Suns' Dragan Bender: Turning the corner

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Phoenix Suns Forward Dragan Bender is not even old enough to vote. At times, he's felt like the most hated person in Arizona. 

The Suns fourth overall pick in the 2016 draft struggled in year one. Missing time with an ankle injury, Bender was an easy target for criticism shooting only 35 percent, 27 percent from three, 36 percent from the free throw line.

"Everyone whose top five to ten that has a chip on its back as a professional must be able to trust yourself, trust your instincts to play in this league," said Bender. 

A period of struggling and self-reflection where listening and learning was pivotal. 

"I was playing well when I had my chance. I went down with an injury. They gave me the inside on how I need to take care of myself part of being a professional," said Bender.

Never doubting himself, now twenty, Bender has improved in every category. Bender gave a glimpse of his first round draft potential, scoring a career high 20 points on a personal best six three-pointers in the win over Oklahoma City.

"I always knew I could play in the NBA. I'm a big guy who can shoot, can defend. My place is here, I just needed my chance." 

"He's got a lot more comfort now with where he is right now and what he's suppose to do. His basketball IQ is very high, so he can figure things out pretty quick," said Suns interim Coach Jay Triano.

Bender has adapted to Phoenix well. Like most, he loves the weather. For fun he hangs out with friends, breaks out the joysticks and plays Call of Duty. 

"I've played a long time, I'm pretty good. I play with friends overseas and connect and play with them each and every day," said Bender

Saving the universe lone-wolf style off the court, on it he's progressing and doing what’s best for Planet Orange.

"All I care about is wins. I don't really care about my stats or how I play, as long as we win I'll be happy." 

Bender is part of the young Suns nucleus that gives fans hope for the future.

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