As NBA D-League coaches, scouts, and related staffers reflected upon the conclusion of the Elite Mini-Camp earlier this week in Chicago, it made sense that after a decent sample size of competition through two days, some of the same players stood out in the minds of many.
[Josh] Magette is tough. He knows how to play and is very poised. His toughness doesn't show up on the stat-sheet, but he competes," Bakersfield Jam assistant Tyler Gatlin shared with RidiculousUpside.com. "Josh doesn't get rattled by guys who try to shake him out of his game."
"Brandon Fields and Ra'Shad James were two guys that played well through both days of camp. James was aggressive, got shots up, and had a monster dunk on three guys in transition. It was nasty. It was big time. He threw it down" Gatlin added.
Undoubtedly, James was a favorite of many, including Fort Wayne Mad Ants head coach Steve Gansey, who served as his coach during the camp.
"It's always great to coach these guys. You always play against them, but to actually coach them, you get a chance to see what their personalities are like," he told Ridiculous Upside about the experience. "You see what they're thinking and how they communicate. It's awesome."
In addition to the likes of James and Aaron Craft, Coach Gansey elaborated on a couple other standouts from his squad. "Phil Pressey is extremely fast. I liked him and Levi Randolph on our team. We [in Fort Wayne] faced Randolph six times this year with Maine," he explained. "The one thing that Scott Morrison did was play him at the four this year. I wanted to do that, too. We played smaller and it was really fun. These guys have a great opportunity. It's the best competition and the best coaching they'll pretty much get until NBA Summer League."
Gatlin discussed several standouts of his own, adding, "Patrick Miller made his presence felt, being a good defender and attacking the basket. He puts a lot of pressure on the referees. The rookie referees are there, still trying to adjust to the style of play. Miller is so physical and drives it to the basket so hard, so he gets to the free-throw line."
Various coaches told Ridiculous Upside other players that left lasting impressions included DeAndre Liggins, Coty Clarke, David Laury, Darion Atkins, Kadeem Jack, and Keifer Sykes. One focus of the Elite Camp is obviously to help players gain some favor and respective notoriety heading into NBA Summer League. Still, every now and then a player who is still flying under the radar can catch the eye of an NBA executive or two; they may want to keep tabs on him further in the months, and even seasons, to come.
"Alex Davis was a local tryout guy that the BayHawks snatched up. He's long, has some quickness and athleticism. He can knock down mid-range shots. Davis isn't too strong and isn't too polished," Gatlin conveyed. "He has a long way to go. But he's someone who intrigues people because he's long and moves so smoothly."
Gatlin's observant eye for talent is something special, as he pointed out insightful things that not many others seemed to pick up on. Such a camp is about more than what ends up on the stat-sheet; it's about the intangibles, body language, attitude, development from the last time a player was seen, etc.
Of course, this unique opportunity is not just for players, but for coaches and several other staffers as well.
"It's a lot of fun. Drawing up plays and running defensive drills in front of a guy like Tom Thibodeau," Coach Gansey, who participated in his third Elite Camp (but first as a head coach) said. "This was an opportunity, not only to see what these guys can do, but to use your voice as well."
As for the importance of the camp for those who value the experience, Gatlin said it was easy to see who had a leg up on the competition. "A lot of guys who showed up and proved they can play were ones who have been through it. They've been in the D-League, had a cup of coffee in the NBA, and have played in this camp before," he pointed out.
"I don't see why you would not want to go through with something like this [as a player]," Gansey added.