Sometimes having certain benefits can be so vital in life like if your a Donald Trump son your set for life, if your the son of ex Boston Celtic legend Danny Ainge named Austin getting a job with the green machine without ever having to write an application is as normal as Larry Bird dropping a trey from downtown in the 80´s or living in Trier Germany which is close to Luxemburg gliding over the boarder to get cheaper gas is a must for folk in that area, but what about if you have that special, catchy and simply fancy name? Well for New York native Armani Cotton having that exciting name has opened a few doors in his life. Strap on an elegant suit from Neiman Marcus or if you want to save a penny at Century 21 in New York City and visit a dignified party in a posh pent house on Park avenue and roll through the door at the well built stature of 6´7 is half the rent, but present yourself as Armani Cotton and all of a sudden party goers put down their champagne glasses and give a lasting gaze at the tall man and suddenly you become very fashionable. Of course when you next mention that you’re a Yale graduate and suddenly you have a few model like women at almost eye sight giving you that interested look. The American who not only got a great education at a top Ivy League school also got the total basketball experience helping win the 2015 Ivy League Regular Season crown as a senior and goes through life having an exotic name and it doesn´t bother him one bit. “People are always surprised, but in a good way though. It’s one of those names that you have to live up to so I’m glad I play a dope sport and am from NYC. It allows me to fit into the name better. A nice personality can go a long way too. Armani Cotton suits me”, smiled the American. However this memorable name that has given Cotton so much joy as well as certain fringe benefits almost would have had a slight road block as his real name at birth was Hunter, but thanks to his mom, Armani was born. “. My father’s name is Hunter and my mom gave me the middle name Armani so I wouldn’t become Hunter Cotton IV. I’ve been called Armani since I was born. I honestly didn’t register that ‘Hunter’ was my legal first name until I got a passport at around 10 years old. That being said, switching it up from time to time is a nice option to have. I might start doing that”, joked Armani Cotton. However filling up a room with his name isn´t the only thing he is able to do, but he can do the same with his basketball skills that he crafted at Yale and has further polished in Belgium and has done in Germany this season in his second professional season with the Uni Baskets Paderborn.
Cotton got his early basketball training at Northfield Mount Hermon school in western Massachusetts that has brought along some notable alumni like Burger King founder James W Mclamore, 1965 Olympic gold medalist and top marathoner in his day Frank Shorter, actress Elisabeth Perkins and a few basketball players like Clive Weeden, Josh Sharma of Stanford and Spike Albrecht of Michigan/Purdue. Of course one has to place a name like Cotton with these guys as well as he has built a good basketball foundation as he moved on to Yale. He played at Yale from 2011-2015 playing a total of 104 games. He didn´t play much as a freshman playing only 12 games and averaging 1,2ppg. His rookie season in the competitive Ivy league would have been a lot tougher had he not had a teammate like Reggie Willhite who later as a professional played for Cotton´s new team in Paderborn. “Reggie was a freak athlete. He definitely made me a physically tougher player because I had to get through him to get minutes on the court. He had grit and played through injuries all the time. I have a lot of respect for him and his defensive intensity too. I picked up a lot of his qualities going into my sophomore year when I became the starter”, stressed Armani Cotton. The American started to get better minutes as a sophomore averaging 6.2ppg, 5.3rpg, FGP: 51.1%, 3PT: 27.6%, FT: 82.8%. He had a beast like game against Holy Cross netting 20 points and grabbing 12 boards. He made another step in his junior year at Yale averaging 8.7ppg, 5.4rpg, 1.1ap. However in his time at Yale he did have some tough loses to Harvard even if he did get that one vital win against them in 2015 as a senior as well as nice other memories. “Harvard was definitely a tough loss. It’s something I don’t think about too often because the journey from absolute obscurity in the college basketball world to making Yale University known as a force with signature wins against UConn etc. was the most rewarding part of my career. Even though I missed out on the NCAA tournament, clinching an Ivy League Championship ring at Harvard from our regular season helps me sleep at night. Sweeping Penn and Princeton at home my Junior year too. I had a double double in both games and we had a lot of Alumni show up so it was cool to have them see how far our program has gone. That used to be an impossible feat for Yale back in the day”, stressed Armani Cotton. Cotton who names ex Florida standout and current Washington Wizard Bradley Beal as his toughest foe on the court closed out his senior year at Yale in fine fashion really heightening his shooting percentages averaging 6.5ppg, 5.7rpg, 1.2apg, FGP: 46.3%, 3PT: 36.5%.In the 62-52 win against Harvard to win the Ivy League regular season he netted 14 points. He was never that proficient scorer at Yale, but moreover that perfect role player that had that defensive versatility that coaches could die for. It is usually the head coach that a player is often most grateful and buys him a dinner,but in the case of Cotton, it was teammate Justin Sears who he balled for three seasons with and is slowly climbing the professional ladder in Germany as after having a strong rookie season with non playoff team Giessen made the jump to playoff team Ludwigsburg. Sears and Cotton had a special friendship that extended far from the court. “Justin was actually at my house when I officially signed with Uni Paderborn so we’ve definitely benefited from our friendship enough to keep hanging out post our college careers. For me, I’ve always been very intense about the game. Downright obsessive to be honest. I love the game so for me every moment concerning basketball was almost a matter of life and death. He’s passionate about the game too but had a much more lighthearted approach that I’ve really grown to appreciate. It’s an admirable quality that’s rubbed off on me this off-season and I think it makes for a great balance for him to have a guy who’s thinking and talking about basketball 24/7 too.”, added Armani Cotton.
