NBA Summer League is arguably the biggest event for young players looking to secure a roster spot in the NBA. Not only is it the first opportunity for rookies to showcase their talents under the bright lights, it is an opportunity for players who don’t know what team they will be on next season to make a name for themselves.
For former Arizona guard Gabe York, it was an opportunity he wasn’t sure he would even be able to get.
York finished his stellar career at the UA ranking fifth all-time in three-point field goals in a season and a career, as well as tied for fifth in wins. A Pac-12 All-Conference second team selection his senior season, he has since gone on to play in the G-League and overseas, where he ran into potential issues getting cleared to play in Las Vegas.
York signed with AEK Athens, a club within the Greek Basket League. He would remain under contract until June 15, at which point the club was supposed to send a letter of clearance for him to be able to practice and play with the Orlando Magic during Summer League.
“The team didn’t send it to me and it took two and a half days for the Orlando to get it,” York said. “During that time, I didn’t practice, so it made it tough for me to get in the lineup because Orlando has a system in place.”
The limited practice time has made York’s playing time scarce so far, as he did not play in Orlando’s first game and recorded just three minutes in their second game. Despite the lack of playing time so far, York remains one of the first ones up off the bench cheering his team on, and is hopeful he is able to showcase his ability after averaging 16.4 points last season in the G League.
“I’m just trying to stay positive for my teammates,” he said. “Hopefully these next couple games I’m able to get in there and showcase what I can do.”
While the experience overseas almost ruined the opportunity in Las Vegas for York, it allowed him to work on different aspects of his game. While the G League season lasts from November until as late as April, most American players are only brought overseas for a couple of months into teams that have players and systems already set in place.
“For me, it was more understanding the difference in playing a full season and knowing who I was on that team,” York said. “In Lakeland I was one of the main guys, then I go over to Greece and I’m a role player. Only being there two months, guys were there eight or nine months. Guys knew the system they had in place so for me to come in and try to figure that out was probably the biggest difference.”
While the landscape of college basketball changes every year and players continue to transfer when things don’t work out right away, York is an example of how staying the course can pay off in the long run.
A top-50 recruit coming out of Orange Lutheran High School in California, York only played in 15 games as a freshman, potentially looking to transfer and finish his career elsewhere. York decided to stay, and became a key player on Arizona’s Elite Eight team the next season.
“I think when you don’t get that opportunity right away, kids start to second guess and wonder if they made the right decision,” York said. “When you transfer somewhere, you have to sit out that next year where you might have been able to play for that team you were on anyway. I knew I was good enough to play at Arizona but had to wait my turn and trust that what I was doing was working. I definitely think kids leave way too early just because they weren’t getting what they got in high school, but college is a lot different. Everyone on that college team was the man at their high school. You have to be calm and understand that your time is coming.”
York is tied for the record of most three-pointers made in a game at McKale Center with nine, a record that could be in danger this season with the addition of graduate transfer Max Hazzard.
Hazzard, the brother of York’s former UA teammate Jacob Hazzard, hit 10 in a game last season, something York is rooting for this year.
“I could’ve had like 12 or 13 if Coach [Miller] didn’t take me out with six minutes left,” York said jokingly. “I don’t know too much about him, but if he’s a good shooter I give him all the love and support. Records are meant to be broken.”
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