Posted Jun 24, 2013 12:17 PM
Everything changed on a Saturday evening in April in Portland, Ore., on a stage that was supposed to belong to others, when a German prospect from a team with an American-sounding name, surrounded by age-level stars from Russia, Canada, Australia, the United States and other lands, broke out.
Dennis Schroeder arrived at the Nike Hoop Summit a known quantity. He wouldn't have been at the showcase matching the best seniors from U.S. high schools against elite 19-and-unders from around the world otherwise.
But he hadn't arrived. He was a nice prospect, a second-rounder in a field with at least one player headed for the first round this year (Sergey Karasev) and the heavy favorite for the No. 1 pick in 2014 (Andrew Wiggins). And then Schroeder played in a way no one had ever seen him play before and vaulted into the first round of the NBA Draft, and possibly even the lottery, when the Draft is held Thursday in Brooklyn, N.Y. He scored 18 points and dished out six assists in 29 minutes that night at the Rose Garden, jetting through the defense of several up-and-coming prospects
"My life changed a lot because everybody talks to me now," Schroeder said.
He is popular with the North American media in a way that couldn't have existed before, and the interview requests from Germany (he played for the New Yorker Phantoms in Braunschweig) keep pouring in. He is certainly more popular with NBA front offices who want to meet with him as part of gathering background on a prospect who had had limited exposure.
But teams are studying Schroeder closer and noting off-court issues now, too, though nothing that had been rated as a genuine concern beyond the typical immaturity of a 19 year old. And now, once he gets on the court for workouts, there is a target on his back that didn't exist before.
"Guys are going to come at him," one executive said. "Guys are going to come at him for sure."
The ability to change speeds with the ball is one of his greatest skills, and yet that's nothing compared to the whiplash in his career and his life. That projected second-rounder heading into the Rose Garden on April 20? Try middle of the first heading into the week of the Draft, at No. 14 to the Jazz in the latest NBA.com mock with the chance to advance another few ticks before Thursday night at Barclays Center.
"It's a good change for me," Schroeder said. "The hard work pays off. Everybody wants to talk to me now. I'm very proud of it."
He is not nearly as developed as the two true point guards destined to be picked earlier, Trey Burke of Michigan or Michael Carter-Williams, or C.J. McCollum of Lehigh, a scoring combo guard. And he needs to get stronger at 6-foot-2 and 165 pounds. But Schroeder -- with his speed and defense, with the passes he can make when he doesn't try to force a play that is not open, with his first step -- can be electric.
There are signs of a future of scorched Earth around opposing point guards flailing to stay in front of him. But he is not clean with the ball and commits too many turnovers. Although front offices note his toughness, Schroeder is about 165 pounds. Nate Robinson is 180 pounds at 5-foot-9.
Schroeder is much farther from a finished product than Burke, Carter-Williams or McCollum and less mature, and therefore more an unknown. Just as concerning, he doesn't have nearly the body of work. He has played in very few international competitions for Germany or been tested in the best leagues of Europe. There is the breakout showing at the Hoop Summit, but little else.
"The right circumstances, the right development system around him," a veteran of one personnel department said, "and he's going to be a hell of a player. In time."
It's not like before, when Schroeder could have been slowly brought along as an investment selection from the second round or even spent another year in Germany without being missed in the NBA. It's different after being picked in the middle of the first round, if that happens. It's different after a Saturday evening in April in Portland.
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