DeMarre Carroll shouldn't be in the NBA right now, much less starting for the Atlanta Hawks.

But this isn't a story about a player who's not talented or is a troublemaker. See, this starting small forward traveled the kind of road to NBA success few have experienced. The personal challenges he's had to face still linger in his mind, from the pain of his oldest brother's passing to being shot to his diagnosis of a rare form of liver disease that might require a transplant years from now. And then there was the numbers game in the NBA that saw him waived several times while playing for five different teams in five seasons.

These are the moments that resonate in Carroll's energetic demeanor and aggressive defense on the court. With his long, free-flowing dreadlocks, Carroll, 28, is a portrait of perseverance that saw him craft a breakthrough with the Utah Jazz in 2012 before settling into the Hawks' starting lineup last season.

Speaking with Bleacher Report's Jared Zwerling, Carroll discussed his past obstacles, his evolution in the NBA and what's next for him in his career. With his consent, his story is presented here from his perspective, edited for clarity and length.



I still hear people doubting me. "He had a breakout season." "I think they're going to upgrade at his position." I read all that, so I just take it with a grain of salt and keep grinding. A lot of people try to come up to me and say, "You're only making $2.5 million. You're underpaid. You're probably the only starting small forward in the league making that money."

But I can't worry about trying to live up to certain people's expectations. I know what got me here basketball-wise. It's playing defense and being the "Junkyard Dog," and I think if I can keep adding on to that, I can have a long, successful career.

My teammates—Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague and Shelvin Mack—and I recently have been playing one-on-one at the Hawks practice center, and I've been winning for two weeks straight. They tell me, "We really didn't think that your game would ever be like this." They're just realistic with me. And I tell them, "I've got a lot more in me."

It's crazy because just two years ago I wasn't getting any playing time in the NBA, yet again, with the Utah Jazz. After entering the league in 2009 with the Memphis Grizzlies and then spending time with the Dakota Wizards in the D-League, the Houston Rockets and the Denver Nuggets, I signed with the Jazz in February 2012. While I sat on the bench—which ended up being for more than a month—I kept thinking, "The NBA is never going to happen."

But if I hadn't been through everything I've been through in my life, I probably would have just called it quits. I stuck with it and made the most of my opportunity.