When the Nets wanted to work out Maccabi Tel Aviv's Maceo Baston in June, they called the agent for Cory Underwood, a 6'-10" streetballer from New York, to ask if his client woud bang with the Euroleague star. According to insider accounts, Underwood so dominated the matchup that it soured the Nets on Baston (who wound up with Indiana) and got Underwood invited to informal workouts at the Nets' Champion Center. Underwood didn't get a full camp invite, but as SLAM Magazine notes he was happy for the opportunity.
If you could look up Cory Underwood's path to the NBA on GoogleMaps, you'd want to make sure your printer had a full tray of paper and know ahead of time that the last step would still be TBD.
Underwood has lived a nomadic baller's life. The 6-10 Queens native stars for the Money Train streetball squad during the summers, but his career otherwise has been a MapQuest. He played for three high schools and three colleges in a seven year span, admittedly never beungin one place long enough to display the potential so many have seen. Now 26, Underwood is looking to realize what he’s dreamt about for years: breaking through to the League.
In June, the Nets invited Underwood for a workout—sort of. "Basically, I was brought in to bang with Maceo Baston from Michigan." He says. By the end of the workout, Nets staffers weren’t sure which player they were supposed to be scouting. What they saw in Underwood was an impressive work ethic, something he had to develop over time. Baston signed with the Pacers, and Cory Underwood kept in contact with the Nets.
The foundation for Cory’s NBA long shot was built five years ago at Wagner, his third college stop in as many years. Raised by an aunt and grandmother, Underwood connected with then-Wagner coach Dereck Whittenberg. "I looked at him as that man I was missing in my life," Underwood says of the former NC State hero. "I learned that year how to work my ass off. He that in my mind and I didn’t get it until the year was pretty much over."
Trepidation about playing time his senior year got the better of Cory, and he was unable to break his runaway-baller pattern. Despite the respect he had to Whittenberg, he left for Southern University of New Orleans. He calls the NAIA "really underrated—a conference of D1 castoffs." He’s spent the past few years bouncing around the states and Europe in various leagues and earning the nickname "Undertaker" from Joe Cruz Jr. at the Hoops in the Sun summer league. "He said I was just burying people", Cory explains.
Underwood wrapped up his summer with three weeks of workouts for the Nets, hoping to get an invite to the veteran’s camp. He eventually fell short of making the team’s preseason camp roster, but he figures that the experience can only help.
"Just being in the that environment can only make me better." Sounds like he’s finding his way.
--Sam Blake Hofstetter.