By Dylan Tehada
New Orleans Pelicans forward, EJ Liddell, has been training at UPB with Coach Packie this offseason as he continues to prepare for the upcoming season. A year removed from his ACL injury, Liddell is focusing on getting back to full health and improving different parts of his game.
Liddell had quite the college career at Ohio State University, winning All Big Ten honors during his sophomore and junior year and leading his team during impressive March Madness runs. He initially declared for the 2021 NBA draft following his sophomore season, but decided to return to Ohio State for his third year to continue improving his game and making a name for himself amongst scouts.
In his junior season, Liddell proved to NBA scouts that he was more than deserving of a spot on an NBA roster after leading the Buckeyes in points, rebounds, and blocks during his final season. His elite ability to score in the post using his size and improvement in both perimeter shooting and defense made him an intriguing prospect going into the 2022 NBA Draft. Liddell’s NBA dream came to fruition during the 2022 NBA Draft when he was selected 41st overall by the New Orleans Pelicans.
Unfortunately, Liddell suffered an ACL tear during the 2022 Summer League and was forced to sit out his first full NBA regular season. Recovering from an ACL injury is no easy task, but Liddell has confronted the rehab process head on taking it day by day. Now that he is starting to get back to full health, Liddell is excited for the season to start and to make an impact for the Pelicans.
“I'm just taking [the rehab process] patient and keeping it cool. Trying to gain my peace while I'm doing this as well,” Liddell said. “The season is long and when it starts it’s a grind, so I'm looking forward to it and can't wait for it.”
A year removed from his ACL injury, Liddell was a full go for this year’s summer league and once again showed his dominance and improved game. During the 2023 Summer League, Liddell averaged 12.8 points on 55% shooting and 3 rebounds a game in just 21.3 minutes of action per game. Now that the majority of the rehab process is in the rearview mirror, Liddell states that his biggest takeaway is to focus on his health both physically and mentally as he prepares for the season.
“Going through my rehab, my biggest takeaway is probably just understanding the body. Understanding one thing can affect another thing, and just trying to get all those muscles correlated and just be able to go out there and play for your mind,” Liddell said.
Now at full health, Liddell is using this offseason to refine different aspects of his game such as his three point shooting. At UPB, Liddell has trained with Coach Packie and worked on refining his jumper and finding his spots. Liddell has been training with Coach Packie for three years now and has made major strides with his jumper. Liddell spoke on what he has done with Coach Packie specifically and what he is focused on improving.
“[Packie has helped] get my footing together and also just tracking my shots and whatnot, just letting me know my percentage every single day, which I enjoy. Packie pushes me to be better. This past offseason is a little different than previous because those were pre draft and I had to be ready to go in and like different teams right now,” Liddell said.
In addition to working on the fundamental skills of the game, Liddell seeks to make an impact as a teammate for the Pelicans this upcoming season. He prides himself on being a team player and knowing his role. He knows he may not be the go to scorer during his first season, but he strives to leave his mark on every game he plays in.
In terms of what Liddell foresees for his role and what impact he wants to make he said, “when my number is called when I get put in the game whenever that is, just be ready and impact winning. With the minutes I get, just go out there and play 100% and try to run my head through water and earn more minutes. And when that comes, just be ready when my trust grows from the team and the coach.”
At UPB, we revolve around a growth mindset and helping others realize their potential is unlimited. Liddell embodies what we preach and offers great insight as to how he himself realized his unlimited potential.
“Don't think too far ahead. Just capitalize on the day. Just make sure you're the best person you are today. And then when tomorrow comes, attack that so when people think too far in the future, they don’t really live in the moment and just appreciate what they have at the time,” Liddell said.