There’s No Place Like Portsmouth
Posted Apr 9 2008 1:24PM
Portsmouth Invitiational Tournament 2008 Preview
PORTSMOUTH, Va., April 9, 2008 -- Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kaun and Russell Robinson are not in Kansas anymore. Turns out they’re not in Portsmouth either.
As late as Sunday, all three were slated to take part in the 56th annual Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, the first stop on the NBA’s pre-draft circuit.
Then came word the trio, last seen helping the Jayhawks survive a Memphis-style tornado in Monday’s National Championship game, would not be making the trip.
For Jackson and Kaun, it’s a calculated risk. Both figure to garner invitations to the NBA Pre-Draft Camp in Orlando next month. For Robinson, it’s a decision that could come back to haunt him down the road.
With an increasing number of underclassmen and international players taking up spots in Orlando each year, seniors who skip PIT run the risk of being shut out of the pre-draft circuit completely.
While scouts admire Robinson’s leadership qualities and steady floor game, being a part of an ensemble cast at Kansas hasn’t afforded him the opportunity to stand out.
There are no yellow brick roads to the NBA this week. The majority of the 64 college seniors invited to take part in the action will likely begin their careers overseas or in a domestic minor league, such as the NBA Development League.
Still, the PIT remains a viable launching pad. Last year, four players who made the trip heard their names called on draft night: Carl Landry (Seattle, 31st – rights traded to Houston), Adam Haluska (New Orleans, 43rd), Stephane Lasme (Golden State, 46th) and Sammy Mejia (Deroit, 57th). An additional four spent time in the NBA this season – Courtney Sims (Indiana), Blake Ahearn (Miami), Brandon Wallace (Boston) and Darryl Watkins (Sacramento).
When the NBA playoffs begin on April 19, the Detroit Pistons will rely heavily on the energy of Jason Maxiell, a Portsmouth alum, who the Pistons selected in the first round (26th overall) of the 2005 NBA Draft. Landry, a standout at the PIT last year, has been a key cog off the bench for the playoff-bound Rockets, who won 22 straight games at one point this season.
For Jackson, Kaun and Robinson, the decision not to play this week on the heels of a deep run in the NCAA Tournament is a little more palatable than some of the other names that withdrew as the camp was getting set to begin.
Here are some players to keep an eye on this week:
Patrick Ewing Jr., Georgetown – As Dad is ushered into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Junior is fighting for his basketball life. After two non-descript seasons at Indiana, Ewing finished his career at the school his father put on the map. Initially viewed as a marginal prospect, Ewing has continued to impress with his athleticism. ESPN’s Jay Bilas recently mentioned Ewing as a possible second-round pick.
Chris Lofton, Tennessee – This season was a bit of a mixed bag for Lofton. His team enjoyed enormous success, at one point occupying the top spot in the AP poll, while Lofton struggled to find the touch from long range. There isn’t much gray area when assessing his chances for the next level. He needs to shoot it at a high clip to have any real chance. He’ll probably get the chance to play some point guard this week as well.
Kentrell Gransberry, South Florida – Only Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody, the Big East Player of the Year, averaged more rebounds in conference play this season than Gransberry. Though not blessed with tremendous height, Gransberry is a space eater with good hands and a nose for the ball. A solid showing this week will likely lead to another round of evaluation in Orlando.
Pat Calathes, St. Joseph’s – Calathes began his high school career as a 5-11 point guard before a major growth spurt saw him grow to 6-10. Has exceptional range and court vision for a player his size, but lacks strength. Calathes seems like an ideal candidate for the D-League, but will also draw major attention from international scouts in attendance this week. His brother Nick Calathes was a standout freshman this season at Florida.
Gary Forbes, UMass – Played his first two seasons at Virginia before transferring to UMass. Named Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and First Team All-Conference as a senior. Led the Minutemen to the finals of the NIT. Averaged 17.8 points this summer at the FIBA Americas Championships. A slasher with decent touch, Forbes could garner second-round consideration with a strong showing on the pre-draft circuit.
Jamar Butler, Ohio State – Though the Buckeyes came up short on Selection Sunday, not making the field of 65, Butler’s career ended up on a high note, as Ohio State captured the NIT title. After sliding to the off guard position as a junior to accommodate the arrival of Mike Conley, Butler returned to his natural point guard position this season and led the Buckeyes in scoring and assists. His ability to manage a game and get others involved should make him a popular player this week.