A-10 Standouts Turn NBA Summer League Performances Into Professional Opportunities

By Atlantic 10 Conference

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Courtesy: Atlantic 10 Conference

By Ben Standig
Special to Atlantic10.com

LAS VEGAS -- Anybody who watched Jack Gibbs’s final three seasons with Davidson knows one thing for sure: This guy can score the basketball. That didn’t change even against stepped up competition in the 2017 NBA Summer League, though the 6-0 guard’s aim in the global basketball showcase was for more.

“Work on the game manager part. That’s what the NBA is looking for, a guy who can shoot and lead the team,” Gibbs said. That’s what I’m trying to show.”

Congrats, Jack. You did. Coming off back-to-back seasons as the Atlantic 10’s top scorer, and following an effective showing in Las Vegas, Gibbs landed his first professional contract with Spirou of the Belgium League. The offer came quickly after Gibbs played five games for the Minnesota Timberwolves, one of 24 NBA teams with an entry in the main Summer League event.

Along with 2016 Player of the Year DeAndre Bembry, Gibbs was among a dozen former Atlantic 10 players in Las Vegas. They were sprinkled among the 24 entries and watched by basketball decision-makers from around the globe. Other players participated in the Orlando and Utah versions earlier in the summer.

Some like former Massachusetts shot blocker Cady Lalanne and George Mason rebounder Shevon Thompson arrived with professional experience. Others like George Washington’s Tyler Cavanaugh, Dayton’s Charles Cooke and Gibbs received their first taste.

“Coming from Davidson where I had the ball in my hands pretty much the entire game to here where everybody can score,” Gibbs said of a primary difference for him between the two levels. “It’s nice not to have the burden of scoring every time.”

The burden typically fell on those defenders tasked with slowing down the offensive force. Gibbs averaged 16.2 points during his sophomore year, which is around the time he realized pro basketball was a possibility. “When I started becoming more of an integral part of Davidson’s offense and realizing I could score.”

That became undeniable when he paced the Atlantic 10 with 23.5 points during his junior season and 22.1 in the 2016-17 campaign. There were flashes of that form with the Timberwolves. Gibbs had 17 points on 7 of 12 shooting in 19 minutes against Toronto on July 8 in his Summer League opener.

“He can definitely score,” said Timberwolves assistant coach Ryan Saunders, who led Minnesota’s team in Las Vegas. “When you can score, there’s usually going to be time for you on the court.”

For the 6-9 Lalanne, it’s what he does on the other end of the court that keeps him employed.

“Defending the pick-and-roll. That’s the biggest thing in the NBA and all over the world,” the shot-blocker said about his primary focus while playing for the San Antonio Spurs in the Summer League.

Selected in the second round of the 2015 NBA Draft by San Antonio, Lalanne played his rookie season with the D-League’s Austin Spurs before heading outside the continental 48.

After a stop in Puerto Rico, Lalanne averaged 17.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in the Chinese Basketball League during the 2016-17 season.

Thompson’s first taste of the Las Vegas Summer League came after an impressive 17-game stint in the D-League with the Erie Bayhawks. After leading the Atlantic 10 in rebounding during each of his two seasons at George Mason, the 6-11 center kept up his board work with Erie. Those three years led to his Summer League opportunity with the Los Angeles Clippers.

“It’s really great to be out here,” Thompson said. “The atmosphere, the hype. It just feels really good to be out here. A little nervous, but it’s great being here.”

Saunders said former Dayton standout Charles Cooke arrived “ready” for Summer League. The wing guard averaged 10.0 points per game. Cooke and Gibbs were among the top scorers last season in the Atlantic 10, albeit on different teams. In Las Vegas, they were teammates.

“It’s nice coming into an unknown environment and seeing some familiar faces,” Gibbs admitted.

One year from now, some of these faces will return to the now familiar grounds on the University of Las Vegas campus for the 2018 Summer League. They’ll come armed with scoring skills, basketball tales and NBA dreams.

Gibbs knows where he’ll play next season. Same with VCU guard JeQuan Lewis, who signed a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks right before Summer League tipped. Cavanaugh, George Washington’s top scorer and rebounder last season, signed a partially guaranteed contract with the Atlanta Hawks.

The Pelicans inked Cooke to a two-way contract, while his former Dayton teammate Scoochie Smith will start his pro career in Australia after helping the Celtics in Las Vegas. French champion Chalon inked former UMass forward Raphael Putney, who joined Gibbs and Cooke with the Timberwolves.

Others like Thompson hold tight, but all can follow his plan.

“I can control what I can control. I go out there and work hard,” Thompson said. “Get in the gym and get shots up. Just have faith and hope that something comes through, that something great might come through. Just keep playing hard.”

 Ben Standig is a freeland writer from Washington, D.C. who covers sports for a number of media outlets including CSN Mid -Atlantic. He is on Twitter at @BenStandig

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