For Pistons’ Saddiq Bey, prayer is much more than just pregame routine

Detroit News

Detroit — Just before the national anthem begins, Pistons forward Saddiq Bey closes his eyes and starts to lock in on his thoughts. It’s a silent prayer, to get him ready for the game, both mentally and spiritually.

The pregame prayer is part of his daily routine, as much as the pregame meal, pregame warmups or anything else on the schedule.

Bey, in his second season, has emerged as one of the top young players in the league, boasting a spectacular 51-point performance against the Orlando Magic on March 17. He’s one of two players in the league to have played in all of his team’s games this season, and he’s only missed two games in his career — both because of a coach’s decision, not because of injury.

That’s part of the lore of Bey’s ascent — that’s he’s been available for every game, and he’s been more than just good, with a first-team NBA All-Rookie selection last season. Bey’s faith has been as much a part of his success as anything else, and it’s not just the prayer before introductions; it’s an integral part of his day.

“I usually pray right before I leave my house, or the hotel if we’re on the road. I’m praying for health, durability and mental clarity,” Bey told The Detroit News. “Then, when I get to the game, we have our team prayer that we do right before we go out.”

It’s not that Bey is some staunch religious advocate or that he stays in his teammates’ ears, preaching the gospel every chance he gets. His journey is very much a personal one — a spiritual one, fueled by faith and driven by desire.

Bey’s prayer routine is about centering himself each day, whether it’s a game day, a practice day or an off day.

“It’s the gratefulness aspect, just being on this earth and being here in the world,” Bey said. “I thank Him for that and all the opportunities, I say He gave me, to be able to play this game, to be healthy and be alive. I’ve prayed since I was a little kid.”

To be clear, Bey doesn’t classify himself as practicing one religion; rather, he takes things from several different faiths and practices what makes him most comfortable and spiritually centered.

Bey, who turns 23 on Saturday, very much has his mother, Dr. Drewana Bey, to thank for much of his spiritual growth and maturity.

“My mom is big on giving thanks and we’re more on the spiritual side, so for me, I realized some of the prayers that I’ve had since I was in high school or middle school, you could see it coming to fruition,” he said. “So, when I see that, I want to keep doing it, and certain situations I’ve been in in my life, I’ve prayed and then it’s worked out — and that’s the thing that keeps me saying that I’m really a believer, for sure. That’s where it stemmed from.”

That faith and spirituality has translated into another solid season for Bey, who has improved on his impressive rookie season and has posted 16.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 35% on 3-pointers this season in the first 79 games.

“I feel like his confidence is linked to his faith. His confidence and belief, his idea,” Dr. Bey said. “I listen to him talk, and it is very much who he is. It’s not someone putting that in him or him hearing someone else say it and now he’s saying it.

“He believes in being in the moment and he needs to work as hard as he can in this moment, and everything else is going to take care of itself.”

From a distance

Dr. Bey is no stranger to routine, either. A standout college basketball player at Charlotte, she set the bar high for what Saddiq could achieve on the court. Most parents would be in front of the TV cheering for their children.

She doesn’t watch her son’s games live. And it’s been that way for years.

“By the time he got to the 11th grade, my nerves got bad. I would watch games, and if they were too close, I would walk out the gym or go in the bathroom. I would be nervous that they were going to lose, or I would be nervous that he wasn’t going to play well,” she said. “Unfortunately, my nerves haven’t gotten better, and that has been the same when he was at Villanova, and it’s the same now that he’s in the league.

“I’ll record the game and I’ll wait until the game is over. My daughter or my husband may share a stat or whatever. If they win, I’ll watch the game, regardless if he played bad or not. If they win, I’ll watch it. If he plays well, and they win, then I’ll definitely watch it, because now I’m excited.

“If he doesn’t play well and they lose, I don’t even watch those games, so like the slumps and all that, no.”

It presented an interested quandary when Bey had his career game against the Magic. His mother didn’t see it live, watching the NCAA Tournament instead. Instead, she got updates about how things were going from her family.

Saddiq had 16 points early and finished the first quarter with 21 points. Dr. Bey had seen him have similar hot starts to games, but then he’d settle down as the game went on.

Not on this day.

“(My daughter) says to me, ‘Well, Saddiq didn’t do that well in the second quarter. He only got nine points, so that means he has 30 at the half.’

“I said, ‘What?’ but I still didn’t watch it. We record it, so I said I’ll watch it if they win, and it’ll be all good. At the end of the game, (my husband) runs downstairs and said that Saddiq had 51 points.

Even then, she stayed with her routine and she didn’t watch the game until the next day.

Not luck

Bey’s faith was tested a bit at the beginning of the season, when he had a slow start with an extended shooting slump. He wasn’t playing quite at the level of expectation that most pundits had for an all-rookie selection.

That expectation can weigh on a player. Not Bey, though.

“To be honest, I never have an expectation coming in. For me, it’s how great can I become day in and day out by the end of the season. My ultimate goal is to bring a championship here and to be the best player I can be, and to try to play every game.

“So, for me, that’s the goal and until I reach that, I can’t say I expected anything more or less. Even though they say we have a young team or a rebuilding team, I came in saying I wanted to make the playoffs (last) year and I want to win. If I’m in it, I want to win. My expectation is more of that, and if I don’t get that done, it keeps me motivated.”

With his success, Bey has his faith and spirituality as the pillars. He leans more on those than calling any of it luck.

“If I were to use a word, I would say it’s more the belief in God than luck,” Bey said. “I don’t really use that word too much. I personally believe it’s Him protecting me and keeping me healthy, and I pray every day for it, so I would give Him more of the credit than luck.”

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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