Athletes go through peaks and pitfalls in their respective careers, but it’s a necessity handling the volatile journey correctly. After a heralded four-year career at the point for the Indiana University Hoosiers, Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell immediately faced adversity. Opting for a professional basketball career, the Greenfield, Ind. native joined hundreds of other wide-eyed hopefuls looking to be one of 60 players drafted on June 23.
Ferrell never received a phone call from an NBA executive that night. Undrafted, uncertain about his future and seeking solace in a league that eats lead guards alive, Ferrell latched onto the Brooklyn Nets’ roster.
He didn’t want to be another big-name collegiate talent who ventured into irrelevancy. Ferrell is relevant, a product of impressing in Summer League. Ferrell worked out with the Nets previous to the July showcase with management offering him an opportunity to stand out.
“Even my pre-draft workouts; they believed in my ability on the court,” Ferrell told Ridiculous Upside. “I felt like with the minutes I got on the court, I proved to them that I could be a valuable asset on the team.”
Operating as a backup point guard, a role he hadn’t played since his freshman year at IU, Ferrell posted a respectable 8.8/1.5/1.8 stat line. He said that he understood his role on the second unit: bring momentum into the game off the bench.
In addition, Ferrell’s ability to connect with coaches and teammates aided his development in July. He bought in to Brooklyn’s game plan, which proved beneficial.
“I got my coaches and my teammates telling me what and how things were supposed to be done,” Ferrell said. “They trusted me, I trusted them and I trusted the system that they had.”
Ferrell’s trust led to fostering relationships with multiple members of the organization. With guidance and assistance from assistant coach Jordan Ott, head coach Kenny Atkinson and Long Island Nets head coach Ronald Nored, Ferrell evolved over the course of the summer.
“Those guys helped me on the court,” Ferrell said. “Sometimes I get out of character, maybe try to force things and they try to tell me to calm down. After games, I watch film with the coaches. I’m a big film guy and especially like doing that.”
It’s apparently carried over from his collegiate days, according to Indiana University associate head coach Tim Buckley.
“I think he’s got a very engaging personality; he’s very smart and I think people will want to be around him,” Buckley said. “He’s just one of those guys that has a magnetic personality and I’d love to see him continue to make it more known.”
Ferrell inked a one-year, partially guaranteed deal with the Nets this offseason. Negotiated by agent Keith Kreiter of Edge Sports International, Inc., Ferrell’s $100,000 guaranteed salary is the highest figure Brooklyn has committed to an undrafted rookie free agent in team history.
With evident trust from management, the 23-year-old rookie will break camp with Brooklyn and hope to develop a stronger bond with the team’s staff and players.
Along with fellow undrafted rookie signings Beau Beech and Egidijus Mockevicius, Ferrell will have to once again make a serious imprint on the Nets’ brass. However, his path to locking down a coveted roster spot is arguably clearer.
Ferrell is a beneficiary of Brooklyn’s offseason roster turnover, with general manager Sean Marks indulging in a bevy of frontcourt additions. In shaping his plan to alleviate the Nets’ morbid state, he also brought in veterans Jeremy Lin and Greivis Vasquez.
Lin’s formulated a respectable career off of adept on-court decision-making and aptitude for running the point. While “Linsanity” was ultimately a façade, Lin still is valuable for the Nets and Ferrell.
Ferrell is pursuing an opportunity to learn from Lin, who, in turn, can possibly expedite Ferrell’s acclimation to the professional level.
“The thing the I’ve heard is that he’s a great character guy,” Ferrell said. “I especially like hearing that from other people. I’m very excited to learn from him about his different experiences and teams that he’s been on. I’m going to listen to him with eyes open, ears open and I’m just going to take it all in.”
Lin is Ferrell’s competition, but Ferrell can only benefit from a mentor-protege relationship, especially when upside is involved. Ferrell already has developed a solid rapport with the coaches on the team. Lin serves as another outlet to absorb necessary information from.
Lin appears to be cemented as the starting lead guard heading into the 2016-17 season for the Nets. Ferrell is seeking one of the remaining slots on the depth chart to settle in to.
His basketball IQ for the Hoosiers and offensive proficiency bode positively for the rookie point guard. Ferrell mentioned that he trusted the system that Brooklyn implemented, but also added a tidbit on his comprehension of the playbook.
“It’s really the same thing I’ve always done at Indiana [University],” Ferrell said. “I’ve learned that film doesn’t lie but what you see in film is what you’re going to see on the court. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned and that’s what Indiana taught me. A system that I know and works for me is going to help me mentally get prepared for the next stage.”
Ferrell believes that Indiana equipped him properly to handle the rigors of an NBA season and his intellect on the court will translate to the professional level. It’s a rarity to have a system in the NBA that resembles your respective style of offense at college.
“We also ran a pro style offense,” Buckley said. “We ran pro sets and used professional terminology. He’ll be ready to get himself acclimated professionally more so than people who run a motion or flex offense. He did a tremendous job running the offense and running our team.”
There’s another facet of his game he hopes to retain this season, other than operating as an apt floor general.
What immediately stands out for Ferrell, diving into his numbers at IU, is his shooting percentages. The 6-foot-0, 180-pound guard bumped his field-goal percentage up every season as a Hoosier and concluded his storied collegiate career converting 43.2 percent of his looks. The most impressive aspect is Ferrell developing into one of the nation’s top marksmen at the point.
You don’t find many 42.0 percent three-point shooters at any level and Ferrell’s voluminous tendencies (188 threes attempted in 2015-16) suggest his accuracy is sustainable. It’ll be an adjustment with the three-point arc elongated, as Ferrell struggled from deep in Summer League (1-of-8), but he’s showed previous promise.
Averaging 17.3 PPG in both his sophomore and senior campaigns, he brings an offensive dynamic that’s sparse among other lead guards on the Nets. If Brooklyn decides to keep Ferrell on their main roster, it’ll be refreshing for Atkinson to summon a proven scorer/shooter, presumably, off the bench in Ferrell.
Ferrell repeatedly mentioned how he’s preparing himself to make an impact in the preseason: “get up shots.” With rotation spots seemingly up for grabs in the backcourt on a transitioning Nets team, Ferrell is primed to make his shot count.