Dreamchasing with NBA 2K All-Rookie team member Veron "Hezi" Coates
This new star in the Esports world sat down with DNHQ to talk his first season with Warriors Gaming Squad and the hunger for more.
Every year the world Esports expands wider and grows deeper into the hearts and mind of the next generation. Look no further than a recent article in Forbes from DNHQ friend Patrick Murray entitled. “With The Growth of Esports, NBA 2K League is Taking Off'“.
The Golden State Warriors have invested heavily in this lane, and their 2K team Warriors Gaming Squad is a perennial playoff team, two seasons removed from a Finals trip. We had a chance to sit down with WGS star rookie Veron “Hezi” Coates to discuss his first year in the game and the lessons he learned en route to being selected for the league’s All-Rookie honors.
Tell me a bit about your hometown and your relationship to gaming growing up.
So I'm from New York, Queens. So where I'm from most people were always outside in the park, playing basketball and stuff like that.
I have a big family. So it's like, when I got home as a kid, things were always like competitive. Like, that's just human nature. You always want to be better than another person.
So coming back home after playing real basketball,I’d play NBA 2K13. That’s the 2K with the Miami Heat, LeBron with D-Wade and Bosh. I used to always get killed. It was like I could never win.
And I just wanted to be better because like I hate losing. I'm just a competitive person. I've never went golfing, but we can go golfing tomorrow and I'm gonna tell you that I'm going to have the best score. I feel like I'm the best at everything.
So growing up I just kept working on getting better on the games. Gaming is a huge thing you know? Everybody wants to get the new 2K or the Call of Duty. So yeah, inside my house was where it all started
What made you believe that the video game route could materialize into a career?
For me personally, I really say the supporters and my family friends. A couple people that I met through XBox that became my really good friends too. There was one particular incident that happened when I was in Jamaica one summer on vacation with my family, my first time visiting Jamaica.
And a NBA 2K League prospect named Bryson calls me and tells me I should take the league more seriously. He said that I had the ability and that I really could make it as a pro. I’m like ehhh I don’t really know, I’ll see about it. To keep it a buck, I wasn’t thinking about playing professionally. I was always just playing for fun, being a jokester.
But once he told me about that he showed me the vision. Like, I really could do it. The next year I sacrificed all the hours of me trying to just have fun with my life. I knew that if I was gonna make it, and if people were believing in me, I had to believe in myself. And I already had the confidence to feel like I was better than everybody, so I just kept working hard.
What was it like telling your friends and family when you actually made the league and accomplished that dream?
It's scary because at first, you know? Like you tell your mom and your people “hey I might go professional in a game”. So they knew…but once they actually started seeing the merchandise come in and that I’m doing two or three team different team interviews?
They see the progress. Like me playing multiple series, and my friends coming over telling me “let’s go outside”. I’m like nah, I’m about to just play 2K. So they have seen the dedication and my seriousness. And they kept believing in me until I finally got drafted. It was a great feeling with their support; just amazing to have.
You just finished your first rookie season. What are your reflections on that first season in the pro game?
I felt like I couldn’t ask for a better situation to be drafted into. It was cool. I always told my teammates, like, I want it to be like a learning experience.
Like, of course I wanna win. I'm gonna try to like, you know, prove my value. As a top-3 draft pick you gotta put on the shoe and fit it. So definitely high expectations.
So throughout the whole journey from start to finish, I felt like I change my mentality. I changed my personality. I changed the way I act. I became more of a team player. I learned the engine and how to win in the league.
So, yeah, I definitely couldn’t ask for another better rookie year. Making the All-Rookie team was just like, whoa! That was just like the icing on the cake because my teammates really helped me, so I could be more prepared for the next season that's coming up. The award shows that progress is showing and people are seeing it.
Obviously you guys came one game short of going back to the NBA finals and lost by a shot basically. What do you feel like kept Warriors Gaming Squad from getting to the Finals this year and what did you learn personally from how it ended?
I'm not a sore loser, so I just give praise to the Jazz. We just weren’t as locked in as we should have been, because if we were locked in as we should've been, then theway how Game 1 happened would have never happened to us like that.
We never lost like that. Everybody knows that. So that was just like a crazy loss. But the fact that we were able to come back, smile at them, win Game 2 and still fight them?
Like you said we were a shot away from winning Game 3, especially with three rookies. We had three rookies, you know, and we are were going against a team that had the same five man squad from last year. So they got more chemistry than us.
We fought. You know how Warriors get down! Everybody knows we will always fight, no matter what. Till the clock says zero-zero, man.
I personally feel I gotta get better. Number one, I gotta be more focused. I'll be honest with you, we had like a strict thing where it was like, we always came to practice early, but like, I'll get in like a couple minutes after, just because I’m moving slowly..
I learned I gotta make sure I plan things out and be more prepared, more focused, and be willing to listen. At first, when I came in the league, like Coach could tell you, and I don't think no other team would be able to deal with me to be honest with you.
I wouldn't say I was hard headed, but like, I will always like, think I was right. And then they made me see throughout like the season differently. Like I told you that's why this award couldn't have been done without them. They made me see how the way I was thinking wasn't the right way at all.
What was the point of view that you had about the game that changed over time?
When everybody communicates, everybody's on the same page. That's what I had to realize. Like e you can't just win the game by putting five good, good players on the team in the league. Maybe in retail, you can do that, but in the league, uou gotta have people that's willing to listen to each other, willing to give criticism to each other and willing to want to grow as a team, not just off individual.
For those who are seeing your success and seeing how the 2K League has blown up and want in, what's a common mistake that keeps folks from making it and how can they avoid it?
I feel like the common mistake that most people would just keep making is they cheat the grind.
I feel like nobody should ever feel like their spot is a hundred percent certain in this elite game. If you're not at the top of your peak, then you will get cut in a sec. So that's what I feel like most people make the common mistake. They just cheat the grind.
They’re not willing to sacrifice. I wasn't going out. I wasn’t going outside. I'm not going to going to no party, no events. Cause I told them I got a dream. I was just being in the house and running a new player, playing pickup, learning the game more.
They just don't, they feel like they either too good enough or they don't feel like there's a purpose. And I feel like that's a bad mindset.
For more information on Warriors Gaming Squad, check out their social media @WarriorsGaming and visit their website at WarriorsGamingSquad.com. For more info on the 2K League, head over to NBA2KLeague.com.