Draft Workout: Maxie Esho Pursues 'New England Dream'

WALTHAM, Mass. – Following his Draft workout at the Boston Celtics practice facility Thursday afternoon, Maxie Esho walked around the perimeter of the adjacent media room while his competition was being interviewed by a flock of reporters.

He was inquisitively examining photos from the Celtics’ 2008 NBA Championship run. For the recent University of Massachusetts graduate, it was a trip down memory lane.

“It’s a lot of history,” said the 6-foot-8 forward. And having attended prep school in New England prior to his four-year career at UMass, it’s history that he’s quite familiar with.

Esho and members of his AAU basketball team appeared in an adidas commercial with Kevin Garnett, following Boston’s 2008 banner run. The group was given a tour of the TD Garden, while KG spit out advice and knowledge of Celtics tradition.

“He’s one of the coolest guys I’ve met from the NBA,” Esho recalled with a laugh.

Esho’s favorite part of the event was when Garnett spontaneously took the group out into the street to meet the Boston faithful.

“We walked out in the street,” said Esho, who originally hails from Maryland. “Out of nowhere a crowd of people just started following. It wasn’t a script, nobody knew about it, and we were just passing out T-shirts. You could feel the love that the Boston fans have for their team here.”

Esho’s journey through high school, at Lee Academy in Maine, and college, in Amherst, has now brought him full-circle; it’s only fitting that his first Draft workout was with the team he is so familiar with.

Like KG, Esho brings a lot of energy and passion to the game. For three seasons at UMass, he was the main spark off the bench and was a regular on SportsCenter’s top 10 for his high-flying alley-oop finishes. This past season, he earned a starting role for the Minutemen and averaged 11.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

One of Esho’s best performances came last November at the Garden against Boston College, when he scored a game-high 23 points and corralled nine rebounds during a win.

He felt strong about the majority of his workout Thursday, though he was forced to stop early after taking an elbow to the head.

He can’t help but ponder what it would be like if given the opportunity to return to the Garden, this time donning green and white.

“I guess you could say it would be a New England dream,” said Esho. “I went to prep school here … college. It’d be crazy.”

Satnam Singh aims to become first Indian-born NBA player

Another relatively unknown player chasing a dream at Thursday’s Draft workout was Satnam Singh. The 7-foot-2, 290-pound center is hoping to become the first Indian-born athlete to play in the NBA.

Just a senior at IMG Academy (Brandenton Fla.), he is the first player since 2005 to declare for the NBA Draft without college, overseas or NBA Development League playing experience.

Despite Singh’s lack of experience, director of player personnel Austin Ainge liked what he saw out of the big man.

“He’s a little raw, but he actually shoots the ball really well,” said Ainge, who jokingly referred to Singh as a “stretch five and a half.”

“And he’s not just tall, he’s also thick,” continued Ainge. “He’s humongous.”

It’s that size that initially earned Singh a scholarship offer from IMG. His friends and family back home saw his potential and encouraged him to pursue a basketball career.

“Everyone said, ‘Because you have good (height), good hands, your skill is good; you have to play in the NBA,’” said Singh. “So I said ‘OK, I’ll go try to do my best over here.’”

He received no collegiate scholarship offers, so he decided to enter the Draft this spring.

Ainge believes the 19-year-old has “a bright future” and is “an interesting prospect.” Only time will tell.

Also in attendance

Kansas freshman Cliff Alexander, the 2014 Naismith Boy’s High School Player of the Year, was the most renowned athlete at Thursday’s workout. The athletic, 6-8 forward did not play the final eight games of Kansas’ season due to an NCAA investigation regarding the acceptance of impermissible benefits. Despite seeing limited competitive action over the last three months, Ainge said Alexander performed well and shot “a little better than you could see at Kansas” … University of California’s all-time leading shot-blocker David Kravish was with the Celtics for his second consecutive workout … Rounding out the group were two point guards: Chasson Randle of Stanford and George de Paula of Brazil. Russell, a four-year collegiate player, was the NIT Most Outstanding Player for the champion Cardinal this past season. De Paula boasts incredible size for a point guard; he stands 6-6 with a 7-foot wingspan.