After finishing at Yale(NCAA), he didn´t go the usual route that many college players go going the professional way. He could of, but when you went to Yale, have a name like Armani Cotton and live in the Big Apple why not try other things as the doors of opportunity are unending. He did have a chance to workout with ex Florida State forward and 2017 NBA Draft Pick of the Orlando Magic Jonathan Isaac when he was doing pre-draft training at IMG, but he also made new life experiences off the court in the political and business world getting the amazing opportunity to be a constituent liaison for Hilary Clinton, but that didn´t last for more than a year as the basketball itch was getting more intense and as annoying as those black flies at Lake Placid in upstate New York. “Growing up in NYC and graduating from Yale definitely afforded me many unique opportunities outside of basketball but from the day I watched Space Jam in 1996, I knew I was going to be a professional basketball player”, warned Armani Cotton. Another nice memory was during his Yale days as he got to experience Mr NBA triple double as he worked with Russell Westbrook off the court when he was a sophomore at Yale during the summer as he launched his clothing brand with Barney. However after a year away since he last played at Yale, there was that risk that it might be more difficult to find a professional team. However the American did find a team with Stella Artois Leuven Bears (Belgium-Euromillions League) in Belgium, but it was a rookie season to forget as he played 35 games averaging 4.3ppg, 2.9rpg. “I wasn’t content with my individual season. I’d also never be content with a season unless we won the championship. My minutes were sporadic and my performances in practice and game weren’t rewarded into the next game so it made for a very challenging. Coach Stef was only with us for a couple of months before being released so it’s hard to say that there was a consistent identity/role throughout the length of the season”, stressed Armani Cotton. He did go through his share of professional growing pains in Belgium and had that first wake up call of being a rookie in Europe where he knew that New York City seemed farther away than Mars. “The moment for me was right after starting the season 3-1. We were coming off a big win against the defending champions Oostende where I had a big game of 13pts 5 ribs and 3 steals in 20 minutes. Everyone had big expectations for us after those wins and we ended up losing our next 5 games in a row. I was shopping at our local supermarket and some lady and her husband started criticizing our team and our performances as a group and individuals. At that time it was funny, but when I got home I realized that I wasn’t in NYC anymore because nobody would say that to me back in my neighborhood. I was really like man, this a pro player’s life”, remembered Armani Cotton. He was fortunate to have one teammate in American Treg Setty who like Cotton was a rookie and in the same boat as his minutes were limited as well. “Treg Setty is a great guy and we had countless talks and battles pushing each other physically and mentally on court and off. I know we’ll both have successful basketball careers just off the strength of how resilient we were to the negativity that often consumes a pro’s rookie campaign”, added Armani Cotton. However his rookie season in Belgium wasn´t all heartache as he remembers the positives that he carried over to Germany looking to have that break out season in Germany. “Mental strength and confidence. By the end of the season, regardless of how the coaches used me during game, I knew the player that I was and would ultimately be. This showed when I was given the time to produce on the court. At this point in my career my confidence is unwavering and that coupled with a high basketball IQ makes me very confident for this upcoming season”, warned Armani Cotton.
