my career, especially here at the University of Detroit, I was more of a mid-range player. In the NBA, you have guys who are playmakers, guys who can really handle the ball, so you’ve gotta be able to knock down shots when they find you. In order to continue to have success in the league, for the position that I play, I had to really get better at knocking down 3-pointers.