Local longshots looking for opportunity
By Conrad Brunner | July 4, 2008
Others might have doubts. Earl Calloway has none.
He's convinced he has NBA talent and hopes to make good on his second opportunity to make it to the league. The former Indiana University point guard is one of a handful of players with local connections participating in the Pacers' summer minicamp that began Thursday in Conseco Fieldhouse. The group includes shooting guard David Teague (Purdue), small forward Pete Campbell (Butler), point guard Stanley Burrell (Ben Davis High) and Al Berdiel (Valparaiso).
Asked to describe his confidence level, Calloway said, "Through the roof."
He has good reason – much moreso than a year ago, when he was so lightly regarded as a prospect no NBA team scheduled him for a pre-draft workout. He had a summer-league trial with the Hawks but wound up with Ft. Wayne of the D-League.
In the freer tempo of the professional environment, Calloway thrived, averaging 19.9 points and 5.8 assists (sixth in the league) while shooting .497 overall and .407 from the 3-point line. He finished strong, averaging 22 points in the final 27 games.
"It was great – a lot of traveling, a lot of flying, a lot of games, a lot of minutes but you expect that coming up to the next level," Calloway said of his D-League experience. "It's a different story for everyone. I didn't have (NBA) workouts but I made sure I kept going into the gym to work on my game and it's paying off. And I'm going to continue to work, regardless. …
"These guys are giving me an opportunity. I'm going to play my hardest and whatever happens, happens. If they don't have a spot for me, hopefully somebody else does."
With the roster in a state of transition – seven new players are on the way after two proposed draft-night trades are expected to become official next week – it's unclear just how much opportunity exists for the players competing this week. But the Pacers are leaving open the door.
"Coach O'Brien said that if there's anybody better than guys we have under contract, he said he and Larry Bird and David Morway have no problem making roster moves," said assistant coach Lester Conner, who's supervising the minicamp. "That's just about the business and winning basketball games.
Purdue's David Teague (Getty Images)
That's all Teague can ask. After missing the 2005-06 season due to a torn ligament in his right knee, Teague came back strong to average 14.3 points and 5.0 rebounds as a senior but he, too, didn't attract much NBA interest. He spent last season in Greece, averaging 9.7 points and 3.5 rebounds for A.E.L.
"Especially after not getting invited to the pre-draft camp last summer, not making a summer-league roster last year, I'm just thankful and grateful for this opportunity – especially to get this opportunity at home," said Teague, an Indianapolis native. "It's a blessing and I just want to come in here and work hard, play to my strengths, do what I can do and hopefully make an impression on the coaching staff. …
"A lot of guys don’t get the opportunity to play professional basketball at all. I tried to learn through my experiences overseas to help me grow as a player. Hopefully some of the things I learned overseas will rub off and make an impression on these coaches."
Teague draws inspiration from former Purdue teammate Carl Landry, who also sat out the '05-06 season with a knee injury but wound up making the Houston Rockets as a second-round pick and playing well enough to earn Rookie of the Year consideration.
"Carl has always been an inspiration to me," Teague said. "To see a guy bounce back from the injury he had and come back with a great year and make the most of his opportunities and shine with the opportunity that presented itself. He deserves everything that comes his way. He's always been a great guy, a great friend to me and I'm happy for him. I just use his story as an example and an inspiration for myself to continue to work hard and try to follow in his footsteps."
Campbell was a late addition to the camp roster and a late arrival to Thursday morning's practice because he had to complete his physical. Though something of a local celebrity because of his prominent role in Butler's success, Campbell has modest goals.
Butler's Pete Campbell (Getty Images)
"I'm going to go about this step-by-step and the first step is trying to make the summer league roster, which will be determined Sunday," he said. "Whatever I need to do I'm going to try to do and we'll take it from there. Obviously, if I can make an NBA roster after the summer league that'd be great but right now I'm just focusing in on making this summer league team."
Campell's appeal to the Pacers is primarily is long-range shooting stroke. He holds the Butler records for single-season (.519 in 2007-08) and career 3-point percentage (.483) and averaged 11.7 points off the bench. His NBA prospects might be limited but he hopes to take advantage of the opportunity to extend his career somewhere.
"Whoever will have me, that's where I'm going to play," he said. "I'm not going to be very picky about it because I'll be grateful for any situation I get, for any team that wants me to play for them, and do whatever I can to keep a spot on that team. We'll see where the road takes me."
In the meantime, Campbell – like many of the others in this camp – is just trying to keep his dream alive.
"I'm going to play until the wheels fall off, as far as I'm concerned," he said. "This is what I love to do. I can't imagine not doing it. When that day comes I'll have to face it but getting to do what you love every day is worth all the hard work and sacrifice."
They may not stick with the Pacers – the odds, in fact, are long – but these prospects can hope to impress scouts with other NBA teams, or other professional leagues, through this summer exposure.
"We're all just a big family right now, in the same boat, trying to make it, trying to get better or guys already on the team trying to make the team better," said Teague. "We're just going to play hard, compete, try to make each other better and enjoy the experience."