LAS VEGAS – The number of players with Memphis connections that are not playing for the Grizzlies in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas is mind-boggling.
Ten former University of Memphis Tigers players that played for head coach
Big man James Wiseman, who starred at East High School and played briefly for the Tigers amid an NCAA eligibility review, is looking for new life in Detroit alongside another former Memphis big man, Jalen Duren.
Two years removed from the Tigers, Lester Quinones of the Golden State Warriors is showing the ropes to Kendric Davis, who starred at Memphis last season.
Landers Nolley II suited up for the New Orleans Pelicans. And, Josh Minot continues to improve with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Elijah McCadden has got some run with the Philadelphia 76’ers. Emoni Bates, a second-round draft pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, transferred from Memphis after a year. Damian Baugh played for the Los Angeles Lakers and Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu, aka KAO, was a late addition to the Dallas Mavericks.
Former Tigers were not the only players with Memphis ties trying to make an impression.
Kennedy Chandler, the former Memphis Grizzly, Tennessee Volunteer and Briarcrest graduate, has played for the Brooklyn Nets. Chandler was released by Memphis in a tough decision heading into the playoffs because of the lack of depth on the inside.
Chandler has been impressive in his actions with the Nets. He was impressive in his playing time with the Memphis Hustle last season.
Cedric Henderson Jr. is getting a look from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Bates and Davis have been impressive. Davis has been running the point guard position for the Warriors. He has improved in every outing that has played.
Bates has been trying to live to the hype that he had when he arrived at the University of Memphis as one of the players with the highest ceiling in his class. In a win over the Memphis Grizzlies in the summer league, Bates scored 21 points and was impressive from long range.
Davis has shown flashes of getting better each game. In his final season at Memphis, Davis was bothered by an ankle injury. He appears to have recovered and his speed and ability to run the court has gotten better. He also has been great at handling the basketball.
Quinones earned a contract at the end of last season. He is the only returning veteran on this year’s Warriors summer league team. He has been the leader on the offensive end and has been giving leadership to the other players.
Quinones was important in getting Davis to sign with Memphis. Their relationship had an impact on Davis choosing the Warriors to team up with this summer.
“Being my second time around, I feel more mature,” said Quinones. “I know my reads. I am the only person on the roster with NBA experience. I feel my confidence is at an all-time high leading these guys.”
On achieving the dream of making onto an NBA roster Quinones said, “It was amazing. Especially being around guys like Stef (Curry) and Draymond (Green) and others. They are wise minds to be around. I picked up a lot from them.”
Wiseman is in a pivotal year in his professional career. He is one of the older veterans playing in the summer league. He has been straddled with injuries during his three-year NBA career.
Detroit is looking for a fresh start with new head coach Monty Williams at the helm. Wiseman is looking for a fresh start with Williams.
On what the staff is wanting to see form him this summer Wiseman said,
“My defense,” said Wiseman, responding to what the Detroit staff is wanting to see from him this summer.
“I feel my offense will come in time. I am trying to get my shifting and timing better. It is the little stuff that I am trying to improve to develop my game.”
The odds are long for most of these players to make it to an opening-day roster. Most are hoping for a two-way contract or, in the worst-case scenario, they put some good work on tape to earn a professional contract overseas.