The 6-foot-5 Canarsie native, then a freshman at the University of Arizona, was walking home one summer night at about 3 a.m. As Alkins, 20, navigated his way home, his Brooklyn instincts took over.
“In New York City, when it’s late night and people are staring at you, you’ll always feel like something’s about to go down,” he told BQE Media over the phone this past Thursday. “Coming from Brooklyn you’ve always got to have that tough mindset. You’ve got to have your guard up.”
In front of his home, he was approached by few college kids. They simply asked for autographs, much to the relief of the famed Arizona Wildcat.
“That’s something I had to get used to in Arizona,” Alkins, who now lives in Tucson, said with a chuckle. “We are the NBA team for Tucson.”
This week, Thursday to be exact, Alkins will likely find himself on an actual NBA team. The Arizona product is one of many early entries into NBA Draft, where he currently projects as a second-round pick across many mock drafts.
Of course, he only knows that because he’s told so.
“I don’t pay attention to it,” he said from a Dallas airport after having just worked out with the Mavericks. “It’s all a guessing game. How does anyone know where anyone’s going? Outside of the top 10, there might be a lot of surprises on draft night.”
Detaching yourself from rumors, distractions, fraudulence and know-nothings at this time of year is difficult, yet necessary for an NBA hopeful. The motivation to focus on basketball is part of why Alkins left New York City to begin with. No hard feelings.
“Coming from New York, then you go see Arizona, the lifestyle is completely different,” he said. “It allows you to completely focus on basketball.”
The young uber-athletic wing transferred to the Word of God Christian Academy after two years at Christ the King in Middle Village to finish his high school career. Word of God, located in Raleigh, North Carolina, is also the institution that once hosted current Washington Wizard and perennial NBA All-Star John Wall.
“It’s not hard to focus when you’re getting good feedback,” he added regarding his discussions with scouts, coaches and executives over the last several weeks. “It’s about getting the teams that like you to love you.”
A big part of what Alkins is banking on at the next level is what he refers to as his, “winning mentality.” The 2018 All-Pac 12 Honorable Mention was a focal point on back-to-back Pac-12 championship teams, one of whom reached the Sweet 16.
As a freshman who started in 36 of 37 appearances, Alkins averaged 10.9 points and 4.9 rebounds while primarily in a spot-up shooting role, draining 37 percent from the floor.
He then entered the draft and landed a few workouts with NBA teams, setting up a list that currently includes the aforementioned Mavs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers, Indiana Pacers, Atlanta Hawks and his hometown Brooklyn Nets, with whom he worked out with last season.
After receiving good feedback from NBA representatives, he felt better prepared mentally and physically for a breakout sophomore season.
Though the Wildcats were one-and-done in the NCAA Tournament, Alkins – who put up 13.1 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 36 percent from three despite a broken foot before the season began – proved he was NBA ready.
He learned not only the importance of performance, but of preparation.
“This year I understood the mentality of what to do before the combine,” said Alkins, “My body was a lot better this time. All my numbers at the combine went up from last year.”
Alkins is optimistic that the NBA will prove to be a game better tailored to his skill set and his preferred style of a faster pace of basketball. He also enjoyed traveling to different cities on short notice, which he says only proves his love for the sport.
“The traveling is a real taste to what the NBA’s going to be for me,” he said. “I learned that I really love basketball. Being on flights from the west coast to the east coast just for one night, then back to the west coast, it’s hard to do that when you don’t really love the game.”