Posted Apr 9 2011 12:49PM
NBA director of scouting Ryan Blake was trying to explain why a record 21 players dropped out of the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament this year, but he was wasn't having much luck finding the right words. Finally, he seized on the perfect one.
"Shocking," Blake said.
Some of the no shows had legitimate reasons. VCU's Jamie Skeen and Butler's Matt Howard suffered minor back injuries at the Final Four. Kentucky's Josh Harrellson, whose team also advanced to Houston, came down with flu-like symptoms. As for some of the others, well, Blake thinks they were given bad advice.
"In a year where we may not have a summer league, Portsmouth is the event to play," Blake said. "This is your time to play five on five. You get to meet and talk to coaches and learn from them. For free. You've got the Player's Association down here, the NBA office, all the teams represented. You have a chance to go on to Chicago [site of the NBA's pre-draft camp]. ... Now you've got 10 to 15 people who won't get into Chicago.
"If a Diante Garrett ends up getting a few more looks than [higher profile guards who skipped Portsmouth], well, that's just too bad."
It was no coincidence Blake pulled out Garrett's name. The Iowa State point guard is one of several players who have used the PIT for all it's worth. Allow us to introduce you to four of them:
Garrett got some good news as soon as he showed up to be measured. Apparently he's been eating right. Listed by Iowa State at 6-foot-4, he's actually an inch and a half taller. Combine that size with his ability to create shots for others and Garrett becomes an intriguing prospect.
"For the NBA game, he's great at making decisions off pick and rolls," Iowa State assistant T.J. Otzelberger said. "He's excellent at making plays in the open floor and a great decision maker. This year he averaged over six assists a game [which led the Big 12]. That was really without us having an interior presence. A lot of point guards pile up easy assists by throwing it into a post man. His assists were all about him finding shooters."
"He makes all the correct passes," Blake said. "He knows how to make everybody better. I think Diante is going to have several opportunities to make a splash."
Garrett comes from good bloodlines. His father Dick played with Walt Frazier at Southern Illinois and went on to a five-year career in the NBA. It's no surprise the younger Garrett prepared like a professional for the PIT, practicing the same drills utilized by BAM Testing, which provides data for the NBA at Chicago, and for the second straight year, at Portsmouth.
Given the fact Garrett played for a second-division Big 12 team, his appearance at the PIT was critical.
"He's vastly underrated," Otzelberger said, "due to our lack of TV, media exposure and winning. If we had been in the NCAA Tournament or been on ESPN five times, we wouldn't be talking about him as a surprise guy. Everybody would know he's good."
Clark was suspended last season by Duquesne coach Ron Everhart, but instead of taking the easy way out and transferring, he hung in there. Good thing, too. This year, Everhart surrounded Clark with players who could help him reach his potential.
"Clark's a deadly shooter when he gets hot," said Chris DiSano, who runs the website www.collegechalktalk.com and is an Atlantic 10 expert. "Last year, he went through a streak where he hit three 3-pointers in a month and a half. He went ice cold. This year, Duquesne brought in two freshmen guards that knew how to find him. [Duquense led Division I is assists]. Once he's able to find his spot and guys are able to deliver him the ball, he can be a knockdown shooter."
Clark proved as much in a PIT game when he scored 19 points with his first seven shots.
"He made five in a row," Ryan said, "and the first four didn't even touch the rim. Big-time shooter."
Clark, who finished his career as Duquesne's 10th all-time leading rebounder, isn't one-dimensional, which can only help his chances. In the same PIT game where he went crazy from three (5-of-6), he also grabbed five rebounds and handed out two assists.
James has always been known as a high-energy guy, and so far that particular trait has been on display in Portsmouth. If the rangy 6-8 forward wants to play the three spot in the NBA, he'll have to prove he can consistently make shots.
"The whole thing with Delroy is his jump shot," said DiSano, who also serves as a color analyst for Rhode Island games. "When he's hitting his jump shot, he's a matchup nightmare. He hit five threes against Pittsburgh earlier this year. You cannot guard him when he's hitting his jump shot, because at his size, he can put the ball on the deck and has the strength to be able to draw contact and still finish."
Macklin lost confidence while he was playing behind future NBA draft picks Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green at Georgetown, but he found it again after he transferred to Florida.
"The biggest thing with Vernon [when he arrived at Florida] was his self esteem and image took a huge hit," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "It didn't have anything to do with Georgetown, it was just his mindset going into Georgetown. He'd even tell you now that he went in there thinking he was one and done. He had to go to college in the first year of the rule [that prohibited NBA teams from draft players until after their freshman year in college].
"He probably would have been a lottery pick otherwise, but he couldn't get on the floor [as a freshman]. And all of a sudden, he's thinking, 'am I good enough?' "
Macklin was good enough at Florida, which he helped lead to the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight, and he's carried his solid play over to the PIT.
"He's doing what I expected him to do here," Blake said. "He's improved so much in the last year and a half. I really like the kid. He's learned to use his length and establish position down low, and though he likes to go over his right shoulder, he's throwing people off balance and having success going over his right shoulder, too."
Blake at first thought Macklin was going to add to the record no-show number at Portsmouth.
"There was a bad report that said he wanted to pull out," Blake said. "And so we took him off the list. But he called personally and said he really wanted to come."
Chris Dortch is the editor of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook.
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