Magic Players Help Caupain Celebrate Joyous Moment

Summer League teammates, Gordon, Ross & Augustin join in
by John Denton

LAS VEGAS – Each time one of his former Lakeland Magic teammates – Khem Birch, Wes Iwundu and Rodney Purvis to name a few – got call-ups to the Orlando Magic last season, Troy Caupain would convey his congratulations and add in a pointed promise.

``I told them, `I’m going to see ya’ll up there,’’’ Caupain recalled on Wednesday after the Magic wrapped up preparations for Thursday’s 10 p.m. ET (NBA TV) game against the Utah Jazz in the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League.

Caupain, 22, proved to be a man of his word when he signed a two-way contract with the Magic on Tuesday night during a team dinner. All of his Magic summer league teammates – and Orlando veteran players Aaron Gordon, Terrence Ross and D.J. Augustin – gathered around to help him celebrate the joyous moment. And, in his excitement for the rugged point guard, rookie center Mohamed Bamba let the news slip out prematurely by posting a picture of Caupain signing his deal on his Instagram story account.

``Once (Magic Assistant GM) Pete (D’Alessandro) came and said we’re going to get (the contract) done at dinner and told me to open up the folder, everybody just came around me and congratulated me,’’ Caupain said. ``Mo’s Instagram was popping and everybody put it up there. But, hey, I’m thankful.’’

For Caupain, landing a deal that will have him splitting his time between the Orlando and Lakeland Magic in the season ahead was a watershed moment and proof that he made the right decision in turning down more lucrative European offers to pursue his NBA dream. He accomplished that goal with how he played last season in Lakeland (15.6 points, 7.5 assists and 1.7 steals a night in 50 games) and how he has run the team in the summer league (12 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists on 52 percent shooting in three games) for the 2-1 Magic.

``Right now, I told myself that I’m chasing a dream,’’ Caupain said of passing on offers to play Europe. ``If I can get NBA before 25 (years old), (he’s going to) chase the dream. If I don’t make it (by) 25, I’ve got to provide for myself and my family. I’d be getting older and it’d be time to step up and I’d go overseas to do it for the money.

``But right now, I’m just doing this for the dream,’’ he added. ``Playing in the G League was just the start of the dream, then (hopefully reaching) the NBA. Whatever happened last summer is over and this is a new season. I’m just happy to have a two-way contract and the organization believes in me.’’

With point guard Isaiah Briscoe (bruised right shin) unlikely to play on Thursday when tournament-style play begins, Caupain should be the Magic’s starter at lead guard. Just how much the Magic will ask of promising prospects Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba going forward is also up in the air, meaning Caupain could be looked to even more to carry the squad. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound guard has certainly proven himself more than capable of shouldering the load and with the way he’s been a poised leader thus far, Magic assistant coach Pat Delany said.

``A lot of what we heard before actually being up close to him and being around him from the guys who have scouted him in Lakeland has been true in terms of his toughness and organization as a point guard,’’ Delany said. ``He gets everybody in their spots and gets them their shots and he has the competitive DNA. It’s a different dynamic that he brings – similar to with Isaiah (Briscoe) – and we’re excited that he’s going to be part of (the Magic).’’

Caupain is also very excited that he’s going to be a part of the Magic after the way he’s had to claw his through basketball. Once a high school star in Virginia, Caupain played four years at the University of Cincinnati where he became the school’s all-time leader in assists (515) and finished tied for 22ndin scoring (1,317).

Despite those accomplishments, he wasn’t selected in the 2017 NBA Draft. He played for Toronto’s Summer League squad last July and got an invite to Orlando’s training camp in September. Not long after being waived by the Magic, he signed on with Lakeland. The hope all along, he said, was to play well enough to earn a call up with to the Magic’s parent club at the NBA level.

Despite him posting stellar G League numbers, that call never came. Meanwhile, G League teammates such as Birch, Iwundu, Purvis and Jamel Artis were promoted to the NBA level. Artis, who is no longer with the Magic, was a two-way player for the Magic last season and ultimately appeared in 15 NBA games. Caupain made the best of his time in Lakeland, leading the new franchise to its first-ever playoff berth, but still he longed for an NBA promotion. Now, he has the kind of contract that should allow him to reach his NBA dreams.

``It was hard, you know, because everybody wants to play in the NBA, but I was just very happy for them,’’ he said. ``As they say, `your time is coming’ and `everything happens for a reason,’ and that’s what I kept telling myself. I wasn’t going to get down on myself because there are more years to come and more games to play. When opportunity knocked on your door, you’ve got to be ready to open it. Regardless of what happened, when my guys went up, I was happy for them because that’s something that we can talk about.

``I’m just thankful that I get the opportunity to be with them for another year.’’

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