The NBA‘s top draft picks and most touted prospects will command attention during the NBA Summer League. But plenty of other players are hoping to make a memorable first impression to get one step closer to playing in the league.
Several former Division I college players are introduced to the summer league after playing overseas. Their hope is that the international experience has helped make their game more NBA-ready.
“The best option for me was going overseas my freshman year,” Mavericks guard Jerrick Harding said. “At least I had a job and I wouldn’t wait. I’m glad it happened.
Harding, who graduated from Weber State as the school’s all-time leading scorer, has spent the past two years playing in the Czech Republic’s National Basketball League.
The 6-foot-1 guard led his NBL side ERA Basketball Nymburk in scoring last year, averaging 19.1 points per game, and helped him win back-to-back championships. His performance last season led to the Mavericks calling Harding to free agent camp, which landed him on their summer league roster.
The previous two NBA offseasons were impacted by COVID, there was no summer league in 2020 and the 2021 edition was held in August.
Without the regular pre-draft workouts and offseason camps, Harding and Cleveland Cavaliers forward Nate Reuvers saw his best opportunity to further his basketball career was to join a team overseas. .
“Basketball overseas isn’t for everyone,” said Reuvers, who played in Wisconsin. “A lot of people think they can just go out there and be successful. It is sometimes difficult to fit in. »
Reuvers was the only American from his Croatian League side KK Cibona to win the championship last season. Although Reuvers was not alone, as his girlfriend accompanied him, he admitted that it was still a culture shock with the different language in his new environment.
The basketball style has also undergone some adjustments. Harding said there isn’t a lot of isolation play like there is in the NBA, with more set plays being made on offense. And Reuvers noticed that the game abroad was more physical than in the United States
Going abroad allowed former college players to add different elements to their game to become a better all-around player while continuing to play against professionals.
“It’s shaped my game a lot since college,” said Jermaine Marrow, a Hampton University guard who played in Spain last season and featured in the HBCU showcase. “A lot of guys knew me in college as a goalscorer. When I arrived abroad, I showed that I could handle the ball and surround myself better. It really polished my game for the NBA.
Harding’s name caught the eye during the summer league. He averaged 14.5 points per game over the Mavericks’ first four games. Mavericks summer league coach George Galanopoulos said he’s seen Harding improve as a passer and continue to measure up well against defenders despite his undersize.
If Harding or any of the others sign with an NBA team, it would be the culmination of a long road that started overseas.
“I wanted to come here, open my eyes and put my name on the map,” Harding said. “I want a real opportunity at this level. The NBA is my ultimate goal. I’m just working that way.