Soft-Spoken Snell Speaks Up on the Court

Wheat Hotchkiss

June 24, 2013 | Updated 6:40 PM EDT

For most of the prospects at Monday’s pre-draft workout, the Pacers were their last stop before Thursday night’s NBA Draft. Not so for Tony Snell, a 6-foot-7 wing out of New Mexico.

Snell said Monday’s workout was his 18th audition for an NBA team in the past month. And he’s not done – Snell still has two more workouts scheduled before Thursday.

That demanding schedule is probably comforting to Snell, affording him a few more opportunities to impress NBA scouts and take his mind off draft night. Nerves pester every player in the draft, but especially guys like Snell. Snell, who declared for the draft after his junior year, projects to go in either the late first round, where he’d be guaranteed a multi-year contract, or the early second round, where he’d have no assurance of sticking on an NBA roster.

Snell said he left school early because of “just a feeling” that he was ready, but he won’t know for sure if he had good intuition until Thursday night.

“I’m a little nervous,” Snell admitted Monday. “I’ve been through this whole process, but I know at the end it’s going to pay off. I’m just hoping, waiting til Thursday.”

Snell’s primary strength is his ability to shoot the ball. At New Mexico, he played primarily at small forward and has the size to play that position or shooting guard in the NBA. Snell averaged 12.5 points per game as a junior while shooting 39 percent from 3-point range and 84.3 percent from the free throw line. He displayed a knack for running off screens that should continue to get him open looks at the next level.

In that respect, Snell compares favorably with another former Lobo, Danny Granger, whom the Pacers took 17th overall in the 2005 Draft. Granger usually runs a summer basketball camp in New Mexico over the summer, and he’s visited with Snell when he’s been out west. Snell said Granger’s encouraged him as he goes through the pre-draft process, reminding him to stay in the gym and keep working hard.

While Snell shares a few similarities with Granger, the current Pacers player he more closely resembles physically is Paul George. Snell has a long frame (his wingspan measured just a half-inch short of seven feet at the NBA Combine) and excellent speed, tools that could allow him to be an elite defender. Though his primary role in New Mexico’s offense was to run off screens, he still managed to record almost three assists per game, showing a knack to create for others when handling the ball.

Snell certainly has similar gifts as George, but that doesn’t mean he’s near the level of the NBA’s Most Improved Player just yet. Snell was an inconsistent offensively up until his last days in Albuquerque – he averaged 17.7 points and hit 12-of-20 3-pointers in the Mountain West Tournament to garner MVP honors, then turned around and put up just nine points on 1-of-6 shooting from deep in a disappointing loss to 14th-seeded Harvard in the NCAA Tournament.

Despite his size and athleticism, Snell averaged just 2.6 rebounds per game as a junior, and he admitted Monday that he needs to show teams he can be better in that area. Where else is he trying to improve?

“I’m trying to show that I can compete on the court and communicate with my teammates,” Snell said.

The latter point is especially noteworthy. Off the court, Snell’s a man of few words. He was perfectly cordial with the media in his post-workout interview, but his short responses backed up his reputation as a soft-spoken individual.

But on the court, Snell was just the opposite. At the end of Monday’s workout, Snell and fellow guards Nate Wolters and C.J. Harris took turns shooting until they made five shots from various stations around the arc. Snell was far and away the most vocal player, shouting out encouragement to Wolters and Harris and echoing each swish with a loud “There you go!”

When it was his turn to shoot, Snell showed no signs of a learning curve in adjusting to the NBA’s longer 3-point line. He missed just once at the last two stations, with only a couple shots even grazing the rim.

It’s clear that Tony Snell is most comfortable in the gym. So it’s appropriate that that’s where he’ll spend the last couple days before the draft, two more chances to make an impression, two more chances to prove his instincts right.

Versatile Scorer Motum Trying to Prove He Belongs

In most years, the Pac-12’s leading scorer would be given strong consideration for a lottery pick. But not this year.

