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Pacers Last Stop on Withey's Workout Tour

by Scott Agness | @ScottAgness

June 22, 2013

After working out free agents the past few days, the Pacers brought in five newcomers for the team’s fifth announced pre-draft workout. The group was a mix of likely first rounders, a Division II product and two more players looking to influence a team into selecting them on Thursday at the annual NBA Draft.

On Saturday, team scouts put Matt Dellavedova (St. Mary’s), Angelo Sharpless (Elizabeth City State), Jamaal Franklin (San Diego State), Zeke Marshall (Akron), and Jeff Withey (Kansas) through the usual tests with management observing.

Related: Franklin Following Familiar Footsteps to NBA »

Withey, a center out of the University of Kansas, was a player you couldn’t miss because of his 7-foot frame. In comparison, Roy Hibbert has a couple inches and 50 pounds on Withey, who weighs 222. He knows he must add strength, but believes that will come with time and a more dedicated, professional regimen.

During the workouts – he just completed his 14th and final one – Withey has attempted to show teams that he can score in other ways than just posting up. He has worked on his 15-foot jumper, a weapon he used very little in his four years at Kansas.

Last season, he averaged 13.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game while connecting on 58 percent of his shot attempts. He recorded 13 double-doubles.

The strength of Withey’s game is on the defense end, where the 23-year-old is agile and constantly works to contest and block shots. That’s where he seems to fit right in with the Pacers. However, the team is set at center. Roy Hibbert and Ian Mahinmi each have three more years under contract and Miles Plumlee, last year’s pick, has another year guaranteed and then the next two years are team options.

Even so, Withey wouldn’t be shocked to end up in Indianapolis.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “There’s a lot of weird things that happen in the draft so you never know.”

Withey recognized – and appreciated – how the Pacers were built, from the draft rather than free agency. They have been patient and worked with guys to develop their games.

“That’s something that, as a young player, you look at and get excited about,” Withey added. “They coach people up. They make them great.”

Now that the travel for pre-draft workout is likely over for Withey, the more stressful part emerges: draft night, with the uncertainty of where he might land.

“Especially a guy like me, where I have a pretty big range of where I might go,” he said. “I’ve heard anything from 15 to 30. At the same time, it’s a once and a lifetime opportunity and I’m blessed to be traveling as much as I am.”

Sharpless Aims to Beat the Odds

It doesn’t matter where you play, if you are good, the Pacers will find you. They proved that with Paul George (Fresno State) in the 2010 Draft and Orlando Johnson (UCSB) last summer. Both have similarities with Angelo Sharpness, an explosive athlete featured on many YouTube videos, like this one.

When asked how high he can jump, Sharpless paused, then replied: “Set the bar and I’ll get there.”

His story is intriguing. He played Division II ball at Elizabeth City State University, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. At 23, he’s one of the older players entering the draft. He overcame a broken leg, yet is still tremendously athletic.

“I take great pride [in carrying the torch for Division II players],” Sharpless said with a big grin. “I know a lot of people are pulling for me.”

He already can score and rebound very well. During his senior campaign, he averaged 20.5 points, 8.8 rebounds per game while shooting 50.7 percent.

One big transition for the 6-foot-4 guard is actually playing the guard position. While at Elizabeth City State, he played power forward. That’s forced him to learn how to defend guards. Adding muscle will certainly help.

In addition to his explosiveness, he’s exerted a lot of effort to showcase his defense and leadership – both vocally and by example. Sharpless, who perhaps will go undrafted and end up with the opportunity to pick his situation for summer league, has a positive mindset heading into possibly one of the biggest days of his life.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to play, even if it takes for me to be a cheerleader for one whole year or get in for two minutes or 30 seconds to aggravate somebody. I’ll do that.”

When Sharpless arrived at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday for his ninth pre-draft workout, he was hoping that Pacers swingman Paul George would be in the gym.

“I’m a big fan of Paul George,” he explained. His eyes lit up. “I actually idolize Paul George. I was really pulling for Indiana [in the playoffs].”

So what does he idolize about the NBA’s 2013 Most Improved Player?

“Everything,” he continued. “His will to play, his will to win and his athleticism. I really feel like I can mirror that image. If I can come in here for the Pacers, he could really teach me a lot.

“I just watch all his moves. I try to analyze his moves and try to go back in the gym and be myself like I was like 12. It’s real good just to be in this environment [as] all my favorite players.”

Out of the Mountain West, George has become one of the elite players in the NBA. After graduating from a Big West school, Johnson was selected by the Pacers last June and earned his way into the rotation midway through his rookie season.

Sharpless, who was the Player of the Year in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), is excited and determined to make the most of his chance to be one of the few Division II players to achieve his childhood dream of playing in the NBA.

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