This is where Landry Shamet feels the most comfortable.
It's not a place, but rather a state: the struggle for Shamet to gain the respect he believes he's earned on the basketball court.
Once again, Shamet is being forced to prove skeptics wrong. He embraces the challenge. After all, he went from an under-the-radar recruit at an overlooked high school in Kansas City to signing with Wichita State, then recovered from injuries to both of his feet in college to develop into an NBA prospect.
Now, after declaring for the NBA draft after his redshirt sophomore season at WSU despite an uncertain future, Shamet is facing doubts again.
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"I just worry about him going up against elite athletes in our league," one NBA scout told The Athletic about Shamet. "I never saw the ability to blow by people. Pretty vanilla."
Still, Shamet is expected to be one of the 60 players selected in the NBA draft on Thursday (6 p.m. on ESPN). He will be in attendance in Brooklyn, accompanied by his mother, Melanie, who raised him as a single parent, and an inner circle of friends.
While he may be doubted, just know it's nothing new. Shamet believes every path his life has taken him down has prepared him for this moment.
"Nothing has ever been easy for me. I've never had a silver spoon handed to me and been told this is how your life is going to go," Shamet said. "I've been through hundreds of adverse situations and I've always prevailed. I don't see the NBA as any different than anything else I've overcome.
"It's just the next thing."
Learning from Mom
The bond between Melanie and Landry Shamet is not your typical mother-son relationship.
They act more like best friends.
"We can be honest with each other and we're both cool, calm, and collected," Melanie said. "When I was raising him when he was younger, I wanted to make sure he knew he could always talk to me. I never wanted him to feel like he couldn't come to me with his issues or problems."
Melanie worked long hours at all times of the day at Harrah's North Kansas City Hotel and Casino to provide for her only child. Sometimes, in middle school, Landry was responsible for staying on top of his homework, making himself dinner, and getting to bed on time.
That might seem like a lot for the average 12-year-old, but not for Melanie's son.
"She never complained and never showed any weaknesses. She's his hero," said Darin Mason, Landry's AAU basketball coach. "Melanie was always so resilient, so persistent and that's where Landry gets it from."
"I think he learned from me doing," Melanie said. "Seeing me go to work, then coming home and running him to practice. I never called in sick, never played hooky. I just got after it each and every day."
It's no secret Landry inherited the competitiveness of his mother, who played volleyball for Boise State.
But she's also passed down the strength, courage, compassion, and self-belief Landry has used in his journey to fulfilling his childhood dream.
"Being a single mom and not having the dad in the picture from Day One, knowing how hard she's worked for me and everything she's done for me, that in itself is motivation alone," Landry said. "She's definitely always in the back of my mind and I've learned so much from her. I'm proud to call her my mom."
The underdog nature may have been engrained in Landry Shamet at an early age, but his time playing for the KC Pumas solidified it.
In the hierarchy of Kansas City grass-roots basketball teams, the Pumas hardly registered on the AAU circuit. They didn't have a shoe deal like Mokan or Run GMC. They didn't play in the Nike EYBL, Adidas Gauntlet or Under Armour Association.
In fact, the Pumas wore mesh, reversible jerseys with the letters peeling off and had to coordinate fundraisers every summer to help pay for travel.
"We would roll into gyms looking like bums," Shamet joked, "but then we would beat the EYBL or UA or Adidas teams."
When Shamet grew to 6-3 heading into his junior year of high school, the offers to join those top teams came. But Shamet said he has never much been interested in the "glitz and glamour."
Instead, Shamet stuck with the Pumas and led them to an improbable string of championships during his final summer with the team. He called it "some of the best memories I'll ever have."
"Landry has such a winner's mentality," said Darin Mason, his club coach. "He didn't want to join the top team, all he wanted to do was beat them and he did. I guarantee you that was in the back of his mind the whole time."
It's the same mentality Gregg Marshall used to turn Wichita State into a national power and ultimately what sold Shamet on the Shockers.
Through separate stress fractures in his left and right feet, Shamet developed into Marshall's fourth NBA prospect since 2015. After a 20-point performance against Kentucky in the 2017 NCAA Tournament put him on the NBA radar, Shamet followed it up by averaging 14.9 points and 5.2 assists with 44 percent 3-point shooting as a sophomore.
"Coach gave me a platform and gave me the ball and I'm very grateful for that," Shamet said. "The biggest thing was he never let me get complacent. I know in the future I'm not always going to have the answer and I'll have to be corrected and I'll have to be coached. But Coach Marshall prepared me for that."
Working toward the dream
A night like Thursday was a far-away dream for Shamet when he was at Park Hill (Mo.) High.
On late nights, after a workout, Shamet and his best friend, Jamaal Brazil, used to take the elevator to the top of a 30-story building that overlooked the Kansas City skyline.
"We would just sit back and vibe. We used to listen to music and talk about our future and problems," Brazil said. "I could always talk to Landry. He helped me stay sane and I think those talks helped him too. All of those late-night talks and sleepless nights and early mornings, I think all of that is going to pay off for him this Thursday."
Up on top of that building, Shamet felt like anything was possible. It didn't matter that he didn't come from money or play on a flashy AAU team. He felt destined for greatness.
Those late-night talks were inspiration for Shamet when adversity hit.
During his freshman season, following a 14-point loss at Illinois State where he shot 3 of 9, Shamet phoned Mason, his former coach, after midnight and asked if he would stay up to critique his shot. As soon as WSU's plane landed, Shamet headed to Koch Arena to video himself shooting so he could send it to Mason for feedback.
As a sophomore, Shamet did something similar, staying after a game he missed all six 3-pointers to practice his shot on the Koch Arena floor less than an hour following the game.
"It just goes to show you how much of a perfectionist he is," Mason said.
Some questioned Shamet's decision to leave WSU early without being widely regarded as a first-round draft pick.
He still doesn't have that assurance heading into Thursday, but that doesn't matter to Shamet.
When has it ever?
"Regardless of where I go, whether it's a sexy pick or not, I know what I'm capable of doing and I know how hard I've worked and will work to get there," Shamet said. "I'm going to have to prove myself again wherever I go, which is something I'm comfortable doing because I've been doing it my whole life."