After a scheduled lottery pick for pre-draft practice over the past few days, the Pacers held another group practice on Wednesday at Ascension St. Vincent Center, their 10th practice in preparation for the 2022 NBA draft next Thursday.
The six prospects in the city for Wednesday’s practice will not be selected in the lottery, but may be options in the second round, where Indiana has 31st and 58th overall.
The group was headlined by a pair of point guards, Gonzaga’s Andrew Nembhard and Vanderbilt’s Scottie Pippen Jr.
No Division I program has won more games than Gonzaga in the last two seasons. The Bulldogs are brimming with talent, with Jalen Suggs and Corey Kispert making the top 15 in 2021, Chet Holmgren is a serious number one contender in 2022, and Drew Timm has won All-American honors in each of the past two seasons.
Among all this talent, Nembhard played mostly in the background, but his influence on the success of his team cannot be denied. In the last two seasons since moving from Florida, the 6-5 guard has thrown 324 assists while maintaining an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.2.
Nembhard averaged 11.8 points and was ranked 15th in the NCAA with 5.8 assists per game last season as a senior. He shot well from both three-point range (38.3 percent) and from the free throw line (87.3 percent) and also had 1.6 steals per game defensively.
An Ontario native, Nembhard prides himself on being “a guy who can fit in with other good players,” which he demonstrated at Gonzaga, but then endorsed him in last month’s NBA draft in Chicago. Nembhard dominated the fight there, dropping 26 points and 11 assists on just two losses.
Nembhard was originally scheduled to train for the Pacers immediately after the May 23 reunion, but he ended up changing the schedule, visiting Indianapolis this week instead.
Teams know that Nembhard is capable of setting teammates up for success, but he also thinks he can score when he’s drafted, which he tried to demonstrate during the pre-draft process.
“In a college with a lot of good players that I’ve played with, I want to win games,” Nembard said. “I’m trying to get everyone involved. I think I can show a little more of my scoring ability in this process.”
2022 Draft Practice: Andrew Nembhard
Comfortable on the ball or off the ball, Nembhard appears to have all the qualities a team would look for in a back-up combo defender. His calm presence on and off the court reminds many of Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon, who won Rookie of the Year after being drafted 36th overall by Milwaukee in 2016. Nembhard told media on Wednesday that he’s heard the comparison before and sees the resemblance. both in terms of playstyle and behavior.
Nembhard considers himself one of the best point guards in the draft class this year. He hopes he’s shown enough for someone to take him in the first round next week, but no matter when he hears his name, he’s promised the team that picks him won’t regret it.
“I think they have a mature kid who is trying to get into the league but also doing things in the league, keeps getting better,” Nembhard said. “I want to prove to everyone that I can stick. I think you just get a hard worker and someone who loves the game.”
While Nembhard played more of a supporting role surrounded by so much college talent, Pippen was asked to carry a heavy offensive load at Vanderbilt.
Pippen averaged 20.8 points per game as a sophomore in 2020–21 and 20.4 points per game last season as a junior while leading 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 consecutive seasons since LSU’s Ronnie Hamilton in 1994–96.
After playing at Sierra Canyon High School in Los Angeles (where he was a teammate with current Pacer Dwayne Washington Jr.), Pippen was a valuable recruit for former NBA All-Star Jerry Stackhouse, who took over the Vanderbilt program in ruins after of how lost 0-. 18 at the SEC the year before Stackhouse and Pippen arrived. 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 a NIT bid.
With more talent around him, Pippen will be asked to play another role in the NBA. In addition to scoring, he has averaged 4.6 assists over the past two seasons. On Wednesday, he said he sees himself as capable of playing the same role that the likes of Jalen Brunson and Fred VanVliet did when they were in college, first as a backup point guard and then slowly taking on more responsibility for goal positions. .
2022 Draft Training: Scottie 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 a ball. I just go to these practices, play as a playmaker and show that my game will be translated.
Of course, Pippen lived his entire life in the shadow of his famous father, six-time NBA champion and Hall of Famer Scotty Pippen (the younger Pippen spells his name “Scotty” as it appears on his father’s birth certificate). ).
Scotty Jr. was only three years old when his father played his last NBA game. Having a father of that size put additional pressure on him at times, but he was also able to turn to him for advice throughout his career.
