SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Sports) - The highest drafted player in Weber State history plays his first NBA game in Utah tonight when Damian Lillard and the Portland Trailblazers take on the Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena.
"I'm excited," said Lillard, who was selected with the 6th overall pick in the NBA Draft. "To come back and play in front of the people that I've been with the last four years will be great."
Lillard is off to a blazing start with the Blazers. He leads the team in scoring at 17 points per game while also dishing out a team-high six assists per contest. Lillard dropped 21 points and 8 rebounds on the Jazz in Portland Monday night.
It's only preseason, but Lillard is already be mentioned as a strong candidate for NBA rookie of the year.
"I'm confident in myself, so I knew my ability would transfer," Lillard said. "I didn't plan on coming in and trying to lead the team in scoring. I know that will probably change when the regular season comes."
Lillard has always played with a chip on his shoulder, and has earned everything that has come his way. He will always have to live with the stigma of playing at little Weber State, but feels he doesn't have to prove anything to anybody anymore about belonging in the NBA.
"I played in the same summer league as guys from bigger schools, and I got the MVP of the summer league," said Lillard, who was second in the nation in scoring at 24.5 points per game last season with the Wildcats. "This preseason I've played well and this is against everybody that's going to be playing in the NBA, so I don't feel like I have anything else to prove to people as far as me belonging in the league. But I just want to keep getting better."
Lillard has adjusted to life in the NBA very well. He says his day is actually less chaotic now that he is out of school.
"When you're coming up in high school and college, there is a lot of schoolwork," Lillard said. "You've got learn to manage your time a lot better with everything you have to do. Now, I go to practice and go home. That's my day."
As good as he has looked in the preseason so far, Lillard knows the NBA season is a long grind and it is not always going to be a smooth ride.
"There are going to be bumps in the road," he said. "It might not go so well sometimes, but I always just try to remember who I am."
Who he is, is a budding star.