An array of G League alum are hitting the hardwoods at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion this week, hoping to show big league scouts that they deserve a longer shot at the NBA. But NBA Summer League isn’t the only proving ground available to talented athletes in Las Vegas.
The Student Recreation and Wellness Center at UNLV hosted the Worldwide Invitational, providing hungry players with the chance to strut their stuff in hopes of securing a contract to play overseas. There were a handful of G League scouts on hand as well, but it can’t be denied that this showcase is dominated by international scouts and executives who have lucrative contracts to offer.
With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the prospects who put together strong performances over the two and a half days of competition.
Rashard Kelly, Wichita State: Kelly is embarking on a professional career after being part of an established program. As a senior, he averaged 5.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. His past experience gave him a leg up on the competition, as he played with maturity and displayed a high basketball IQ. Kelly is very athletic and agile. He proved that catching passes in transition and finishing around the basket is sometimes a lost art, especially when comparing his level of polish to other players. He was very active on both ends of the floor.
Nate Hickman, Columbia University: After watching collegiate teammate Luke Petrasek find success with the Greensboro Swarm last season, Hickman has his sights set on carving out a pro career for himself. He’s a scrappy guard with plenty of hustle and dedication on the defensive end. At UNLV, he wasn’t one to lose his man and focused on flustered opposing guards. On the offensive end, he displayed steady ball-handling skills, with an opportunity to be even more assertive around the rim.
Robert Upshaw, Yakima SunKings: Upshaw finished up last season in the NAPD alongside G League alums Renaldo Major, Cedric Jackson, and Mac Koshwal after playing in Lebanon. The former Lakers training camp invitee has matured since he left the minor league and proved this week that his athleticism is still top notch. Now 24 years old, Upshaw used his strength and physicality to get whatever he wanted inside. Offensively, he proved to be a great finisher with a bevy of dunks. On defense, he was a man amongst boys out there and opponents were seemingly no match against his imposing frame. Skill has never been an issue for Upshaw, so it’ll be interesting to see if international teams trust his continued progression both on and off the court.
Eric Davis Jr., Texas: Like Kelly, Davis Jr. is someone whose experience at a bigger collegiate program paid dividends at a showcase like this. The guard was aggressive in pursuing scoring opportunities, confidently taking charge of his team through competition. He pulled up for more than his fair share of three-point field goals. Fortunately, he had the prowess to back up his choices with a high conversion rate. As the defense began to catch on and cover him from beyond the arc, Davis Jr. slowly but surely made adjustments to absorb contact around the rim. After boasting a 40/35/75 shooting clip as a junior this past season, it would appear as though the 6’2” guard has room to grow. He may have dominated at Worldwide, but needs to develop more versatility and find his teammates in the open floor as a pro.
Tyler Rudolph, Minot State: Rudolph is someone who fully understood the kind of adjustments necessary to shine at a showcase like this. As a DII athlete, he dominated with 21 points and 7.7 rebounds as senior. A truly hungry rebounder, the forward allowed his dedication on the glass to propel the rest of his efforts. He was physical, fought for loose balls, and didn’t let it up when it came to bumping opponents and establishing position underneath the basket. Such a presence allowed him to clean up on second chance points or cash in on passes from backcourt teammates driving through the lane. Overall, Rudolph allowed the game to come to him and didn’t try to overdo it against this high level of competition. Such an awareness is key for pro athletes.