Brandin Podziemski

Podziemski's rapid Warriors rise is proof looks can be deceiving

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The first of the many secret weapons that have lined Brandin Podziemski’s path to the NBA and the Warriors is his appearance. The bountiful crop of curly blond hair suggests surfboard ownership. The perpetual sneer implies brash, snarky kid. Serious hooper? Prove it.

Welcome to the playgrounds of greater Milwaukee, scrub. Come get your lesson.

If you didn’t know, you didn’t know. You’d learn the hard away because it wouldn’t take long for Podziemski let them know.

“It’s just not backing down from nobody,” Podziemski says during a guest appearance on the latest "Dubs Talk," which debuted Thursday. “As crazy as it sounds, no matter the color of your skin, I’m going to go out there and play the way I play.”

Dub Nation likes what Podziemski brings to the Warriors, but it loves the way he brings it. The rookie’s game is defined by uncompromising relentlessness. He seems powered by 120 self-charging batteries. He’ll play man defense against a guard on the perimeter, force a miss, and then slip between two big men to snatch a rebound. The guy his teammates call “BP” is a wiry 6-foot-4 whose disposition is that of a 6-foot-10 Adonis.

“He’s a very confident guy,” Stephen Curry says. “He feels like he belongs, he knows he belongs, and he works. He has a style that he understands is going to translate to the league, and (he’s understanding) how he can make an impact on the game.”

This assessment from Curry came in October, a full week before the season, when the conventional belief was that Podziemski would spend much of the season with the G League Santa Cruz Warriors. Two months later, BP was in the starting lineup of the NBA Warriors.

How does one make such a meteoric rise? It begins in the usual place. Childhood. Brandin’s father, John, was a talented baseball player whose gifts were inherited by his son. Teenage Brandin had skills, including a fastball that topped 90 mph. But the southpaw wanted something more challenging and, ultimately, more rewarding.

“If I wasn’t playing in the NBA, I’d probably be in the minor leagues somewhere right now,” Podziemski says. “It was just one of those things where I was natural at it. I could pick it up whenever I wanted to. It kind of came easy to me.

“For me, it got too slow at one point, and I wanted to try something more uptempo and maybe something I wasn’t as good at.”

Podziemski migrated to basketball, which has a more suitable pace for someone with an abundance of kinetic energy. Adolescent hoops in greater Milwaukee would mean surviving a rugged proving ground. Southeastern Wisconsin has an underrated depth of talent, as indicated by such NBA starters as Kevon Looney, Tyler Herro, Jordan Poole and Tyrese Haliburton.

The demographic tapestry on display at local courts and gyms brought a level of comfort to Brandin. He’d grown up in Greenfield, eight miles west of downtown Milwaukee, which is 40 percent white and 39 percent Black, with most of the remaining 21 percent dominated by Hispanic, Asian and individuals of multiple races.

“My background has been around that, so I know how things operate in that sense,” Podziemski says. “Just being around that growing up and then having a chance to play basketball with those same people taught me a lot about having that confidence and swagger that you need to be successful."

With the unwavering support of his father – John is Brandin’s biggest fan – the kid played under the tutelage of such coaches Antonio Curro (AAU) and DJ Mlachnik (high school at St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy).

As Podziemski’s passion for basketball grew, he also studied NBA players, beginning with San Antonio Spurs star Manu Ginobili, another hyperactive lefthander of similar size. He also pulled what he liked from European players and even James Harden during his time with the Houston Rockets.

Eventually, Podziemski landed upon the Warriors during their dynastic run. There was Kevin Durant. Klay Thompson. Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and, of course, Curry. He was captivated by their motion offense, with its organized chaos of ball and player movement.

Podziemski went from three-star recruit as a junior at St. John’s, rising to four-star status as a senior to being named Wisconsin’s Mr. Basketball in 2021. Scholarship offers went from a trickle to a stream to a deluge, with powerhouses Kentucky and Kansas, before he chose Illinois.

His impact as a freshman was no different than an unused surfboard. Podziemski endured 17 DNPs and decided to transfer to Santa Clara University, where Hall of Fame guard Steve Nash spent four years in the 1990s and where Jalen Williams was making a case to a first-round pick in the 2022 NBA draft.

Podziemski was the Broncos’ best player in 2022-23 season, which they finished with a 23-10 record. He went from being on zero NBA draft boards to Golden State making him the No. 19 overall pick – to its starting lineup after 23 games.

Podziemski’s rise is a product of his attitude and perseverance. He is a classic example of what you get being more than what you see.

“I don’t fear anybody on the court,” he says. “I knew when I picked it up that I wanted it to be my dream. If you’re going to make it to the NBA, you’re going to have to face that challenge at some point.

“For me, it’s just going out there and hooping. When you hoop and you show people what you can do, that’s how you earn your stripes.”

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