Seltzer's Notebook: Cordinier, Poythress Stand Out; Austin Shows Talent

by Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter

French Pro Prospect Impresses
At 19 and a half years old, Isaia Cordinier (pronounced ‘eez-EYE-uh CHORD-in-yay’) was the youngest of the six players the Sixers hosted for Thursday's pre-draft workouts at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.  His style of play, and the qualities of his game that stood out the most, fit that fact accordingly.

“High-energy kid,” Marc Eversley said of the 6’4” tall, 170-pound French guard, who was raised about a half hour from Paris.  “Plays with a lot of passion, a lot of emotion.  Can make shots.  High ‘twitch’ guy.  Very nice player.”

Despite his age, Cordinier, in one sense, could have actually been regarded as the most experienced prospect the Sixers studied on Thursday.  That’s because since late 2012, he’s been playing professionally, suiting up for three different organizations in France’s National Basketball League (LNB).

After appearing in only six contests his first two seasons, both of which were spent with Antibes, Cordinier has gone on to compete in 55 outings over the past two years.  In a career-high 32 tilts for Denain ASC Voltaire this season, he’s made 18 starts, put up 10.8 points per game, and hit 40 of his 99 three-point field goal attempts.  

“I play with grown men,” said Cordinier through a heavy French accent Thursday.  “They are 30, 35 [years old].  They got a little experience.  Their bodies are finished.  I can learn a lot on I.Q., the read of the defense, and on the offense, too.  Couple details when you’re pro you’re obliged to be focused on.”

Eversley believes the amount of time that Cordinier has spent in the pro ranks is a plus.

“Certainly helps,” said Eversley, who added Cordinier had a “very good day” Thursday.  “In the league that he played in France, he played against men, as opposed to the American kids here who played in college.  It’s certainly a benefit to him, especially in making this transition to the NBA.”

Cordinier first discovered his “passion” for basketball at the age of six.  The son of a handball player who was a member of the 1996 French Olympic club, Cordinier has valued his father’s influence, considering it pivotal to his own development.  

“It’s my first coach since I started sports in general,” Cordinier said.  “He wanted me to be the best.  When he saw that I really loved basketball, he pushed me every day. Physical drills, and after, every day one-on-one against him.  It prepared me for the professional world.  He [taught] me to act like a professional since I’m very young.  He helped me a lot to [get] here.”

Cordinier named fellow Frenchman Nando de Colo, a former San Antonio Spurs draft pick who was recently tabbed the Euroleague MVP, Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo, and Toronto Raptors big man Bismack Biyomobo as players he admires, based on the defensive intensity they bring to the court.  

At the moment, Cordinier is projected to be selected in the middle stages of the second round.  His goal, however, is to break into the top 30 on June 23rd.

“That’s what I work for every day,” said Cordinier, referring to being a first round pick.  “That’s my only goal for this summer.”

Cordinier also travelled to the United States in April for the annual Nike Hoop Summit showcase in Portland, where he notched eight points and five rebounds.  In addition to his visit to Philadelphia, Cordinier has plans to meet with the Boston Celtics, Raptors, and New Orleans Pelicans.

Poythress Feels Good About Workout, Believes Four Years Paid Off
Even after Thursday’s workout left him with a busted upper lip, Alex Poythress thought he had a good day.

“One of the best workouts,” he said about the performance he delivered at PCOM in front of Sixers President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo and head coach Brett Brown.

Vice President of Player Personnel Marc Eversley was also in attendance, and agreed with Poythress, saying the forward “stood out.”

That a Kentucky product recruited and coached by John Calipari boasts professional potential is nothing new.  This year alone, three Wildcats - Jamal Murray, Skal Labissiere, and Tyler Ulis - have all received first-round grades.    

The factor that distinguishes Poythress’ path, however, is the length of his tenure in Blue and White.  He stayed with the team through his senior year.  By comparison, Murray and Labissiere spent only one season in Lexington, while Ulis opted to leave following his sophomore campaign.  Since Calipari assumed control of Kentucky in 2009, only one player - Darius Miller - reached the NBA on the heels of a four-year Wildcat career.   

“It’s crazy,” Poythress said, as he reflected on the future pros that once were his college teammates.  “You get to play with the best each and every day.  Each and every year, you have guys going to the next level.  I’m just grateful to get my opportunity now to play with a lot of them.  I’m just happy to be up there with them.”

Poythress started his stint at Kentucky in 2012, which also marked the beginning of Nerlens Noel’s lone season with the Wildcats.  Julius Randle passed through the program the following year, with Karl-Anthony Towns doing so the year after that.

Poythress believes he’s reaped the rewards from having competed alongside elite talent, saying Thursday that his own game has “gotten way better.”  In particular, he looked back fondly on the relationship he fostered with Noel.

“Nerlens is a great dude,” Poythress said.  “That’s one of my boys.  He’s one of the best.  Really good dude.”

In addition to arriving on Kentucky’s campus the same year, Poythress and Noel share another common experience.  They both endured ACL tears.  Poythress sustained his as a junior, but responded with a productive senior year, accoutning for 10.2 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.

“The thing about Alex is, he just keeps moving forward,” said Eversley.  “He keeps getting better.  He’s got a great body, he’s got great size, he’s an explosive jumper, and he’s got a developing jump shot.  For him, he just needs to continue to work and improve his game.  He comes from a great program, Kentucky.  He’s got a future, for sure.”

During a three-on-three scrimmage towards the end of Thursday’s workout, Poythress collided with Stanford’s Rosco Allen.  Poythress took a moment to get to his feet, and shrugged off a cut in his mouth.  When Poythress spoke to reporters afterwards, there was still some blood caked on a few of his upper teeth.  

“Not too bad,” he said.  “I’ll bounce back.  It’s what I’ll always do.”

Imhotep’s Austin Enjoys Being Home
When Brandon Austin walked into the Sixers’ PCOM practice gym, his eyes immediately fixed on the sideline wall where there hang banners recognizing over two dozen of the most decorated players in Sixers history. 

Several of those players were ones Austin followed while growing up in Philadelphia.

“It’s a dream come true,” Austin said of getting an invitation to try out for his hometown NBA team.  “I’m thankful for the opportunity.”

At Imhotep Charter, Austin dominated.  As a senior during the 2012-2013 season, he guided the school to a 28-5 record, and a third straight PIAA AAA state tilt.  That year, he averaged 22 points, eight rebounds, and six assists, en route to earning top 50 rankings from several prominent recruiting services.  

Austin was originally recruited to Providence.  He then ended up at Oregon, but didn’t play there, either.  For the 2014-2015 season, Austin attended Northwest Florida State College, contributing to the Raiders’ junior college national championship run.  Last year, he spent time with the Orangeville A’s, a pro team from Ontario that belongs to the National Basketball League of Canada.

“I’m a good kid,” Austin said Thursday.  “My intentions are never bad. I may have took a few mistakes in the past, but I’ve grown as a person, and I’m still standing to this day.”

In the last three years, Austin thinks he’s grown “a lot mentally.”  He considers his handle and shooting to be his most NBA-ready attributes, and, with a wiry frame, realizes that adding muscle is a must.

“I think you saw today, he’s certainly a talent,” said Sixers Vice President of Player Personnel Marc Eversley.  “He’s got great size.  He can handle it, he can make plays, he does a really nice job finishing at the rim.”

“I’m very confident in myself,” said the 6’7” tall Austin, whose favorite player is Allen Iverson.  “I believe in myself 100 percent.  I trained very hard to get back where I was, or even better.”

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