Maalik Wayns Interview: Wayns Discusses Yeezy's, His Friendship With Meek Mill, Philly Roots, Learning From Chris Paul, Family Over Everything & Making It Back To The NBA
F.O.E. = Family Over Everything. For former NBA point guard, Maalik Wayns, it's more than just a saying. It's a way of life; so much so that he has it tattooed on his left bicep as proof. From our interview, it's evident that Wayns is a "Philly guy" to the core. Having grown up in the same neighborhood as NBA stars Markieff and Marcus Morris, Wayns went on to star at Villanova University before achieving his childhood dream of playing for his hometown 76ers. After a two year stint with the Los Angeles Clippers, he took his talents overseas where he's become one of the best guards in Russia. Still only 26, Wayns is confident that he's got the juice to make it back to the NBA. "It's my dream", he said. "I just have to have faith in the process."
Jeffrey Kee: I see you have the Yeezy Boost 350’s on. Are you a big sneaker head?
Maalik Wayns: I’m actually not that big of a sneaker head, but the Yeezy’s are definitely one of my favorite shoes to wear. I have a couple pairs of them. They’re my go to kicks right now.
Kee: Is Kanye West one of your favorite artists?
Wayns: Not particularly. I definitely like his music, but my favorite artist is Meek Mill.
Kee: You and Meek are both Philly guys. Do you know him personally?
Wayns: Oh yeah, that’s my guy. Meek is one of my really close friends.
Kee: What’s your go to sneaker to wear on the court?
Kee: I know you’re from Philly, but talk about your upbringing and how you first started hooping.
Wayns: I was first introduced to the game by my father. He was very involved in the community and at the local recreational center. In my neighborhood, everyone plays basketball. People are always at the playground shooting hoops. I was about four or five years old when I first started playing and that’s all I’ve wanted to do ever since.
Kee: At what age did you realize you were really good and could have a shot at the NBA?
Wayns: Probably around my sophomore or junior year of high school. Honestly, when I played, I didn’t really think too much about the NBA. I always just played because I love the game and love to compete. When I got to the 10th grade, I started to catch the attention of college coaches and that’s when I realized I could go somewhere with basketball and make a career out of it.
Kee: What went into your decision to play your college ball at Villanova?
Wayns: The main thing is that I wanted to stay close to home. I’m a Philly guy and I love my city. Having the opportunity to play in front of my friends and family was big for me. Villanova was one of the first schools to recruit me before I started blowing up. I’m really big on loyalty, so when they offered me a scholarship, I couldn’t turn it down.
Kee: What are some of your best memories from college?
Wayns: I have so many. In my three years there I had a lot of big games and earned a lot of big wins. Some of my best memories are just from hanging out with my teammates off the court. I built a lot of great friendships on that team – Isaiah Armwood, James Bell and Reggie Redding. I was close with pretty much all my teammates, but I still hang out with those three guys to this day.
Kee: So you being a big Philly guy, it must have been a dream come true for you to start your NBA career with the Sixers.
Wayns: Oh yeah, having an opportunity to start my NBA career in my home town was a dream come true. I was with the Sixers for a little bit until I got released, then I signed on to play for the Los Angeles Clippers and ended up playing in L.A. for almost two years. That was another great experience. Having the opportunity to learn from Chris Paul, and be around guys like Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan was fantastic for my career.
Kee: What was it like going up against Chris Paul every day in practice?
Wayns: Going up against Chris really helped me improve as a player, but most of what I learned from him was off the court. Seeing how he conducted himself as a man and as a leader; that’s what I tried to emulate the most.
Wayns: Vinny was my coach the first year, and then Doc was my coach in my second year. Both are really great guys and gave me the chance of a lifetime, so I’ll always be thankful for that. Doc is a more laid back; more of a players type of coach. He never really raises his voice. Very calm. Vinny is a lot more fiery, but he’s actually the guy who brought me on to play for the Clippers, so I think that if he would have stayed as head coach things would have worked out a little differently for me.
Kee: Where has your career taken you since leaving the Clippers?
Wayns: I played in Russia last season and then finished off the year in Israel. The season before that I played in Italy, which was beautiful. I was about 30 minutes away from Milan. There’s a lot of shopping there. The food is great. I’ve had two really good seasons in Europe and next year, I’ll probably either go back or hopefully to an NBA training camp.
Kee: What are the fans like over in the Euro League?
Wayns: The fans are crazy. Every game is sold out. The arenas seat around 8,000-10,000 fans, and they’re always full. The fans over there are very loud, so it has more of a college atmosphere as opposed to the NBA.
Kee: You’re here at The Basketball Tournament (TBT) playing for Team FOE who are coached by Markieff and Marcus Morris. I know all you guys are from Philly, but talk about your relationship with them.
Wayns: We all grew up together; the entire FOE team. We’re all best friends and will continue to be for the rest of our lives. We’re all from the same neighborhood and the phrase “FOE” (Family Over Everything) is something we’ve said for years. We’re more than friends and teammates. I consider these guys to be my family.
Kee: What are some things about you off the court that people don’t know?
Wayns: I’m just a really chill guy; very laid back. I’m very big on family. After playing for the Clippers and living in Los Angeles, I’ve turned into a beach guy and love hanging out there. Also, I’m really big into music. I love making beats. I spend a lot of time in the studio trying to learn as much as I can. Like I said, Meek Mill is a good friend of mine. Young Chris from Young Gunz is another close friend. When basketball ends, that’s something I plan on getting into a lot more.
Kee: What are your goals moving forward in your basketball career?
Wayns: The number one goal is always to get back to the NBA. That’s my dream. I want to be able to play in front of my family and friends again. If it happens for me that would be great, but everyone’s journey is different. I just have to have faith in the process.