After hosting projected lottery picks for pre-draft workouts over the past few days, the Pacers held another group workout on Wednesday at Ascension St. Vincent Center, their 10th workout in preparation for next Thursday's 2022 NBA Draft.
The six prospects in town for Wednesday's workout won't be lottery picks, but could be options in the second round, where Indiana has the 31st and 58th overall selections.
Headlining the group was a pair of point guards - Gonzaga's Andrew Nembhard and Vanderbilt's Scotty Pippen Jr.
No Division I program has won more games than Gonzaga over the past two seasons. The Bulldogs have been loaded with talent, with Jalen Suggs and Corey Kispert both drafted in the top 15 in 2021, Chet Holmgren a serious contender to be the number-one pick in 2022, and Drew Timme earning All-American honors in each of the past two seasons.
Amidst all that talent, Nembhard has played mostly in the background, but there's no denying his impact on his team's success. The 6-5 guard has dished out 324 assists over the past two seasons since transferring from Florida, maintaining a 3.2 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Nembhard averaged 11.8 points and ranked 15th in the NCAA with 5.8 assists per game last season as a senior. He shot it well from both 3-point range (38.3 percent) and the free throw line (87.3 percent) while also forcing 1.6 steals per game defensively.
A native of Ontario, Nembhard prides himself of being "a guy that can fit in around other good players," something he showed at Gonzaga but then backed up at the NBA Draft Combine last month in Chicago. Nembhard dominated a scrimmage there, dropping 26 points and 11 assists against just two turnovers.
Nembhard was originally scheduled to work out for the Pacers immediately following the combine on May 23, but wound up rescheduling, instead visiting Indianapolis this week.
Teams know that Nembhard is capable of setting up teammates to succeed, but he also thinks he can score when called upon, something he's tried to showcase over the pre-draft process.
"In college, with how many good players I played around - I want to win games," Nembard said. "I'm trying to get everybody involved. I think in this process I can show a little bit more of my scoring ability."
2022 Draft Workouts: Andrew Nembhard
Comfortable playing on or off the ball, Nembhard has seemingly all the attributes a team would be looking for in a backup combo guard. His calm presence on and off the court reminds many of Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon, who won Rookie of the Year after being drafted by Milwaukee with the 36th overall pick in 2016. Nembhard told the media on Wednesday he's heard that comparison before and sees the resemblance in both their style of play and their demeanor.
Nembhard considers himself one of the top point guards in this year's draft class. He's hopeful that he has shown enough that someone takes him in the first round next week, but regardless of when he hears his name called, he promised the team that picks him won't regret it.
"I think they're getting a mature kid who's trying to get to the league, but also do something in the league, keep getting better," Nembhard said. "I want to prove to everybody that I can stick. I think you're just getting a hard worker and someone who loves the game."
While Nembhard played more of a supporting role while surrounded by so much talent in college, Pippen was asked to carry a heavy offensive load while at Vanderbilt.
Pippen averaged 20.8 points per game as a sophomore in 2020-21 and 20.4 points last season as a junior, when he led the SEC and ranked 14th in the nation in scoring. He was the first SEC player to average over 20 points per game for two straight seasons since LSU's Ronnie Hamilton from 1994-96.
After playing at Sierra Canyon High School in Los Angeles (where he was teammates with current Pacer Duane Washington Jr.), Pippen was a prized recruit for former NBA All-Star Jerry Stackhouse, who took over a Vanderbilt program in shambles after going 0-18 in the SEC the year before Stackhouse and Pippen's arrival. The Commodores won just three SEC games during each of the duo's first two seasons in Nashville, but went 19-17 last season and earned an NIT bid.
With more talent around him, Pippen will be asked to play a different role in the NBA. In addition to his scoring, he did average 4.6 assists over the past two seasons. He said Wednesday he views himself as capable of playing the same role as players like Jalen Brunson and Fred VanVleet did out of college, initially serving as a backup point guard while gradually taking on more scoring responsbilities.
2022 Draft Workouts: Scotty Pippen Jr.
"That's what I'm trying to show," Pippen said. "Just show that I can be a playmaker. Everyone knows that I can score the ball. Just going into these workouts, being a playmaker and showing that my game would translate."
Of course, Pippen has lived his whole life under the shadow of his famous father, six-time NBA champion and Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen (the younger Pippen spells his name "Scotty," which is how it is spelled on his father's birth certificate).
Scotty Jr. was just three years old when his dad played his last NBA game. Having a father of that stature has at times placed added pressure on him, but he's also been able to lean on him for advice throughout his career.
