Everyone's eyes will be on Marcus Williams and Josh Boone next week when the Nets' summer league team plays five games in five days in the Orlando Pepsi Pro Summer League...as well they should. The two have guaranteed contracts that will pay them millions of dollars. Antoine Wright who had a disappointing rookie season will also get a lot of attention as coaches and fans try to figure out if he is ready for the team's rotation.
And in some ways, the roster is also defined by who isn't on it. No Hassan Adams, the Nets second round choice, who is rehabbing a broken foot. No Jay Williams, who had a standing invitation to join the Nets summer league team. No Christian Drejer, the Nets 2004 draft choice who played for the Nets last summer. No Derrick Zimmerman who played a couple of games for the Nets at the tail end of the season and who is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year in the D League.
So the majority of them won't garner much attention, which in a way is too bad.
With the exception of two 22-year-old prospects, Saso Zagorac of Slovenia and Eric Williams of Wake Forest, the rest of the roster represents basketball's vagabond class: well-regarded college players, only a few of whom have ever worn an NBA uniform...and who are looking for one more chance to catch a break. Eight players in all, ranging in age from Kennedy Winston, only 21, to Vonteego Cummings, now 30, have spent their careers bouncing around American minor leagues and European leagues, then working out for NBA teams in the summer or in training camps.
Last season, they spent their time on courts in the NBDL, or in Poland, Spain, Serbia, Germany, or Israel, each playing well for their respective teams, some in fact exceedingly well. Still, none have much of a chance at wearing a Net--or any other NBA team--uniform this year either.
But don't tell them that.
Here are thumbnail sketches of each of the players without NBA guarantees, including Zagorac and Williams.
Saso Zagorac, 22, 6'8", SF, Postojnska Jama, Slovenia. Experienced in European play in spite of his young age. Worked out for the Nets last month. Caught Ed Stefanski's eye during the World Under 21 Games in Mar Del Plata, Argentina. Marcus Williams is likely to remember his new teammate. In a tightly fought game against Team USA, Zogorac scored 15 points and grabbed 8 boards to lead all scorers and rebounders. That game featured five players who were drafted in the 2006 draft, including Williams and Rudy Gay. This past year, playing in the Slovenian League, he averaged 19 ppg.
Eric Williams, 22, 6'9", C/PF, Wake Forest. Tough, big...very big...but immobile. Undrafted, he played well against ACC competition including a number of players who heard their names called on Draft night. Averaged 16 ppg and 9 rpg. More of an undersized center than a PF.
Tamar Slay, 26, 6'8", SF, Hapoel Jerusalem, Israel. The only summer league player who has spent time with the Nets, playing 63 career games in New Jersey. Drafted at #54 in 2002 out of Marshall. A Net fan favorite because of his rainbow jump shots. Taken by the Bobcats in the NBA expansion draft, he played only eight games with them, spending a lot of time on the injured list. Ball-handling has been an issue. He was Hapoel's big game player, scoring 20 points in the Israeli League championship game, but Hapoel lost by 30.
Kennedy Winston, 21, 6'6", SG, Gran Canaria, Spain. Poster boy for early entry candidates who think they will be drafted but come away with nothing. Failed in a tryout with the Grizzlies, averaging only 2 ppg in three preseason games. Called a "natural scorer" at Alabama where he averaged 17 ppg over his last two years, but someone who was also called weak and soft. Mr. Basketball in the State of Alabama in 2002. In the ACB, Spain's top league, he didn't average double figures, shooting 47% overall and 38% from beyond the international arc. Likely to want to show off his range.
Rashad Wright, 24, 6'2", PG, KK Hemofarm, Serbia Like a number of his teammates, Wright, a crafty point guard at Georgia, was drafted, but with the next to last pick in the 1984 draft by the Pacers. He didn't make the club. Nor did he make the Hawks or Raptors, but has done well overseas, first in Greece, then in Serbia. With Hemofarm, one of Serbia's top teams, Wright averaged 14 ppg and 4 apg. Likely to back up Marcus Williams at the point.
David Young, 24, 6'5" SG, Air Avellino, Italy Along with Zagorac, the highest scorer in the group, averaging 18 ppg in 31 games in the top-flight Italian League. A good defender as well. A second round draft pick, at #41, of the Seattle Sonics, he has never played in an NBA game, having failed in tryouts with Seattle and Milwaukee. Played little at Xavier before transferring to North Carolina Central, where he averaged 22 ppg. He has played in the CBA, the NBDL, the Serbian and Italian leagues.
Vonteego Cummings, 30, 6'3", SG, KK Partizan, Serbia. The only first round draft choice on the team other than Marcus Williams and Boone. Taken with the 26th pick in 1999, just before Jumaine Jones and Scott Padgett, he has played in 199 games, with career averages of 7 ppg and 3 apg. He has even started 23 NBA games and has a high game of 28. Hasn't played in the league since 2002 when he spent the season with the Sixers. Failed in a tryout with the Cavs. Since then, he has played in the USBL, the NBDL, and the Serbian and Italian leagues. Was key to Partizan's Serbian league championship team this year. Consistent double figure scorer overseas.
Jerome Beasley, 26, 6'10", SF. Polpak Świecie, Poland. Selected by the Heat at #33 in the 2003 Draft, but played only two games in the NBA, hitting one of two shots. Has since failed in tryouts with the Heat, Bulls, Spurs, Clippers and Magic. A big man who can hit from three-point range, he has been injury prone both in the NBA and overseas, playing in only 18 games for his Polish team this season. Still averaged 13 ppg and was named All-Polish League Honorable Mention. Has also played in the Turkish and Spanish leagues as well as the CBA. Averaged 24 ppg in college at North Dakota, hitting nearly 50% of his three-point attempts.
Antonio Meeking, 24, 6'8", PF Frankfurt Skyliners, Germany A big, burly PF who has bounced around as much as any of his teammates. Never drafted, he has failed in tryouts with the Grizzlies, Bobcats and Bucks, actually making it to the Bucks training camp. Has played in the USBL and the NBDL as well as in the Serbian leagues, winning the Adriatic League championship with KK Hemofarm in 2005 when they beat Mile Ilic's FMP in the finals. Averaged 13 and 7 with the Skyliners.
Jamar Smith, 25, 6'9", PF Austin Toros, NBDL A teammate of Derrick Zimmerman at Austin, where he was second team, all-D League. Averaged 11 ppg and 7 rpg this season. A Jersey native from Sicklerville in South Jersey, where he was all-State and all-American before winding up at Maryland. A quick, agile, and very strong power forward with shooting issues. Never drafted, he failed in a tryout with the Magic, then spent 2004-05 bouncing around Europe, with Israeli, Dutch and Greek teams.
At the end of the summer league, on July 14, a few of them will be invited to the Nets training camp. A couple may attract the attention of other NBA teams. But once the teams cut down their rosters in October and they haven't made it again, it will be back to the European grind or the D League...for the love of the game.