Tyrese Maxey has had quite the journey in his first season in the NBA. With no summer league and minimal training camp, the first-round pick was forced to learn the NBA life on the fly.
The rookie's playing time constantly fluctuated in the regular season, but he always made the most of an opportunity when it came up. Most notably early in the season, when he erupted for 39 points against the Denver Nuggets with the Sixers having to play with a depleted roster.
Inconsistent playing time never discouraged Maxey. Instead of sitting around wondering when the time would come, he focused on always staying prepared. It did not take long for the rookie to develop the reputation of being a gym rat.
Maxey is always in the gym working to improve his game. Any time the Sixers have an off day, he has taken it as an opportunity to get extra work in. "Getting 1% better every day" is a goal Maxey has echoed since the start of the regular season.
When the Sixers selected Maxey with the 21st pick, it was arguably one of the biggest steals of the draft. The Kentucky guard was a project lottery pick for weeks leading up to the draft. Many were astonished when he fell all the way to the Sixers.
Based on his work ethic alone, Maxey should have been taken much higher. Even with not playing consistently throughout the year, he managed to improve multiple parts of his game. All the extra work put in behind the scenes has paid huge dividends for the rookie.
Fast forward to the playoffs, and Maxey has become a bit of a secret weapon for the Sixers. His energy and spark off the bench provided a lift as they looked to close out the Washington Wizards.
Maxey's proper mindset is what allowed him to be a valuable piece for the Sixers in the postseason. A mindset that his parents instilled in him as a child.
"My Dad once told me when I was younger. Proper preparation prevents poor performance and it kind of just stuck with me for the rest of my life. If you prepare properly and get in the gym every single day working on the same shot you get in the game. When it comes to the game, it'll be easy," said Maxey.
Maxey kept all his focus on being ready for the moment, and it paid off wonderfully. When the Sixers needed players to step up in Joel Embiid's absence in game five, he was more than prepared to answer the call.
This preparation not only allowed Maxey to hold his own but to excel. His confidence and swagger on the court was astonishing for a player in his first season. That internal belief in himself stemmed from the countless hours he spent working, waiting for a time like this to arise.
As the Sixers advance another round into the postseason, it is unclear how much of Maxey we will see. One thing is for sure; He will be ready when called upon.
Kevin McCormick covers the Philadelphia 76ers for South Jersey's 97.3 ESPN and Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @KevinMcCNBA.