D-Fenders Invade the 2008 NBA Summer League in Vegas

A number of familiar D-Fenders faces have been spotted spending a lot of time in Las Vegas recently. While they haven’t been spotted poolside or late night in one of the many swank Vegas nightspots, they were seen on the campus of the University of Nevada – Las Vegas. Several former D-Fenders were partaking in the 11-day, 53-game, 21-team extravaganza known as the 2008 NBA Summer League presented by EA Sports at the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion. D-Fenders.com caught up with a few of the guys…

SEAN BANKS

Sean Banks decided to participate with the Toronto Raptors during NBA Summer League because he and his agent felt that is where the former Memphis Tiger and ESPN.com National Freshman of the Year had the best shot to crack an NBA roster.

“The talent here is pretty much the same as the D-League. You have guys here that play oversees as well as in the D-League, mixed in with some NBA guys. It’s the same talent, the same competitiveness, its professional basketball. No matter whether it’s NBA Summer League, D-League, or NBA, everybody plays hard.” Sean Banks mentioned after his Toronto Raptors team defeated the Lakers summer league squad (coached by D-Fenders head coach Dan Panaggio and his assistants Chucky Brown, and Rasheed Hazzard).

Sean was last seen supporting his teammates in the second round of the playoffs, where the D-Fenders fell to the eventual champion Idaho Stampede. Banks, the D-Fenders leading scorer during the regular season with 21.7 ppg, suffered a shoulder injury in the D-Fenders first round victory over the Colorado 14ers in the 2008 NBA D-League Playoffs. Banks was rehabbing hard at home to get ready for his shot at the NBA Summer League and says he is happy with how his shoulder has been holding up. “Three weeks ago is the first time I started playing again.” noted Banks. “I’m trying to get back into basketball shape. It gets a little sore and everything, but the doctor says there’s nothing wrong with it, it is just from not playing and not using it.”

The shoulder didn’t look like it was bothering him at all in the 25 minutes he logged coming of the bench against the Lakers and his old coaching staff. Sean had two of the nicest plays of the day in Toronto’s victory. Midway through the second quarter, Banks picked up a loose ball and drove coast to coast, splitting two Lakers defenders at the free throw line by going behind his back, and converted the finger-roll layup with contact, drawing a foul with an attempt for a three-point play. This play broke a 28-28 tie giving the Toronto the lead for good. With three minutes remaining in the third quarter, the 6-8 swingman, gave the fans something to cheer about when he was running the break on the left wing where teammate John Lucas saw Banks and tossed him an alley-oop, which he finished with a furious dunk over former UCLA Bruin and Lakers Summer Leaguer Lorenzo Mata-Real. This was the only time of the game where the relaxed Vegas crowd got out of their seats.

Sean finished the game with nine points, two blocks, and a rebound while helping to guide his team to an 89-71 victory. Banks former Coaches were impressed with the effort he gave in the Raptors victory. “I’d rather coach him than coach against him.” D-Fenders and Lakers Summer League head coach Dan Panaggio said after the game against Banks. “I love Sean, I have been with him the past couple of years and I would definitely rather coach him, than coach against him.” D-Fenders and Lakers Summer League assistant coach Chucky Brown agreed with Panaggio adding, “It was funny seeing him on the other side in another uniform. Sean is a good kid and you just have to wish him the best.”

Banks was happy that he was able to get the victory over his old coach, “I am happy. I am now 1-0 against him, and I hope I never have to play him again. So I can stay undefeated.”

When Sean wasn’t hitting the hardwood for games he was happy in to be in Vegas to catch up with several of his old buddies. “I caught up with guys from the D-Fenders, guys I went to school with and played AAU with. It’s been a great week.” Banks was able to catch up with former D-Fenders players Coby Karl and Brandon Wallace as well as his former Memphis and AAU teammate and recent Houston Rockets draft pick Joey Dorsey. “I haven’t seen Joey in a couple of years and he is like one of my best friends.”

BRANDON WALLACE

While Brandon Wallace’s former D-Fenders teammate (Sean Banks) is playing north of the border, Wallace chose to attend NBA Summer League with a team that is a bit closer to home. Born in Jackson, South Carolina and having attended University of South Carolina in Columbia, Brandon has been playing his summer ball with the Charlotte Bobcats.

No stranger to NBA Summer Leagues, Wallace signed with the Boston Celtics as an undrafted free agent after a strong showing last summer. During the season he was assigned to the Celtics D-League affiliate, Utah Flash. After several games in the D-League, Wallace was released by the Celtics as they signed several veterans for their run to an NBA Championship. Wallace rejoined the D-League and was part of the D-Fenders first trade in franchise history as he was acquired from the Iowa Energy in exchange for Darryl Watkins. Wallace paid quick dividends for the D-Fenders with his long arms, defensive prowess, and athletic ability.

Wallace worked out hard this summer in South Carolina and has a positive outlook on his chances at making the Bobcats roster. “They expressed interest in me and they have a couple of roster spots to fill. Plus it’s close to home, It’s just a good situation,” Wallace said after his Bobcats defeated the Knicks 103-71.

Last season with the D-Fenders, Wallace played a total of 22 games and filled up the stat sheet each game by averaging 7.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.5 blocks. He ended the season in the upper tier of the D-League in several categories including blocks (2nd in the league), total rebounding (14th in the league), offensive rebounding (15th in League), and defensive rebounding (17th in the league). Brandon says his time with the D-Fenders definitely helped him improve his game, “It’s more experience in the pro game, and it always helps when you are in a familiar situation. It helps you to be more prepared in the games.”

Wallace was also able to catch up with his old D-Fenders coaches as well as some of his former teammates in Vegas. “I saw Sean Banks, Brian Morrison, I talked to Coby Karl and I am about to watch Sean Banks play right now.”