Sixers analysis

Sixers 2nd-round center Adem Bona plans to bring ‘all-out effort' at all times  

The 41st overall pick thinks the Sixers are “getting one of the hardest workers in the draft.” 

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Adem Bona is perfectly fine leaving the shotmaking to players like the fellow rookie seated to his right Friday.

Sixers first-round pick Jared McCain is known for his extraordinary jumper. Bona, the 21-year-old UCLA center drafted 41st overall, is known for his elite effort. 

“The one thing about me, you’re always going to get all-out effort from me,” Bona said from the podium at the Sixers’ training complex in Camden, New Jersey. “Every time I step on the floor, I compete and give all the energy I can give.

“I give all the energy to the team and get to wherever I want to get to. I think Philly’s getting one of the hardest workers in the draft.” 

Bona’s hustle manifested far beyond intangible energy at UCLA. 

As a sophomore, Bona won the Pac-12’s Defensive Player of the Year award. Though he dealt with frequent foul trouble — at least four fouls in 19 of 33 appearances — Bona tallied 1.8 blocks and 1.1 steals per contest. He’s a nimble, hungry big man defender.

And he didn’t start playing basketball until he was 13 years old. Soon after, Bona moved from Nigeria to Turkey. He’s gone on to represent Turkey at youth level.

“Growing up, I played soccer,” Bona said. “I think that helped with my speed and my agility and my (mobility). … Also, playing at UCLA, I played behind the Defensive Player of the Year my freshman year in (current Timberwolves guard) Jaylen Clark.

“I think that kind of opened my eyes to how much defense can make an impact in the game. … Obviously we play different positions, but just his alertness, how quick he is on his feet to go after balls, I think that helped me focus and understand how much defense can impact a basketball game.” 

Bona’s now set to join a team with superstar center Joel Embiid, who played volleyball and soccer as a kid in Cameroon and only picked up basketball at 15 years old.

“Joel is an amazing player,” Bona said. “We have similar roots. He’s African. I am African, too. Playing against him, going against him every day is going to be a handful for me. 

“And also, it’s going to be a learning process for me. To be able to learn from such an amazing player, it’s really going to be a good step for me in my career. Practicing against him every day and going against him in practice, I think that’s going to help me in my progression.” 

In those practices, Bona will likely see Embiid drain fadeaway jumpers and toss flashy open-floor passes. 

He doesn’t intend to attempt anything along those lines. 

“Staying true to myself, doing the things I do best,” he said. “What the team needs me to do, I will do it. Doing what I do best defensively, running the floor, using my athleticism. I think that’s what’s going to get me on the floor, so I won’t deviate from that and try to do something new or different.” 

Thinking about the transition to the NBA (and an 82-game season), Bona said he’s checked in with former Bruins teammate Jaime Jaquez Jr. 

Jaquez was an All-Rookie First Team selection for the Heat last year.

“I asked him how he got through the whole season … and he gave me a little advice,” Bona said, “which is that the little extra time you spend in the gym and the weight room takes you a long way. The little time you spend — more massages, more cold tub — those are the things that are going to get you through the long stretch.”

Bona’s plan for staying healthy and fresh in the NBA clearly does not involve pacing his way through games or shying away from contact. 

“I’m always motivated,” he said. “I’m always going to bring the motor, I’m always going to bring the energy. I feel like this was the perfect spot for me. This is where I wanted to be. This is part of the plan. 

“Falling to the second round doesn’t change anything for me. I’m still going to be the same person I am, bring the same motor. That’s all you’re going to get from me all day long. Nothing has changed about me.”

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