Just a few months ago, Kevin Kotzur was playing Division II basketball in college. The new year of 2014 has brought about quite the unique opportunity, as the forward is currently in Reno strutting his stuff for the bevy of NBA executives in town watching the action.
Kotzur's path to the NBA D-League Showcase began this past fall, when he turned heads in a gym filled with Santa Cruz Warriors' brass and even Golden State head coach Mark Jackson at an open tryout. He made the minor league affiliate's team out of training camp.
Even so, Kotzur's journey has continued to go beyond that of a fringe D-League prospect. In the early months of the season, he's proven himself to be much more than that. The NBADL is all about developing the most promising young guns in hopes that they eventually earn a call-up to The Association.
But further than that, setting the foundation for players to stay prepared to step in as "that next guy," is imperative too. The cycle never stops, and ensuring each prospect remains ready while waiting in the wings helps D-League teams continue to compete and look for wins, amid the call-ups that may come along.
That's where Kotzur's recent window of opportunity opened up a bit more. With the likes of Hilton Armstrong and Dewayne Dedmon each receiving a call-up to Golden State (though both have subsequently since been sent back down), the former has been called upon to fill in on multiple occasions.
Capitalizing on such a chance to strut his stuff is exactly what the 24 year old has done as of late. Entering Monday's game against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants (Santa Cruz lost the contest), Kotzur held averages of 11.1 points (on 60% from the field) and 8.4 rebounds. He also has twelve starts on the season.
Reflecting on the open tryout during which he impressed Santa Cruz to earn the chance of a lifetime playing professional basketball, Kotzur told RidiculousUpside.com recently, "I just played my game. I knew going into things that you don't get as many shots during the tryout process. What I did was basically just hustle around and rebound. I got the ball when I could, but I just wanted to show what I had. It ended up working out."
With Armstrong and Dedmon back in the D-League fold with Santa Cruz, Kotzur has once again assumed a reserve role. Still proving to be productive and rather efficient in limited minutes, he scored 6 points and 3 rebounds during Monday's loss.
Even so, Kotzur didn't seem as concerned with having to impress the executives on hand in Reno. He added, "Basically, we're all here to play and just get wins, in my book. That's what I'm seeing. If I play well, I play well. There will NBA executives looking, but we've known that all along. I get that concept. We've got Rio Grande Valley [next], so that will be a tough one."
What's more, the St. Mary's-Texas product was even quicker to praise the teammates around him. Kotzur asserted, "It's great to play [with a guy like Cameron Jones] because he knows what to do with the ball at all times. Daniel [Nwaelele]'s one of those quiet guys that somehow always gets it done. We've got players like Hilton Armstrong and Dewayne Dedmon out here too, so there's a lot of experience out in Santa Cruz."
Still, Kotzur's added production and intriguing promise (amongst some of the more well known names on the Warriors' roster ), has been a refreshing surprise, even to himself. The forward said, "I'm enjoying this, fully. I didn't expect to be out here after the tryout. I knew I'd play well, but I didn't think I'd play that well. I ended up getting a shot, and it's been a huge cultural shock, looking back at where I am and where I could've been."
Praising his organization, Kotzur continued, "I mean, the system down here in Santa Cruz is probably one of the better systems in all of the D-League. They get the big picture. They've made a great impression on me. The season has been going well, and all the guys have been great to me."
Had he not been playing, Kotzur might have gone back to school for his Masters. He added, "I was working out and looking to get overseas. This was the alternate plan that my agent and I had for me. It was a good motivation, because it was really the only other chance I had before going on to do something else with my life."
Sometimes things happen for a reason, and it appears to have worked out for Kotzur so far. He and the Warriors will take on the RGV Vipers this coming Thursday afternoon.