Last offseason, Tyler Johnson could constantly be found feverishly working out in the gym. Spending the months leading up to his rookie season training with the brain trust of ELEV8 Sports Institute, it's safe to say the young gun stayed at the top of his game by going through unique drills.
In the D-League, Johnson wasn't the flashiest player for the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Nevertheless, his versatile efforts on a nightly basis helped him stand out as an athletic and ever consistent team player. It took him just 15 contests (in which he averaged 18.8 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists) for the guard to convince the affiliated Miami HEAT to take the ultimate chance on him. He went on to appear in 32 games for Miami this season.
While Johnson is a great example of the type of top notch caliber athlete ELEV8 can develop, he isn't the first, and certainly won't be the last. Perhaps taking that into consideration, a slew of NBA and D-League personnel packed into a Florida gymnasium last week for the sports institute's "pro day," which featured a handful of promising prospects. While some are bonafide potential NBA Draft selections, it cannot be denied that any one of them would be lucky to, nevertheless, take the road far less traveled (much like Johnson) in the D-League and end up in the NBA not soon after.
Here's a look at some of the more intriguing youngsters who happened to strut their stuff.
Terry Rozier, Louisville
**Video courtesy of HoopDiamonds**
Having earlier been considered a sure bet second rounder, Rozier's work with ELEV8 has helped catapult him into mid to late first-round conversations. Well known as a pesky defender, the guard is a high-octane player who carries himself with a load of energy. He drives well in traffic and is able to finish at the hoop effectively. Moreover, he's very solid in pick & roll formations. Rozier averaged 17 points and 2 steals for Louisville last season.
Jamal Jones, Delaware 87ers
**Video courtesy of HoopDiamonds**
Hoping to follow in the footsteps of PJ Hairston and a handful of others, Jones is looking to be selected in the NBA Draft following one season in the minor league. The swingman is a rather agile player who can use his quickness on both ends of the floor. On defense, he's able to serve as a hound, moving laterally throughout to stay in front of his man. On offense, Jones is at his best when running the floor in transition, cashing in on mid to long range jumpers following passes from his teammates. He's a solid catch and shoot player who has the potential to be a 3 and D athlete on the big league stage.
Mike Qualls, Arkansas
Another strong 3 and D like candidate, Qualls appears even more explosive and athletic. Whereas Jones is a sound defender with steady instincts, Qualls lets his athleticism dictate his effort and style of play. He handles the ball and is able to create his own offensive opportunities from time to time by beating his opposing defenders off the dribble as well. With plenty of pop and an extra pep in his step, the young gun could easily be a strong candidate for a D-League dunk contest.
Seth Tuttle, Northern Iowa
Tuttle is a very interesting prospect, either on the NBA and D-League level. With plenty of tools to rise up and make an impact in a number of different ways, he stands tall with arguably the most potential out of the bunch. Size is a difficult thing to come by in the minor league, so there's no doubt the 6'8", 230 pounder would stand to benefit if he were able to assert himself and manipulate the competition. In addition to boasting a steady mid-range jumper, Tuttle is a strong enough rebounder who can use his long arms and steady instincts to block shots as well. "Seth is a tremendous passer for a player of his size," ELEV8 Director of Basketball Development Cody Toppert told RidiculousUpside.com.
Royce O'Neale, Baylor
O'Neale is somewhat of an unique athlete. Standing at 6'7," he's a strong player who likes to assert himself and post up down low, which leads to easy scoring opportunities once he puts pressure on opposing defenders. He can create his own opportunities, but can also spread the floor and space things out for his teammates, too. He serves as a threat from long range, and is said to play with a veteran's mentality on defense. "[Tuttle and] O'Neale both have high basketball IQs and skill sets," Toppert said.