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February 15, 2019

Kyle Kuzma

Charlotte, North Carolina - Rising Stars

Q. You seemed to get going in the first quarter, demonstrating your abilities. What was your emotion or mindset heading into this game?
KYLE KUZMA: Just to play hard, give back to the game. I played in this game last year, and I was really lackadaisical, and I didn't want to do that again. That was one of the main reasons.

Q. Kyle, I know it's an exhibition and there's no defense and the points don't matter to some extent, but does it matter to you, kind of being a part of this, in the sense of with your peers, you're seen as one of the better players in that group?
KYLE KUZMA: 100 percent. You know, there's a lot of great players out there, all stars, and we're all young rising stars in this league. Obviously, it's an exhibition, like you said, but it's always better to have bragging rights any time you can.

Q. Kyle, you got a chance to play with Jaren Jackson Jr. And Marvin Bagley III, talented rookie big men. What do you think of those two players just long term?
KYLE KUZMA: They've got bright futures, bright futures. Marvin is an excellent athlete, a budding skill set. It seems like he's getting better throughout the season. That's always a good thing to see.

And you know, Jaren, he's been great all year. He can really shoot it. He'll probably be on one of the rookie teams. Credit to both of those teams finding those guys. They'll be in the league for a long time.

Q. Kyle, what does it mean for you to win MVP tonight? Was that one of your expectations coming into this game?
KYLE KUZMA: Yeah. Like I said earlier, last year I didn't really play that hard. This year I just came out, one, I wanted to get some conditioning, and, two, why not MVP? You're in the game. So might as well just try.

Q. Kyle, I was just curious how -- I mean, you said out on the court that part of the motivation was to get the extra monetary incentive for winning.

Q. I was going to say how much of that was actually in your guys' mind throughout that?
KYLE KUZMA: I think it was the second timeout, and I broke the huddle by saying "bonus, one, two, three." So there you go.

Q. How do you go from winning the MVP of the Rising Stars Challenge to the next level?
KYLE KUZMA: Trying to make the All-Star Game next year. That's the next level. Just working hard, dedicating what I do on a daily basis to my craft, and take care of my body. I got confidence that I can one day be an all star in this league. That's definitely a goal for me. You know, ever since I was a kid.

Q. Winning the MVP is like a confirmation you're on the right path?
KYLE KUZMA: I wouldn't say winning the MVP, but playing in this game back-to-back years and getting the notice and recognition from my peers and media and fans. So I think that's an indicator of being on the right path.

Q. Kyle, congrats for the MVP. I would like to ask you, you had a great season so far in the regular season. You won the MVP in the Rising Stars. How do you explain that you have a better season this year in the second year, professional year, even though LeBron is on the team, which is a big player playing in the same position as you?
KYLE KUZMA: Adjusting to my game, just trying to fit into the system, and just being a great team player and working hard all summer. I spent all summer working out, waking up at 5:00 a.m., lifting, shooting, going back in the gym.

So, obviously, last year came onto the scene, and a lot of people didn't know who I was and didn't really have expectations, but when you have a successful season like I did my rookie year, you're going to have a target on your back, and I knew that. I want to be great. So got in the gym right after the season.

Q. Obviously, I watched you for a lot of years, saw you grow up. How much mental toughness have you developed? It seems like you're so much more poised just with everything, your interviews, the way you go about things. How much has your mental toughness developed this year, and how do you feel you got to that level just to get so much more mental toughness?
KYLE KUZMA: Mental toughness, just all the adversity I've been through. I think adversity builds character, and it builds mental toughness as well. I've been through a lot in my life. Growing up in Flint is tough enough, and trying to make it out is a different demon. Everything, every step in the journey has always been something that's made me tougher. You credit all that to adversity.

Q. So, you know, growing up, you talked about the adversity and that stuff, so I want to know what advice would you give kids that are coming from single-parent homes who have similar situations as yourself -- mom working hard every night, kind of showing you the ropes of really putting in that work? What would you say to the young kids out here to give them a little advice?
KYLE KUZMA: Be the man of the house. Obviously, growing up in a single-parent home, you're going to be -- you're forced to grow up quick. Being in tough environments is definitely going to raise that up. Just work, work, work.

To have a single parent, they're going to obviously work really hard just to make ends meet, put stuff on the table, and that's a direct reflection, and that's something that young kids can look at from their parents that are single parents. It shows them that you can work hard regardless of any type of circumstance you have.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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