Experience Shows at Latest Pre-Draft Workout

Zac Walberer/SUNS.com
by Matt Petersen

Experience and strength marked Day 3 of the Suns’ pre-draft workouts. Four seniors, a former D-League star and a sophomore formed the latest group of NBA Draft hopefuls vying to impress Phoenix’s front office and coaching staff.

Each player left various impressions, which the Suns will sort through at week’s end.

“We don’t [collaborate] every day, just because there’s a lot to do,” said Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough. “It’s probably more accurate that we met the next day and talk about what happened the day before. Or maybe even at the end of the week. A week like this, we have four consecutive days of workouts. We’ll meet at the end of the day tomorrow and say, ‘aright, who did you like this week? Who stood out?’ We’ll try to gather a consensus from there.”

In the meantime Isaiah Austin (Baylor big man), P.J. Hairston (D-League wing), Joe Harris (Virginia wing), DeAndre Kane (Iowa State guard), David Wear (UCLA big man) and Scottie Wilbekin (Florida guard) are hoping their footnotes remain relevant after Thursday’s workout.

“KeAndre Kane, he uses his size to get inside,” said Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek. “He shot the ball pretty well. Scottie really pushed the ball, got it down the court.”

“David just played hard,” he continued. “Isaiah showed us what he does. He’s got a nice touch on the jump shot. I thought defensively he did a nice job on pick-and-rolls. He’s not just a big guy who wants to back up. He poked at the ball a few times, got his hands on the ball that way. Joe Harris is a strong player with a nice shot. He has a good understanding of the game.”

D-League Draftee?

Hairston forms a unique case of basketball evaluation for the Suns and the rest of the league. The former North Carolina Tar Heel moved his semi-pro career to the D-League following an NCAA investigation early in the 2013-14 college season.

The move paid off on the court, where he averaged 21.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game while shooting nearly 36 percent from three-point range.

“His strength stands out,” McDonough said. “His ability to shoot the ball and create his own shot stands out in college and in the D-League. I think physically, for a young guy, he was able to go to the D-League and play against men and be pretty effective right away.”

Hornacek, a former NBA three-point contest winner, didn’t need long to see Hairston’s long-range ability on a consistent basis.

“He can get [his shot] off,” he said. “He can shoot it from deep. He’s got a high arc, so he can get it up above everybody. That’s hard to do. Usually when a guy gets tired, you lose the strength to get the shot there. Even when he was tired, he was able to get it there and still look good and not change his form or anything like that.”

Cyclone Connection

It wasn’t hard for DeAndre Kane to recognize Hornacek. He’d seen the same face every day in college.

“Once you’re a Cyclone, you’re always a Cyclone,” Kane said. “That’s one of the best schools and communities. They’ve got pictures up there around the gym to always remind us of the former players that went to the NBA. His picture’s up there. He’s one of the guys that they talk about a lot.”

Kane made the most of his senior year at ISU after transferring from Marshall, putting up 17.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.2 steals per game for the Cyclones. He also shot 39.8 percent from three-point range.

The senior guard noticed Hornacek’s coaching influence in the workout drills right away.

“When I went to another workout, we did a lot of spot shooting,” Kane said. “Here, it was shots on the move. I see that’s what kind of system they run here. It’s game-like workouts.”