2015 was a great year for Justise Winslow. He played a big role for Duke in their run to the national championship before getting drafted 10th by the Miami Heat, where Dwyane Wade took him under his wing and mentored the rookie. His luck didn’t stop there, either. The Heat advanced to the second round of the playoffs the following season, taking the Raptors to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Then things changed. Wade left for Chicago and the Heat, without their star, stumbled. To make matters worse, Winslow injured his left shoulder and had surgery in January of 2017, causing him to miss the remainder of the season.
With D-Wade back home in Miami and the Heat back in the playoff hunt, fortunes have changed for both the Heat and Winslow, who fortuitously has found his way out of a sophomore shooting slump, bumping up his 3-point shooting percentage from 20 percent in his second season to 45 percent this year.
We caught up with Winslow to talk about having his mentor back, his partnership with MET-Rx, and if he thinks his Blue Devils can make a deep run this March.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
You’ve been playing some of the best basketball of your career recently, especially when it comes to your shooting percentage. What are you doing differently?
Nothing really specific. Over the course of the past year just sticking with it, putting the hours in and that’s really it. I’m continuing to build that muscle memory, trying to shoot every shot perfectly. It’s just the culmination of shooting perfect reps, coming in early, staying late after practice, coming in with my brothers at night. Ultimately, just building that muscle memory and then going out there and playing with confidence and letting the game come to me.
I know you’re also bouncing back from shoulder surgery, how did MET-Rx play a role in your recovery?
For me, I just wanted to take my game to the next level. Coming off the injury I thought the partnership with Met-Rx would be great for me. Their supplements were just a perfect fit for me in trying to take my game to the next level. I just used it to help strengthen my body and become the best athlete I could. Ultimately, I see the results and I love the product so it’s been great in my recovery process.
Dwyane Wade recently came home to Miami. I know he was a mentor to you in your rookie season. What does it mean to have him back?
It’s been great. It’s not often that you get to play with a Hall of Famer and a guy like him. Growing up during the Big 3 era and even earlier the '06 championship with Shaq, he was the guy I looked up to. Getting drafted to Miami in the first place became surreal, working with him every day after practice. Then with his return you can just feel the positive energy he brings to our locker room and to the city. It’s been a great energy burst for our team and for the city of Miami. It’s been great for me to have that mentor back again.
The Heat is trending towards the playoffs right now. D-Wade said he wants to see Cleveland in the playoffs, is there any team you want a shot at?
I’m not really sure. Right now we’re just trying to stay in the playoffs and continue to make this push. I was fortunate enough in my rookie year to play in two Game 7 series, so any team: Toronto, Boston, Cleveland, Indiana, any of those teams would be a lot of fun to play against. Knowing Kyrie personally, if we were to face them and come out with the win that’d be a lifetime’s worth or I guess a summer’s worth of bragging rights.
What’s the biggest difference between your approach to the playoffs then and now?
You know what to expect. I know what I’m getting myself into, a Game 1 in an opponent’s arena. It’s like riding a bike or taking a test over and over. I know what to expect out of my teammates, how I can get them ready, how I can keep them calm.
There have been a lot of comparisons made between your 2015 national champions Duke team and the current squad. Do you think the two teams are similar?
Yeah, I’m definitely gonna ride with this team to go all the way. There’s definitely some similarities. We had a great post player in Jahlil, they have two great post players in [Marvin] Bagley and [Wendell] Carter and also [Marques] Bolden, he’s a great post player. I think our team did a slightly better job at playing defense and I think that’s kinda where the difference is. If this team can click defensively and strangle teams on that end of the floor I think they’ll be in good shape.
Do you still keep in touch with the guys from the team?
Yeah I keep in touch with all of them. When you win a championship, that bond is forever. Snapchat, FaceTime, texting, whatever it is, I keep in touch with all of those guys.
You’re picking Duke to win it all but who else do you have in your Final Four?
I think it’s about that time for a team like Kansas. Every four or five years they make that push but I think they’re actually on Duke’s side so that’s not good. I like the Villanova team, they have experience and that goes a long way in the tournament. Virginia is tough but sometimes they seem to struggle to score in the tournament.
Do you still get the chance to watch a lot of college basketball with your schedule?
Honestly, playing in the league it’s such a different game that sometimes it can be hard to watch. I kind of have to either be trying to watch one of top players—watching Oklahoma or any of the guys that are getting ready to make the jump—or watching a friend to really be tuned into college basketball. Other than that it’s mostly NBA but obviously I try to watch every Duke game, watching Grayson, but that’s really it.
I know you hoop a lot in the Dame 4s, what do you like about that shoe?
It’s super comfortable, they’re light. I like the colorways, I’m trying to get a pair of the Bape colorways, I’ve gotta talk to my guy at Adidas and get a pair of those. I saw Dame warming up in those the other day. I just think they’re super comfortable and that’s one of the most important things to me.
What else is in your sneaker rotation right now?
I love white shoes. I pretty much always wear a pair of white shoes so right now I have on Stan Smiths with the green back. I love the YSL all-white shoe, I love the Common Project’s all-white shoe. I wear all the Yeezys. Other than that, you can probably catch me in some UGG slippers.