There aren’t a ton of similarities between Pippen and his father. Scotty Pippen is 6-8 and was an elite defender, while Scotty Jr is 6-2 and is better known for his offensive talents. The younger Pippen said he never even tried to imitate his father’s playing.
“I’m on my own,” he said. “This is my own legacy. I’ve always stood out. We are both different players. We played in different eras.”
Procida and Travers bring international flavor to training
The two tallest players in training on Wednesday came to Indianapolis from around the globe. 6-7 Gabriel Procida is from Como, Italy and 6-8 Luke Travers is from Perth, Australia.
Both players decided to enter the draft this year after playing professionally in their respective countries.
Procida, who turned 20 on June 1, averaged 7 points and 3 rebounds per game for Fortitudo Bologna last season. He grew up idolizing Clay Thompson and believes he has the same qualities as a big shooting guard with the ability to stop shots from the perimeter.
The Italian made over 38 percent of his shots from three-point range last season. He is a good athlete who enjoys playing in transition, as he showed after being called to the combine and tested well with a 35-inch vertical and a three-quarter-court sprint time of 3.07 seconds.
2022 draft training: Gabriele Procida
“I try to put a lot of energy on the court,” Procida said of his playing style. “Play athletic, make the right decisions for your teammates. Make a lot of throws (screens). Lots of pull-ups, lots of athleticism at the ring.”
Travers, 20, spent three seasons with his hometown of the Perth Wildcats in the Australian NBL. He spent his first two seasons as a developmental 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 deciding to come to America to pursue his NBA dreams. His jump shot is admittedly a work in progress, but he sees himself as capable of growing into a 3D role.
“Unique, versatile,” Travers said of his playing. “I like to do a little bit of everything, whether it’s defensive or offensive. I think it’s just a unique type of style.
2022 draft training: Luke Travers
The NBL has produced a number of NBA players over the years, from Americans like LaMelo Ball who chose to spend a year in the league instead of going to college, to local products like Josh Giddy. Other NBA veterans such as Andrew Bogut returned to the NBL in the final years of their careers.
Playing against opponents of this stature instilled a toughness in Travers at a young age, and he hopes that will show up during the pre-draft. Wednesday was his seventh team practice since arriving from Australia last month.
“I will play harder than anyone,” Travers promised. “I think it came from Australian basketball. Just tough. I’m going to outplay the opponent.”
Jackson, Jeffries offer backcourt athleticism
The last two prospects in Wednesday’s practice were Texas A&M quarterback Quenton Jackson and Wyoming’s Drake Jeffries.
The two players had similar journeys as neither entered college at the Division I level.
Jackson attended junior college after failing to attend college after graduating from high school, but his hard work on the court and in the classroom during two seasons at the College of Central Florida earned him a scholarship to Texas A&M in 2019.
Jackson, 6-4, played a variety of roles for coach Buzz Williams in his three seasons with the Aggie, playing in four positions starting on and off the bench.
Jackson started in only 15 of 40 games last season but was still a big contributor, leading Texas A&M in scoring (14.8 ppg) and steals (1.8). He helped Aggie close out the year by reaching the Finals for both the SEC Tournament and the NIT, averaging 15.6 points and 2 steals per game during that period.
After initially trying to get into college, Jackson also earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M and went on to graduate school over the last year.
“Everything that happened at the end of that season at Texas A&M was great not only for me, but for my team, great for Texas A&M as a school,” Jackson said. “I was just trying to ride that wave through all of this and do something for myself.”
2022 draft training: Quenton Jackson
Jeffries spent two seasons at Minot State Division II and another year at Indian Hills Community College before entering Wyoming in 2020. The 6-5 guard established himself as a 3-point specialist for the Cowboys, shooting 39.4% from three. over the past two seasons and 40.9% last season on almost seven attempts per game.
He set school and conference records by shooting 11 of 17 from three-point range in a win over Hastings College on November 26.
Jeffries lived outside the arc in Wyoming. Remarkably, only 16 of his 246 shots last season were three-pointers.
However, Jeffreys believes he could be more than just a gunslinger at the next level. He has a 40-inch vertical and has learned to use that athleticism more defensively.
Jeffries enters the draft hoping to learn some of the lessons he learned during his time in Wyoming.
“Every day you have to play like it’s your last, and you have to have that advantage, that chip on your shoulder,” he said. “I think that’s something we all had that got us to 25 wins and a big bid at the NCAA Tournament.”