Russ Smith, Will Sheehey Visit Pacers for Pre-Draft Workout

by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor

On Friday morning, the Pacers hosted their second pre-draft workout open to the media in preparation for the NBA Draft on June 26. Friday’s workout featured six perimeter players: Davion Berry (Weber State), DeAndre Daniels (Connecticut), Will Sheehey (Indiana), Russ Smith (Louisville), Xavier Thames (San Diego State), and Kendall Williams (New Mexico).

Of chief interest locally were Smith and Sheehey.

Smith, an explosive scorer who helped Louisville to the 2013 national title, was arguably the top prospect at Friday’s workout. ESPN’s Chad Ford ranks Smith as the 42nd-best prospect in this year’s draft class, while DraftExpress.com has him at 48th. The Pacers own the 57th overall selection, but could conceivably move up in the second round for a small price (such as a future second-rounder) if they really wanted a certain player.

Over the past two seasons, Smith established himself as one of the most prolific scoring guards in the college game. He averaged 18.7 points per game as a junior and 18.2 as a senior. Last year, he shot nearly 47 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point range, excellent numbers given the high volume of shots he attempted and a sign of improved shot selection and decision-making.

Smith has a quick first step and plays with relentless energy, not unlike Pacers guard Lance Stephenson, a fellow New York City product. Stephenson made a brief appearance to check out part of Friday’s workout, but left before the media was allowed in.

The biggest question mark on Smith is his size. He measured just under 6 feet without shoes at the NBA Draft Combine and isn’t a true point guard – he played mostly off-the-ball at Louisville, though he handled the ball more as a senior following the graduation of point guard Peyton Siva, who just finished his rookie year with the Detroit Pistons.

Smith views himself as a “change of pace” combo guard at the next level that “can do a little bit of everything.” He said Friday that he’s relished the pre-draft process because it’s allowed him to show teams what he’s capable of in person.

“(Seeing me in person) they know that I’m an athlete, I can jump, and I can compete,” Smith said. “And they just see it up close. You watch it from a TV and you hear a lot of people say things, you kind get a perception about something without really knowing.”

The last month has been a whirlwind for Smith, who rattled off ten teams he had worked out with before coming to Indiana. When asked where he considered home base for the time being, the former Cardinals star joked, “I don’t even have an address, bro.”

Smith said he thought he helped his stock with a strong performance at a two-day league-wide workout in L.A. in May. He noted that he has yet to back out of any workout and is hungry to prove himself worthy to any team willing to give him a shot.

“I want to do whatever I can win and I’ve always been that way,” Smith said. “And my production at school has shown that I am able to win under any circumstance.”

Smith has a good chance of being drafted, as do a few of the other guys taking part in Friday’s workout (specifically Daniels, and potentially Thames and Williams).

Will Sheehey, who just wrapped a successful four-year career at Indiana University, knows that the odds are stacked against him hearing his name called on draft night. But nonetheless, Sheehey remains determined to continue playing basketball professionally, whether that opportunity comes in the NBA, the Developmental League, or overseas.

At 6-foot-7, Sheehey has solid size to play on the wing at the next level. He averaged 11.4 points per game as a senior and is a good athlete capable of playing above the rim. He has a decent outside shot, shooting 34 percent from 3-point range in his four years in Bloomington.

Since finishing up his college career, Sheehey has been working out in New York City, where his agent is based and his father lives. He said he’s had five or six workouts so far with NBA teams and hopes to have roughly five more in the next two weeks leading up to the draft.

The marks against Sheehey are that he doesn’t do anything at an elite level and isn’t much of a playmaker or rebounder at his position. Still, he believes he can carve out a niche for himself in the pros.

“I’m going to bring the same consistency every day,” Sheehey said. “I’m just going to come in – I’m a guy that’s going to practice hard every single day, I’m going to be the guy that’s in the best shape of anybody on the team, and I’m going to make shots.”

Sheehey said Friday’s workout was particularly competitive and noted a respect for the Pacers’ “hard-nosed, blue collar” style. He is proud of his time with the Hoosiers and remains in contact with many of his former teammates, but he’s also ready to move on.

“I loved every second that I played at IU,” Sheehey said. “Obviously it shaped me as a person and as a player as well. But right now, I’m going to try to focus on playing professionally.”