Byron Mullens is known for a lot of things, most not all that positive. First, most don't even know who "Byron" Mullens is, because the majority of people know him as B.J. And that's the guy that's known as a pretty solid bust in the NBA after coming in to Ohio State as maybe the top freshman in the country in 2008. Or the guy graded as the worst in NBA 2K12.
Mullens has yet to find a way to see any meaningul court time in the NBA, as he's been relegated to nasty title of "project" in Oklahoma City. He's insanely gifted though. About 7-1 and can run the floor and jump like a power forward. Lots of ability, but he hasn't realized it yet.
But forget all that for now. Because Mullens has spent this lockout doing something pretty unique. He went to prison. To run some ball. Via an excellent piece from ESPN.com:
It's easy to judge players like Mullens for what they've done, or maybe more appropriately, what they haven't done, but this is something very cool. While his teammate Kevin Durant has increased his already sterling reputation for playing pretty much anywhere and everywhere, Mullens has gone one place Durant hasn't -- behind bars.
Mullens was born in Canal Winchester, Ohio, and grew up playing basketball around Columbus. He lived off and on with his mother and five siblings until high school before moving into his own apartment, paying his expenses by working after school and on weekends as a plumber. During his junior and senior years of high school, Mullens lived with the family of one of his best friends. In his first year there, he and the friend visited a juvenile detention center to teach basketball clinics and talk to troubled teens about making better choices — and also to play pickup games.
“I played ball at some places for juvenile kids when I was in high school and I kinda wanted to get back into it,” Mullens said.
By mid-July, he played in his first pickup game at Ross, which houses mostly level 2 and 3 prisoners — medium and “close” security, respectively….
“They play some really good basketball up here,” Mullens said.
But it's not just a "giving back" scenario for Mullens. He's there to work.
Mullens has yet to sustain any injuries -- except perhaps to his pride.
Inmates trash talk and yell at him on every possession to "dunk the ball," and the taunts only increase when Mullens steps behind the arc. But Mullens says he's not there to dominate the boards. Instead, he sees these pickup games as an opportunity to work on his outside shooting and ballhandling. Since the tallest inmate Mullens has faced is 6-8 and most hover around 6-foot, the majority of his shots are uncontested. The inmates try to counter with speed and 3-point shooting.Like most pickup ball, defense is not the focus of these games, which consist of three 20-minute periods. And even though inmates who have taken referee tests are paid 75 cents per game to serve as officials, fouls, traveling and three-second calls are hard to come by.
"The refs aren't very good," Janes said. "You'll get the calls you get."
But what the game doesn't lack is good competition.
"Honestly, what surprised me most coming in here was how good these guys are," Mullens said.
It's funny that Mullens says he's working most on his outside shot while there, because that's always been a complaint about his style. Instead of using his 7-1 from to dominate inside, Mullens has always preferred to float around the perimeter and basically blend in as if he were just a 6-7 forward. Having a big man with touch is a wonderful thing, but you also want your big man to get after it in the paint.
However, prison might not be the best place in the world to get physical though. Good call, Byron. Keep it outside.