Brock Motum, a 6-foot-8 forward out of Washington State, led the Pac-12 in scoring each of the past two seasons. Yet most mock drafts have the native Australian going undrafted.

“I think up in Pullman, Washington we don’t get a lot of media or a lot of love up there,” Motum said Monday. “So I think if I’ve had gone to a bigger city or something, I might be a little more publicized.”

Over the past month, Motum has been trying to prove that the flair he flashed for scoring up in Pullman can translate to the brighter lights of the NBA. Monday’s audition with the Pacers was his 11th and last-scheduled workout.

Motum showed tremendous growth over his four years in college. After playing sparingly as a freshman, he moved into the regular rotation and averaged 7.6 points in just over 19 minutes as a sophomore.

But it wasn’t until his junior year that Motum really broke out. Motum averaged 18 points per game and 6.4 rebounds while shooting just under 40 percent from 3-point range. He was named the Pac-12’s Most Improved Player and was a first team All-Conference selection. As a senior, he upped his average to 18.7 points per game, scoring in double figures in all 32 contests.

Motum said he definitely considers his offensive game to be his strength, and has spent the past couple months working on extending his range to the NBA 3-point line. If all goes well, Motum thinks he could be a versatile, scoring “stretch-4” at the next level.

“I’ve got a great mid-post game, a lot of moves, and stretching out to the perimeter’s just that last step,” Motum said.

Throughout the process, Motum said he’s kept in touch with Saint Mary’s point guard Matt Dellavedova, who worked out for the Pacers on Saturday. Motum and Dellavedova were roommates at the Australian Institute before coming to America for college. Despite highly-decorated college careers, both players are facing an uphill battle to make an NBA roster.

Still, Motum is pleased just to have the chance to get in front of NBA scouts, and he’s hopeful he’ll catch someone’s eye.

”It’s just a great opportunity to come here in front of all these guys and try to impress,” Motum said. “Just work as hard as I can and showcase my ability.”

Harris Learning the Point

C.J. Harris wasn’t even supposed to be at Monday’s workout. The 6-foot-3 Wake Forest guard’s name was not on the initial list of prospects the Pacers released Sunday.

But with Louisville guard Peyton Siva unable to attend, Harris got a last-minute call from his agent, Benjamin Pensack.

“I was eating breakfast, my agent called me and said, ‘You ready for Indiana tomorrow?,’” Harris told the media Monday. “I said, ‘Sure,’ packed up, and went straight to the airport.”

Harris is another prospect unlikely to hear his name called Thursday night, but that doesn’t mean he’s lacking in credentials. Harris was a gifted scorer in college, leading the Demon Deacons in each of his final two seasons. He averaged 16.7 points per game and shot 42 percent from 3-point range as a junior, then averaged 15.4 points while hitting 43 percent of his long-range attempts as a senior.

Harris is not only a skilled player on the court, he is a high-character person. A Winston-Salem resident, Harris chose to play for his hometown school, and was elected team captain in each of his last three years at Wake. When his career ended in March, he wrote a thoughtful letter to fans thanking them for their support that ran on the school’s athletics website. He graduated in May with a degree in communication and a minor in entrepeneurship and social enterprise, and hopes to go into broadcasting when his basketball career is over.

Harris played off the ball during his time at Wake Forest, but at his size he likely won’t have that luxury at the next level. The two-time third team All-ACC selection knows he needs to learn a new position.

“(Scoring) comes natural,” Harris said. “So I’m really working on bettering my point guard skills.”

What all goes into transitioning to point guard? Harris said there’s a lot he’s trying to learn.

“I think it’s more than ball-handling,” Harris said. “It’s reading defenses, getting the ball to the right players at the right time, little things like that.”

Though Harris is a longshot to make an NBA roster right away, he has the opportunity to hone his point guard skills for a year or two in the Developmental League or overseas. If he can make the transition successfully, there could be an NBA spot down the road for a shooter of his caliber.