Frank Gaines Rises from Obscurity onto the NBA Radar

Frank Gaines was overlooked by Division-I schools coming out of Boyd Anderson High School in Florida six years ago. After turning into one of the nation's top scorers at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), he was still overlooked last summer, when NBA teams bypassed him in the NBA Draft and even in handing out Summer League invitations.

You can bet that Gaines won't be overlooked again this upcoming summer.

As much as any other prospect, the 6-3 guard has used this NBA D-League season to position himself to make a push for the NBA heading into next year -- that is, if no NBA team comes knocking over the next month. While other players enter the league with extensive college resumes or well-known potential, Gaines is a true NBA D-League success story because his rise has been almost purely performance-based. It's the most simple formula in basketball: Perform at a high level, and the NBA will notice.

Gaines has done it from Day 1, scoring in double figures in all but one of his 42 games and averaging at least 17 points in every month (see season shot chart on right). In fact, his scoring average has risen with each passing month, culminating in a monster March: His 27.8 points per game this month is second only to Austin's Flip Murray, yet he's maintained his efficiency (49.7%) from the field. That includes a torching of Delaware on Friday in which he put up 37 in the first half on 12/17 shooting, including 6/8 from deep.

One of the best ways to judge an NBA D-League prospect is to see how he responds as he's surrounded by more and more talent. Gaines didn't get squeezed out when the Red Claws added point guard Tyshawn Taylor and center Daniel Orton from the NBA; he meshed his talents seamlessly alongside them. The ultra-quick Taylor has allowed the Red Claws to get out and run, and Gaines has been the main beneficiary. He's been unleashed as a fastbreak weapon, finding ways to get into the paint more and more as the season's worn on:

Points Per Game% Points in PaintTeam Pace% Points on Fast BreakTrue Shooting %
December18.829.6103.022.554.1
January19.925.699.38.757.6
February21.931.5102.810.858.1
March27.842.3108.626.161.0

(*NOTE: Team Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes; league average = 103. True Shooting % = Shooting percentage adjusted to include the value of three-pointers and free throws; Kyle Korver leads NBA at 67%.)

The next step for the 23-year-old, according to Maine head coach Mike Taylor, is to develop his point-guard skills not necessarily to change positions, but to add another dimension to his game. Gaines' length help him compete as an off-guard even at a wiry 6-3, and Taylor said he's been just as solid defensively this season.

Fortunately for Gaines, the path from Summit League tweener guard to the NBA isn't untraveled; five years ago, George Hill -- the star of IPFW rival IUPUI -- rose from obscurity to the San Antonio Spurs.

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