As the 2016 NBA D-League Elite Mini-Camp concluded its second day on Tuesday, prospects were loosened up after getting into a groove on day one. The competition level was high once again, as guys competed hard, and really gave spirited efforts. Many coaches praised their respective level of commitment when discussing the event with RidiculousUpside.com.
"Guys who take advantage of this opportunity and don't turn it down are really doing themselves a favor. You always hear about the guys who turn it down, and it doesn't really look that good," Santa Cruz Warriors head coach Casey Hill pointed out. "It's good to see guys out there competing and playing with guys they haven't before. We also have coaches from different divisions getting a chance to experience one another. This is great for the D-League. It gives them a chance to maintain a level of camaraderie."
As for the standouts, Coach Hill happened to be impressed by a couple of Westchester Knicks. "Darion Atkins showed his abilities pretty well. He knocked down open threes, and did a good job defensively and rebounding the ball. Rashad James had a really nice game [in day two]. He got up and caught this nice alley-oop in transition, and once he did that, you saw him get that little extra pep in his step. He went on this one man run, which was impressive. I coached against him often when he was in Reno, so I have a lot of respect for him."
In addition to getting a chance to catch up with one another, fellow coaches really have an opportunity to see the type of work their contemporaries put in with certain prospects throughout the year. If they only had a chance to coach against a certain guy earlier in the season, the progress such prospects made throughout the season is very evident at a camp like this.
With that in mind, Coty Clarke, who earned himself a cup of coffee with the Boston Celtics this past season, shined, according to Hill.
"His development throughout the year was impressive, and I think Scott Morrison did a hell of a job with him. He played well. I'm a big fan of his," Hill said. "It was good to see him doing his thing, because he has a chance to really do something special with his career."
Talib Zanna was someone who received plenty of favor over the course of the event, and it's clear he left a lasting impression on the 2015 NBADL championship winning coach. "Zanna continues to work on his game. He's still a little raw, because he's trying to show that he can face up, spread the floor, and go to the rim. But when he gets down in the mix, rebounding, and getting his team second-chance opportunities, he's a force," he said.
Overall, Hill, who will coach at the NBA Draft Combine this week, said the event was a success. "I thought Dan Craig did a great job running it for the first time. Bob MacKinnon was back consulting this time around, which was great. It's always nice to see him, because he's become such a staple for the D-League," Hill added.
"If you look at the NBA interest, it's growing. The league is getting better, and things are on an incredible upswing. I'm just happy to be a part of this. It's great to be out here with these guys for a couple days. "I love the opportunity that this gives players to be seen and grow," MacKinnon added when talking with Ridiculous Upside. These players want to be there. It makes it enjoyable for the NBA people to watch."
One player who made an impression on both coaches was Josh Magette. "He was pretty good because he did a good job of translating his leadership skills to this Elite Camp setting. That's difficult to do, because guys are trying to do different things. He ran his team well and gave his teammates good opportunities," Hill asserted.
MacKinnon, who coached him as a member of the Los Angeles D-Fenders during the 2013-14 season, added, "Magette made some big baskets, but he really makes the game easier for everyone else. When he hits guys with passes, the placement is so good that all they need to do is shoot it. He hits them in the right spots."
MacKinnon said that other point guards went on to shine as well, adding, "Walter Lemon Jr. made real good point guard plays and decisions. He shot well, and was really terrific. Brandon Fields is another guy who made good decisions. He got in the lane and opened up things for others."
As for the forwards, MacKinnon said, "DeAndre Liggins had another terrific day. 39 guys were at the camp, and I think they all helped themselves and will end up getting solid looks [for NBA Summer League]. The level of play was that good."
Hill went on to reiterate such a sentiment, also giving credit where it was due to those who took this opportunity to be seen by the horns. Some players may turn this opportunity down to avoid injury and/or evade a possible poor showing, but Hill says just being a part of this event is positive.
"It doesn't hurt. A lot of people say a workout camp like this can help you, but it can also hurt you. But if you have this opportunity, you should take advantage. This means playing in front of NBA personnel. It's the right thing to do," he conveyed. "If you want to be in the NBA, and there are folks looking for players, you should probably be there. A lot of guys did that, and you have to tip your cap to them."