Jeremy Sochan matches Tom Thibodeau, Knicks

CHICAGO — Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau has never met Jeremy Sochan’s mother Aneta, who played at Panhandle State in Oklahoma. But it sounds like they get along quite well.

The Baylor freshman’s 6-foot-9-combo forward feels like he’s the best defender in the June 23 draft — and that’s all his mother cared about.

“My mother used to play basketball and always told me defense comes first,” Sochan said in a British accent at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago on Thursday. “She always told me when I had a bad game, defense comes first and offense will come if you play well on defense. In any case, it has always been there.”

These are phrases that Thibodeau recites in his sleep. Sochan was planning to meet with the Knicks in Chicago on Friday, but whether he’ll be available at the No. 11 election is a question mark. He has interviewed a handful of lottery teams including New Orleans at 8.

Despite coming on for NCAA powerhouse Baylor, Sochan sees no better defender among the lottery boys than himself.

“I think so, for my size, my length, the ability to switch one to five on the ball and also defending off the ball,” said Sochan. “Being a communicator, being loud, a bit gruff, that makes me the best defender.”

Jeremy Sochan of the Baylor Bears
Jeremy Sochan of the Baylor Bears
Getty Images

Seth Greenberg, the ESPN collegiate basketball guru, told the Post earlier this month that Sochan should be the Knicks’ pick if he’s available at 11 p.m.

The Knicks were missing a quality full-back when Reggie Bullock signed with Dallas last summer. RJ Barrett’s rise has come as a goalscorer rather than a defender this season. Greenberg called Sochan the most versatile player in the draft, able to defend all five positions.

“I think (I am) a mix of players, players with length, height and versatility, like Draymond Green, Mikal Bridges, Aaron Gordon,” Sochan said. “I see a younger Boris Diaw, parts of Jimmy Butler. Especially players with a lot of versatility on both sides of the court do not affect the game (so) even in the box score. Doing small things and getting under your skin also irritates the players.

“I can sense when a player is a little annoyed or uncomfortable. And that just drives me. I enjoy defense.”

Jeremy Sochan grabs a loose ball against North Carolina
Jeremy Sochan grabs a loose ball against North Carolina
Getty Images

Sounds like Thibodeau’s dream player, except he didn’t prove to be a 3-point ace shooter. Sochan, 19, shot just 29.6 percent from 3 in 30 games. He averaged 9.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists.

“But he’s skilled,” said an NBA scout in Chicago. “Good passer and he can dribble.”

“I think my shot is consistent,” Sochan said when asked about areas for improvement. “I have to prove that I can shoot. i think i can It is precisely the time to show people that.”

The NBA is a copycat league. The success of Boston and Miami, two elite defensive teams now in the Eastern Conference Finals, has led the current teams in this draft to focus on versatile defensive players.

“Yeah, it really shows what the modern NBA is,” Sochan said. “People are looking for players like me who can go from 1 to 5 and have that versatility on both sides.”

Sochan also has a diverse background. In short, his mother was raised in Poland but moved to Oklahoma to play college basketball and married an Oklahoma man. Jeremy was born in the Sooner State but moved with his family to England where he grew up.

But he played for the Polish national team at 16, moved to Indiana to play high school basketball at La Lumiere Academy for a year, and then went to Germany.

“I think I have one of the most unique backgrounds in this design,” Sochan said. “I’ve been to England, Poland, America. I’ve played in all sorts of European countries. I think it helped me mature, play with pros, play with college players, American players. It built me ​​up as a mix of American basketball but also European basketball.

Maybe soon Knicks’ basketball.

https://nypost.com/2022/05/20/nba-draft-2022-jeremy-sochan-a-fit-for-tom-thibodeau-knicks/ Jeremy Sochan matches Tom Thibodeau, Knicks

JOE HERNANDEZ

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