Fifth Annual NBA D-League Elite Mini Camp Tips Off in Chicago

Aside from the 50 regular season games on the schedule, there are three avenues through which an NBA D-League prospect can get noticed by the NBA: Showcase in January, NBA Summer League and now the NBA D-League Elite Mini Camp. The fifth annual installment of that third event opened on Monday in Chicago with Los Angeles D-Fenders head coach Bob MacKinnon serving as director for the fifth straight time.

And in just those five years, MacKinnon has seen the Elite Mini Camp evolve from a footnote on the schedule -- held in conjunction with the National Tryout in June -- to another date to circle on the calendar. "It's really a great thing for our league to showcase the players," the coach said after the first day of camp on Monday. "Every NBA team will be represented with scouts in these two days. We changed the schedule to accommodate what NBA scouts have told us they want to see."

Monday's sessions featured three 10-minute offensive drill stations for the 37 players participating, followed by four 5-on-5 scrimmages. MacKinnon worked alongside six fellow head coaches -- Reno's Joel Abelson, Delaware's Rod Baker, Erie's Gene Cross, Fort Wayne's Conner Henry, RGV's Nevada Smith and Bakersfield's Will Voigt -- and six assistants.

DeAndre Liggins stood out among the 37 players who
began the Elite Mini Camp on Monday.
"The energy was high and the players played extremely hard. The message we left them with is, 'This is Day 1. In order to make an impression on the NBA people, they've got to come back on Day 2 and compete at an even higher level,'" said MacKinnon, who named guards DeAndre Liggins, Courtney Fells, CJ Williams, Tre Kelley and Josh Magette, and big men Jeff Foote and Alex Oriakhi as Day 1 standouts.

"I think everybody did a hell of a job on the first day," said Liggins. "Everybody competed well. I'm glad we won one [scrimmage game]."

Among the most talented players participating, Liggins was one of six players in attendance with NBA experience, most recently on two 10-day contracts with the Heat this season. "He's got an NBA body and he can guard at that level," MacKinnon said of Liggins.

"I just want to keep the same mindset. I'm a defensive guy," added the former Kentucky Wildcat, who's working on his ball-handling. "I feel like if I can handle the ball I could maybe be a three-way player."

Check back to on Tuesday for a recap of Day 2 of the Elite Mini Camp in Chicago.