Day 1 standouts at the D-League Elite Mini Camp

Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports /
Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports /

On Monday, the D-League Elite Mini Camp kicked off in Chicago, IL. The event takes place just days before the NBA Draft Combine, which is a strategic move to ensure that NBA scouts and executives will already be in town and can easily watch the minor league prospects in the same week.

39 D-League studs were invited this year with a goal to secure future opportunities with NBA clubs. Usually those will come in the form of summer league invites, which could lead to a training camp invite and then of course the ultimate goal of signing that NBA contract.

The Association is the goal, yet there are also international scouts at the Mini Camp trying to scoop up talent for next season’s campaign as well. Upside & Motor talked to some of these scouts in attendance for day one of the camp. Here are the standouts thus far.

DeAndre Liggins — 6-6, SG — 28-years-old

Scout: “He defended well and seemed to make all the right plays on both ends. He competes on every possession.”

Liggins had a stellar year for the Sioux Falls Skyforce and took home Defensive Player of the Year honors (for the second time!) en route to the team’s historic 40-10 season, which was capped off with a D-League championship. He missed 16 games with a foot injury, causing him to miss the D-League Showcase, but he came back stronger than ever and finished the season averaging 13 points, 6.3 rebounds and seven assists as one of the more well-rounded players in the league.

Along with his lock-down defense, Liggins improved his 3-point shooting by nailing 62 on the season at a 43 percent clip. With Liggins improvements on offense, he could easily land on an NBA team and help with their end of the bench rotations as a defensive specialist.

Raphiael Putney — 6-9, SF — 26-years-old

Scout: “He was active and rebounded really well. Started slow shooting the ball but came on as the day progressed.”

Scout: “He put his full potential on display with his length, athleticism and shooting ability.”

Putney had an inauspicious ending to this season with the RGV Vipers — he was suspended five games for violating the league’s drug policy. That trinket will indeed be weighed when NBA teams are making a decision on him, but his season was so impressive that it might be an afterthought when all is said and done.

The super slim wing averaged 17.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while shooting almost 45 percent from the field and 36 percent (7.1 attempts) from distance. Putney came out of nowhere this season and really exploded onto NBA radars. It appears a strong mini camp will indeed get him some NBA interest and we could be watching him in Vegas, Orlando or Salt Lake City this summer.

Demetri McCamey — 6-3, PG — 27-years-old

Scout: “McCamey was outstanding. Shot it well, handled point guard responsibilities and had a really great showing today.”

Scout: “He might not be on many NBA radars but he played really, really well today.”

McCamey is playing in his own backyard since he’s from Illinois and attended the University of Illinois. Maybe some of that comfort helped him with a stellar day one at the Mini Camp, but either way both the scouts that spoke to U&M about him raved about how he controlled play whenever he was in and how much of a surprise that was to them. Some of that might come from McCamey not even starting for the Austin Spurs this season as he was behind Bryce Cotton and Keifer Sykes in the rotation.

The savvy point guard averaged 25 minutes a night in his reserve role putting up 9.1 points and 2.4 assists for the season. McCamey’s role for Austin was to be a scoring threat off the bench, so getting a chance to run a team at camp highlighted his abilities to the fullest.

Other players mentioned: Phil Pressey (25-year-old guard), Keifer Sykes (22-year-old guard), Darion Atkins (23-year-old forward), Coty Clarke (23-year-old forward), Kadeem Jack (23-year-old forward).

By all accounts the camp has been very competitive this season and the pool has more depth than in past seasons. Day two is the real test for these guys, though, as conditioning will be vital to their success. The season just ended a couple weeks ago so players should be fresh and ready to put it all out there for their dream of reaching the NBA.