Mason Plumlee is 6’11”, 235 lbs, and was the 22nd pick of the 2013 NBA Draft. He plays forward for the Portland Trail Blazers and was a member of the 2014 U.S. team. Mason also won a collegiate championship playing under Coach K at Duke, along with his older brother Miles. Mason sat down with us for an exclusive interview to talk about life, basketball, and yoga.
EASTBAY: What does it mean to you to be on the cover of Eastbay?
PLUMLEE: Being on the cover of Eastbay has always been a dream. I got the magazine growing up, so it’s very exciting.
EASTBAY: At what point in your life did you realize you were good enough to play basketball as a career?
PLUMLEE: When I got to high school, I started playing against college players and guys that ended up in the NBA, so I felt my chances of playing in the NBA were very good.
EASTBAY: What did you change in your preparation once you knew you were good enough for the next level?
PLUMLEE: Strength and conditioning became a big part of training in the NBA. As a kid, I never lifted, so the weight room was a big deal.
EASTBAY: How about your diet and training regimen?
PLUMLEE: My diet is very important to what I do. I watch what I eat. I maintain the same weight throughout the offseason. Just staying fit, being a strong 245, and also staying loose. Doing stretches to stay flexible and limber.
EASTBAY: What exercises are exclusive to what you do that other guys might not do.
PLUMLEE: Starting this offseason, I started yoga. I’m new to it, but I’m enjoying it so far, and I think it has a lot of benefits that carry over.
EASTBAY: Being an academic all-American. How were you able to balance school and ball?
PLUMLEE: We had great tutors, so all you had to do was be willing to put in the work. Obviously you want to have fun and hang with your friends, but as long as that comes after school and ball, you know you’re gonna excel. I’m not saying you won’t have a life, but just keep your priorities your priorities.
EASTBAY: What’s it like being a part of such a great college?
PLUMLEE: Coach [Krzyzewski] has been there 30 years, so it’s a fraternity, and it’s something I’ll always appreciate. I watched their teams growing up. They had Jason Williams, Carlos Boozer, and Shane Battier. They’ve always had the talent, and coach has always gotten the talent to guide us and be leaders and help us win.
EASTBAY: What was it like playing with both of your brothers growing up.
PLUMLEE: I had one year in high school and one year in college playing with my brothers. It was fun. They’re my best friends, so you get to go to practice with your best friends and hang out with them after practice.
EASTBAY: You transitioned into the NBA a lot faster than most rookies. Explain that.
PLUMLEE: I had an advantage coming into the league because I had great veterans who were very helpful and taught me how to handle the rigors of an NBA season. I played four years in college, and I think that really benefitted me coming in. I was physically more mature.
EASTBAY: NBA challenges?
PLUMLEE: The biggest change coming into the NBA is how physical you can be on defense. In college you spend a lot of time in foul trouble, but you can get away with a lot more in the NBA. You have to use that to be a presence on defense.
EASTBAY: Name one element in your game that puts you above your peers?
PLUMLEE: My separating factor is my mentality — having a motor. You know, you’re gonna make turnovers and have mistakes on the floor, but playing through it and getting onto the next play is my mindset.
EASTBAY: What’s your mental pregame ritual?
PLUMLEE: Right before the tip, I like to take some deep breaths and calm myself and really relax, because you can be so ready to play that you can be too anxious or on edge.
EASTBAY: What’s some advice you’d give your 17-year-old self?
PLUMLEE: I would say enjoy the moment. When you’re in high school, don’t think about college, and while in college, don’t think about the NBA. Take each step for what it’s worth. All the other stuff comes, but you don’t want to shortchange yourself by looking too far forward.
EASTBAY: What’s your gear ritual?
PLUMLEE: My only ritual is to wear Nikes. I’m a “less is more” guy, so as long as I got my shoes on I’m good. Check out all the Nike basketball gear Mason trusts on the court.
EASTBAY: Practice rituals?
PLUMLEE: I like to play in the same shoes in practice as I do in the game. I try to keep everything the same in practice as I do in the game.
EASTBAY: Favorite Nike basketball shoe?
PLUMLEE: Nike Air Max Jet. I think Steve Nash wore it. It was super comfortable, it felt like a sock, and had the strap coming over the top. I hope they come back out with them.