He may not have been at the top of the list when talking about the talent-heavy Maine Red Claws when he joined the team in early December, but make no mistake -- DaJuan Summers is there now.
Summers turned heads at the NBA D-League Showcase this month by averaging 30 points over two games and the 6-foot-8 forward's been playing at a stellar level since. Summers spoke with NBAD-League.com before a recent game against the Springfield Armor, where he ended up exploding for 34 points and 10 rebounds.
"I just want to stay focused and make the most out of my situation right now," Summers said. "I'm trying to be aggressive and keep things simple. It's easy to do here because this is a close-knit team and everyone sacrifices for one another."
Summers has taken advantage of increased opportunity as a few of Maine's key players have been sidelined for stretches with injury or have been waived. As a result, he has emerged as one of the top Prospects in the NBA D-League.
"Chris Wright and Fab Melo got concussions, and Kris Joseph was going back and forth with the Celtics before he was waived," Red Claws coach Mike Taylor said. "So we were forced to rely on DaJuan and he really responded by doing fantastic things production wise."
Taylor said when the team originally signed Summers, their intent was more to work him into the team's rotation. But he's been pleased with how Summers has stepped up as a leader for the team.
"He's been great all season and really caught everyone's eye at Showcase," Taylor said. "We're really happy for DaJuan. He's earned and deserves the attention for his hard work and good play."
It's been a long journey for the Georgetown alum. He was drafted in the second round by the Detroit Pistons in 2009 and saw around nine minutes per game for the team for the next two seasons. Since then, he played basketball in Italy and was waived by the Charlotte Bobcats in the preseason before signing with the Red Claws.
But despite the frustrations and setbacks in his career, Summers said he wouldn't describe his performances now as "redeeming."
"I'm just happy to have the opportunity to play consistent minutes," he said. "I wouldn't say its redeeming because I've always been confident in my game. I just haven't had consistent minutes since I"ve been a professional. Here with Maine, it's beeng gratifying."
Taylor said, if anything, the situations Summers has had to endure with other teams serve as a way to fuel him.
"Emotionally, he's a very mature player," Taylor said. "He's always been very focused with all the situations he's been through in his career whether it be with the Pistons, Italy, the Bobcats. He's got a lot of experience he can draw on that has helped him focus for his run right now."
What makes Summers unique is his ability to be a combo forward. He can score in the paint by posting up against power forwards just as well as hitting buckets near the perimeter like small forwards. Taylor said what Summers needs to do now is showcase his talents defensively.
"He's already shown his versatility in scoring at the 3 or 4-positions," Taylor said. "But if you're going to be a combo forward on the offensive end, you've got to show you can be a combo forward defensively by guarding 4's in the paint or 3's at the permiter."
With Maine, unlike when playing for some other teams, he now has ample opportunity to prove he can.