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Sunday, December 21, 2014 | Last updated: 6:30am

Column: Former Wildcats look to impress at NBA Summer League



The NBA Summer League is a yearly chance for young players to make an impression for all 30 teams in the National Basketball Association.

Some of those players are undrafted rookies while some are highly-drafted players from recent drafts. This is the first opportunity for those players to prove that they belong in the NBA.

Arizona basketball fans will get a chance to see several high-profile names before the regular season begins in October.

This year, five former Arizona Wildcats are listed on rosters for the 2014 NBA Summer League: Nick Johnson, Derrick Williams, Aaron Gordon, Grant Jerrett and Solomon Hill.
Williams, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, will participate in summer league for the second time.

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Screenshot by Rebecca Marie Sasnett Former Arizona guard Nick Johnson dunks the ball over Tim Ohlbrecht during the third quarter of the Houston Rockets vs. Detroit Pistons basketball game in the NBA Summer League on Saturday. Johnson finished the game with 18 points, five rebounds and three assists.

Gordon and Johnson were just drafted fourth and 42nd overall in the 2014 NBA Draft and are participating in their first action with their new teams.

Hill and Jerrett were drafted 23rd and 40th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft and are participating in their second NBA summer league. Sadly, both players are currently injured. Jerrett will miss the entire summer league with an ankle injury and Hill hasn’t played his team’s first two games due to an ankle sprain.

Of the five players, only Johnson and Gordon have made their summer league debuts so far this year.

Gordon appeared tentative at times during his debut on Saturday and, apart from a highlight block in which Gordon caught the ball in mid-air, didn’t make much of an impact on the game. He finished with seven points on 3-11 shooting and added five rebounds.

Johnson was the exact opposite in his debut. The 6-foot-3 guard put on a show by playing lockdown defense to go along with 18 points, five rebounds, three assists and one highlight-reel dunk.

If you haven’t seen the footage of Johnson’s first game, go do that now. You’re missing out on some quality basketball and a dunk that shook the basketball world.

For those who have seen his dunk over 6-foot-10 center Tim Ohlbrecht: you know exactly how epic it was.

For those who have not seen NBA TV’s No. 1 play of the first day of summer league: Google it.

To top it off, Johnson and Gordon faced off in their second summer league game.

Johnson scored a game-high 13 points but shot just 3-12 from the field and his Houston Rockets team lost 87-69 to Gordon’s Orlando Magic.

Gordon’s nine points and seven rebounds on Monday was an improvement from his debut, but he was outplayed by teammate and fellow rookie Elfrid Payton.

The only other former Wildcat who is guaranteed to play this summer is Williams.

Williams is entering his fourth NBA season and would generally be too seasoned to play in the summer league. However, his inconsistencies with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings all but guaranteed he would play in this year’s summer league.

The 6-foot-8 forward has come a long way since his high-flying days at Arizona and this summer could make or break his NBA future.

A good performance likely ensures one or two more NBA paychecks, while a poor performance likely signals the beginning of the end of his NBA career.

Regardless of if these former Arizona standouts play or not, one thing is clear: Arizona basketball is always relevant.

—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseofPayne555


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