Former Kentucky guard Rob Dillingham calls Minnesota Timberwolves a ‘perfect fit’ to begin NBA career

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

Rob Dillingham recalled the life-changing moment in his basketball career as a “crazy experience.”

The former Kentucky guard was selected as the eighth overall pick in the NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs but was quickly traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He went from a rebuilder to a contender in a matter of minutes.

“I wouldn’t think I’d go to a contender right off,” he said earlier this week. “Going to the Timberwolves was just a blessing for sure.”

Minnesota Timberwolves’ Rob Dillingham speaks during a press conference at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Renée Jones Schneider, AP)

During his pre-draft workouts, Dillingham felt comfortable with Minnesota’s players, executives and coaching staff, which made him feel at ease.

“He (coach Chris Finch) just made me feel comfortable,” Dillingham said. “He told me that I’m going to have a role as long as I have responsibility and I do what I was supposed to do. I feel like it’s a two-way street, and as long as I keep it the right way, then it’s going to go great.”

He also likes the fact that he will play alongside Timberwolves veteran guard Mike Conley.

“Mike Conley has been one of the best guys in the league forever,” Dillingham said. “Having Mike Conley to learn from is just a blessing and I feel like it’s just a perfect fit.”

Dillingham and Terrence Shannon of Illinois were both selected in the opening round of the NBA Draft by the Timberwolves, with Shannon going as the 27th overall pick. Finch said both players were beneficial selections by the Minnesota.

“Both players bring a dimension that we really could use, explosive love to play on the open court, live in the paint — you know, a scoring mindset,” he said. “We feel like, as we kind of looked at where we may have fallen a little short last season, we were able to address a lot of those needs in the draft and just excited to get them on board and watch their journey begin.”

Finch added that both players will be developed into “specific roles,” which fits his mode of developing a team and building a successful roster.

“Those roles are usually well-defined by teams that are ready to win and are winning and you know what you need,” Finch said. “You can kind of go in there and first and foremost, try to excel in that role. You know it’s great to have young players playing a lot of minutes, giving them a lot of opportunities.

“Sometimes they can maybe bite off a little more than they can chew. I think in our situation, with the opportunities that we have, that’s certainly there for them, there’s roles to be had, roles to be earned. But we also know what they look like and how specific those are. And that’s where we’re going to start.”

Dillingham said the Timberwolves can “expect the same thing as last year” with added support and contributions from the two newcomers.

“Whatever we can do to make them better, even if it’s the little things, well, it’s going to be the little things — that’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “We’re not focused on anything is around as I feel like we just going to make the best of what we got and whatever coach wants us to do, we’re going to make sure we’re happy. And if we don’t, then we’re not going to be on the floor.”

Dillingham added that “it don’t even feel real” that he’s now in the NBA, but is looking forward to the next phase of his basketball career.

“I feel like you won’t feel real until we start actually playing with the guys and doing everything with the guys every day,” he said. “It don’t feel real walking through (the facility), and so I don’t even know what to say about that. It’s hard to explain, but once we start hooping, it’s definitely going to feel real.”

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