Cotton embarked on a new journey in Germany with the Uni Baskets Paderborn that hoop in the German second division called the Pro A and last year just missed reaching the playoffs. He went into his second professional season with a positive mindset of what has to be done and also remembered that he did have some help being able to play the sport he loves for another season. “I’m excited for this new opportunity with the Uni Baskets Paderborn in Germany. I was fortunate enough to have several clubs in the mix this offseason but the strong talent and opportunity in Germany, particularly with this club, was a fitting and necessary step in my pro career. Thanks to my agent, Kirk Crecco, my offseason wasn’t stressful. My job is to improve as a basketball player, mentally and physically. His job is to understand our immediate and long term goals and he does a great job of executing that. To sum up my understanding of the business, the game of basketball is pure but the business often complicates that. It’s my responsibility as a player to outperform everyone on the court so politics and business don’t interfere”, warned Armani Cotton. It is always beneficial in order for a player to be successful to be able to see eye to eye with the head coach. In Paderborn Uli Naechster has been in charge for some years and has always had a good touch with American Players like with top American Chase Adams who led the club the last two years. “Coach Uli and I have a great relationship, his philosophy is similar to mine, and he’s really got a system that fits my style of play. I like all that he’s done with the program so far”, stressed Chase Adams back in March 2016. The first impression that Cotton had received from Naechster was exceptional. “Uli is a straight forward guy. He is passionate and clear about what he is looking for from me and the goals he has for this club. This season, I was looking for a place to showcase my game in ways that I wasn’t asked to in Belgium so it was a mutual understanding on how beneficial this signing would be for both myself and Paderborn”, added Armani Cotton. The American also got some added help from ex Yale teammate Reggie Willhite in making the decision to come to Germany. “I didn’t know much about Germany so speaking with Reggie helped a lot. Coach Uli actually encouraged me to reach out to him. He said only great things about the club and his experience with the club that all fell in line with my goals for this season and beyond”, warned Armani Cotton.
The American likes to compare himself to an ex UCLA player that like him didn´t have that affinity to score in double figures at first until his sixth NBA season when he really started to blossom with the Houston Rockets. “The guy that resembles my game most is Trevor Ariza when he was on the ’08 championship Lakers. He was long, athletic, guarded multiple positions (bigger guys when they went small ball with Lamar Odom) knocked down open threes created for himself on mismatches. Just impactful and confident on every possession.”, stressed Armani Cotton. In that 2008 NBA title season Ariza had those kind of stats that Cotton had at Yale with 5.5ppg, 3.1rpg, 1.3apg.Paderborn head coach Uli Naechster was high on Cotton´s versatility being able to guard many positions, but Cotton sees another big strength somewhere else. “I think my rebounding is a product of my most elite skill-set, length and quick hands. I’m 6’7 with a 7’ wingspan that allows me to finish over others, get easy deflections and disrupt otherwise easy passes. It’s something I hang my hat on because it’s a constant throughout the entire game”, expressed Armani Cotton. However one aspect of his game that he really not only wants to keep improving in the German Pro A this season, but also let it get noticed better is his shooting which remains a hidden strength to this day. “I have a quick release off the catch, I understand proper spacing and create that extra space necessary to get my shot off 1 and 2 dribble pull-ups. It’s something I really look forward to showcasing this upcoming season”, warned Armani Cotton.
It may not be totally the same in every sport, but with professional basketball players there is this very high confidence level that players have, healthy with some while more junk food like with others. But if you ask 10 players if they could become an impact player in a league, the probability that at least nine will say yes is as great as Lebron James posting his daily summer work out pics at Instagram. Cotton never averaged more than 8,7ppg at Yale and only 4,3ppg as a rookie in Belgium with Leuvin but is content like any other player would be about his abilities and being that special impact player. “Absolutely. That’s why I’ve joined this club. My defensive versatility has always been a desirable quality for clubs/teams but Uli is putting me in a position to be all those things while also an aggressive force on offense. What I showcased last year is that when I’m given 20+ minutes on the court I average a production of 10pg 5rbs even with the limited role I was asked to play offensively. I will be an impact scorer in Pro A”, warned Armani Cotton. However the American experienced another phase of professional growing pains as the Uni Baskets struggled not making the playoffs and he didn´t become the impact player in the Pro A that he thought he would as he averaged under 5.0ppg in 15 minutes per game. Last summer the American was positive about his development in offseason training. “I’ve been doing a lot of core and strength training to prepare for the long haul of the season. Continuing to develop my shot so it’s automatic from the corners to spread the floor. Off the court I’ve been doing a lot of mental strength training with yoga and watching a lot of game film. More game film than I have watched during any part of my career. Really just becoming a student of the game, not just a fan. I’ve probably watched about 5 full games from Paderborn’s season last year already”, warned Armani Cotton. With his poor second season, Cotton will be back in the lab this summer looking to make changes in his game and keep grinding as in his third professional season, he will want to make it three´s a charm and finally make his breakthrough in European basketball. Cotton wasn´t that impact player in the Pro A but off the court getting was able to experience a new culture and live up to his name Armani. If he ever got an invitation to a posh party in Duesseldorf on the Konigsalle is more than unlikely, but if he did this past season, he was only 148km away from Paderborn and possibly had the opportunity to explain to party guests like top German models Claudia Schiffer and Heidi Klum why he has such a famous name like Armani.