Patricio Garino, Marcus Georges-Hunt Excited for Opportunity with Magic
By John Denton
April 3, 2017
CLEVELAND – Patricio Garino once called Central Florida home for a two-year stretch of his life, while Marcus Georges-Hunt has always considered Orlando to be a home-away-from-home what with him bringing his son here often for the theme parks.
For the next seven months, at least, Orlando figures to be home to the two well-travelled wing players.
Eager to get a look at the two guard/forward’s shooting abilities and playmaking prowess, the Magic plucked Garino and Georges-Hunt out of the NBA Development League and signed them for the rest of the season. Both players will most likely play for the Magic’s Summer League team in July and potentially battle for a roster spot in training camp in October.
For Garino, a 6-foot-6, 203-pound native of Argentina, the return to Orlando was especially emotional. He graduated from Montverde High School after spending two years there and the first-ever NBA game he attended was in Orlando six years ago.
``This is an area that I know very well and for myself this is where my (basketball) dream started,’’ said Garino, who played collegiately at George Washington University and spent this season with the Austin (Texas) Spurs of the D-League. ``I came all the way from Argentina to Orlando for high school and now the dream is coming true (with the Magic). It’s a very humbling experience.’’
To make room for Garino and Georges-Hunt on the roster, the Magic (27-50) waived seldom-used shooting guard C.J. Wilcox. Garino and Georges-Hunt will both be in uniform on Tuesday when Orlando faces LeBron James and the Cavaliers (49-27) in Cleveland.
Besides both players having ties to Orlando, there is another common denominator that the Magic saw in them: solid 3-point shooting. Garino was a 43 percent 3-point shooter this season in the D-League, while Georges-Hunt connected on 39.2 percent of his shots from beyond the arc while playing for the Maine Red Claws. The Magic dramatically shifted their style of play back in mid-February to more of a small-ball approach with a greater reliance on 3-point shooting. The team is still in search of more long-range shooting and they like what they have seen so far from Garino and Georges-Hunt.
``I like that both of them are big-time shooters and both of them knocked down 40 percent in the D-League, they’re capable defenders and great culture guys,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said following Monday’s practice. ``They are high IQ guys with good competitive spirit and fight and determination. Those are all the qualities that we’re looking to bring into here.’’
Georges-Hunt, a 6-foot-6, 220-pounder who can check both guards and small forwards, averaged 15.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.02 steals in 45 games with Maine. His finest game in the D-League came when he had 22 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds on Nov. 18, but he also compiled 27 points and nine assists on March 9 and had 23 points and five 3-pointers on Jan. 19. He drilled at least three 3-pointers 13 times this season.
``Not just (3-point shooting), but I can play defense, space the floor and being able to knock down open shots,’’ said Georges-Hunt, a native of suburban Atlanta who played four years at Georgia Tech. ``When (Magic point guard) Elfrid (Patyon) or D.J. (Augustin) are driving, I can keep my spacing and deliver that (3-point shot).’’
Georges-Hunt played two preseason games with the Celtics and signed a 10-day contract with the Miami Heat, but he never got into a regular-season game. Knowing that he will be in Orlando for the next few months should allow him to develop his game, he said.
``Being able to build relationships with all these guys is going to be great and they welcomed me today with open arms,’’ he said following his first practice with the Magic. ``I can’t wait to get to work and really get to know each and every one of the guys here.’’
Garino, 23, was a rising Argentinian player as a teenager and he likely could have turned professional and played in Europe. Instead, his family made the decision to send the then-16-year-old to America so that he could attend Montverde and later college. Doing that allowed him to chase the American dream, he said.
``Money wasn’t a factor, and my family wanted me getting a degree from a great university here in the U.S. knowing that I’d have a back-up plan if something happened or basketball didn’t come through,’’ Garino said.
Garino went undrafted after his stellar career at George Washington University. The pursuit of the NBA dream started last July when he went through the Orlando Summer League with the Magic before leaving early to train with the Argentinian National Team for the Summer Olympics. He later signed with the Spurs and got his first taste of playing on the Amway Center parquet floor – something he dreamed about six years earlier as a Montverde High School player. He had four points and two steals in 11 minutes on Oct. 12 in San Antonio’s 95-89 defeat of the Magic in preseason play.
``It was a mix of emotions,’’ Garino said. ``I had a lot of family and friends at the arena and I was playing against the Magic. Coming from Argentina, playing alongside of (Spurs standout Manu) Ginobili, that was an incredible experience, too. So there was a mix of emotions that night.’’
In 49 D-League games this season, Garino averaged 11.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.49 steals a game. He had big games on March 17 (five steals), Feb 9 (26 points on nine-of-13 shooting) and he had stellar 3-point shooting nights on March 26 (four-of-four), Feb. 12 (five-of-six), Jan. 6 (four-of-four) and Nov. 17 (four-of-four). However, his most clutch performance was on Saturday (15 points, three steals and six-of-eight shooting) when he was told just hours before the final game of the D-League season that the Magic wanted to sign him.
``It was emotional, I had anxiety and I didn’t even eat lunch before the game,’’ Garino said of his excitement about joining the Magic. ``There were a lot of things going, so I was excited. I was kind of scared, to be honest.
``Definitely, I can knock down the open three,’’ he added. ``But the key to my game is playing defense, bring that energy, be a team-first player, make the extra pass and be in the right position.’’
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