There aren't a ton of similarities between Pippen and his father. Scottie Pippen is 6-8 and was an elite defender, while Scotty Jr. is 6-2 and known more for his offensive talents. The younger Pippen said he's never even tried to emulate his father's game.
"I'm my own person," he said. "That's my own legacy. I've always stood out. We're both different players. We played in different eras."
Procida, Travers Add International Flavor to Workout
The two tallest players at Wednesday's workout traveled to Indianapolis from opposite corners of the globe. 6-7 Gabrielle Procida is from Como, Italy, while 6-8 Luke Travers hails from Perth, Australia.
Both players elected to enter the draft this year after playing professionally in their home countries.
Procida, who turned 20 on June 1, averaged 7 points and 3 rebounds per game last season for Fortitudo Bologna. He grew up idolizing Klay Thompson and considers himself to have similar attributes as a big shooting guard capable of knocking down shots from the perimeter.
The Italian shot over 38 percent from 3-point range last season. He is a good athlete who enjoys playing in transition, as he showed after being invited to the combine and testing well, displaying a 35-inch vertical and tying for the fastest time in the three-quarter court sprint at 3.07 seconds.
2022 Draft Workouts: Gabriele Procida
"I try to put a lot of energy on the court," Procida said of his style of play. "Play with athleticism, make the right decision for my teammates. Take a lot of shots coming off (screens). A lot of pull-ups, a lot of athleticism at the rim."
The 20-year-old Travers has played three seasons for his hometown Perth Wildcats in Australia's NBL. He spent his first two seasons as a development player before being promoted to a fully contracted role last season.
Travers averaged 7.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.3 assists last season before electing to come to America to pursue his NBA dreams. His jump shot is admittedly a work in progress, but he sees himself capable of growing into a 3-and-D role.
"Unique, versatile," Travers said of his game. "I like to do a little bit of everything, whether it's on the defensive end or offensive end. I think it's just a unique type of a style. A little bit gritty as well."
2022 Draft Workouts: Luke Travers
The NBL has produced a number of NBA players over the years, from Americans like LaMelo Ball who have opted to spend a year in the league instead of going to college to homegrown products like Josh Giddey. Other NBA veterans like Andrew Bogut have returned to the NBL for the final years of their career.
Playing against that level of competition instilled toughness in Travers at a young age, something he hopes is on display during the pre-draft process. Wednesday was his seventh team workout since coming over from Australia last month.
"I'm going to play harder than everyone," Travers vowed. "I think that just comes from Australian basketball. Just gritty. I'm going to outwork the opponent."
Jackson, Jeffries Offer Athleticism in Backcourt
The final two prospects at Wednesday's workout were Texas A&M guard Quenton Jackson and Wyoming's Drake Jeffries.
The two players had somewhat similar journeys, as neither began college at the Division I level.
Jackson attended junior college after failing to qualify for college academically out of high school, but his hard work on the court and in the classroom over two seasons at the College of Central Florida allowed him to earn a scholarship to Texas A&M in 2019.
The 6-4 Jackson played a variety of roles for coach Buzz Williams in his three seasons with the Aggies, playing four positions and both starting and coming off the bench.
Jackson started just 15 of 40 games last season, but still was a major contributor, leading Texas A&M in scoring (14.8 points per game) and steals (1.8). He helped the Aggies close the year with runs to the finals of both the SEC Tournament and the NIT, averaging 15.6 points and 2 steals per game over that span.
After his initial struggles to get into college, Jackson also earned a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M and pursued a graduate degree over the past year.
"Everything that went on towards the end of that season at Texas A&M was not only great for me, but great for my team, great for Texas A&M as a school," Jackson said. "I've just tried to ride that wave all the way throughout this and make something happen for myself."
2022 Draft Workouts: Quenton Jackson
Jeffries spent two seasons at Division II Minot State and another year at Indian Hills Community College before enrolling at Wyoming in 2020. The 6-5 guard established himself as a 3-point specialist for the Cowboys, shooting 39.4 percent from beyond the arc over the past two seasons and 40.9 percent last season on nearly seven attempts per game.
He set a school and conference record by going 11-for-17 from 3-point range in a win over Hastings College on Nov. 26.
Jeffries lived outside the arc at Wyoming. Remarkably, just 16 of his 246 shots last season came inside the 3-point line.
Still, Jeffries thinks he can be more than just a shooter at the next level. He has a 40-inch vertical and has learned how to use that athleticism more on the defensive end.
Jeffries enters the draft hoping to carry over some of the lessons he learned while at Wyoming.
"Every day, you have to go in like it's your last and you have to have that edge, that chip on your shoulder," he said. "I think that's something that we all kind of had which propelled us to 25 wins and an at-large bid at the NCAA Tournament."