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Taking the road less traveled, Nets' Sean Kilpatrick finds his way home

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Steve Simineri sat down with Sean Kilpatrick just before he signed his multi-year contract with the Nets to talk about his journey.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Brooklyn Nets agreed to a multi-year deal with 26-year old Sean Kilpatrick, including a guarantee for the 2016-17 season. The Yonkers native has never lacked confidence in his ability and offensively, there's never been any doubt that he can put the ball in the basket. But for the last two seasons, the undrafted former University of Cincinnati standout has shuttled between the D-League and 10-day contracts, a lifestyle he is more than ready to leave behind.

"It's kind of crazy. One minute you're in a city and then the next minute you get a call saying that you're going to play for someone else," Kilpatrick told me about life on a 10-day contract. "You got to really have a suitcase kind of packed and ready for you ready to go. It was kind of different this year because I had a lot more 10-days this year than I did last year but hopefully where I'm at now is permanent. I'm tired of moving around."

Newly appointed Nets general manager Sean Marks said he wanted to use the 10-day contracts available to him in the second half of the season to see if they could find someone that could stick on this team, and it looks like they have in Kilpatrick, who parlayed two 10-day pacts into a deal that will finally provide him with a permanent home, not far from home.

"My Mom, she doesn't really got to drive that far to come see me," said Kilpatrick, whose family lives in White Plains. "I mean, she was driving to Delaware to see me, but now it's like a 30-minute drive so it helps me a lot."

After starring at White Plains High School, where he averaged 28 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists during his four-year stay, Kilpatrick spent a postgraduate year at Notre Dame Prep (Mass.). He was originally a St. John's commit, but was swayed into going to the University of Cincinnati, where he redshirted his freshman season while taking a backseat to Brooklyn's Lance Stephenson.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound shooting guard could barely even dribble with his left hand when he enrolled in school, but over time Kilpatrick became an elite scorer and one of the best players in college basketball. He averaged 15.3 points per game over a four-year career. As a senior in 2013-14, he averaged 20.6 points and drained 93 3-pointers. He also earned All-American Second Team and First-Team All-ACC honors.

Kilpatrick's 2,145 career points are second in the school's history only to NBA great Oscar Robertson (2,973). He also had the second most wins in school history with 101 behind Steve Logan. But on draft night, Kilpatrick never heard his name called despite being projected by at least one mock draft as a late second-round pick.

"You make sure you use that type of stuff as motivation," said Kilpatrick, who joined Scottie Reynolds (2010) as the second first-team Associated Press All-American to go undrafted. "You use that for motivation and you just continue to keep working and making sure that you make everybody, I wouldn't say pay, but make everyone believe that you were a guy that was supposed to get drafted and you didn't."

As a 24-year old fifth year senior, Kilpatrick was fighting the stigma of being in college for too long and lacking upside. Some NBA scouts believed he was somewhat undersized for a shooting guard. There were concerns about Kilpatrick's defense, length, and relative lack of quickness. There was also a slight meniscus tear that caused him to miss the scouting combine.

Following the draft, Kilpatrick played for the 76ers in the NBA Summer League. He then signed with the Golden State Warriors, but was waived four days later. He spent the majority of the 2014-15 season in the NBA Development League, appearing in 44 games for the Santa Cruz Warriors and Delaware 87ers, while averaging 13.9 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. He fully expected to finish the season in NBA minor leagues, but the Minnesota Timberwolves were so desperate for bodies they signed Kilpatrick to a 10-day contract last March based on geographic reasons.

Listing eight players on their injured list, the Wolves needed a player who wouldn't take long to get their game at Madison Square Garden and Kilpatrick happened to be the closest. He went from practicing in Wilmington, Delaware, preparing for a game against the Erie Bayhawks, to racing north toward New York, hoping he wouldn't get pulled over for speeding. He arrived in the Wolves' locker room about 45 minutes before the start - just in time to give Minnesota the league-mandated eight players in uniform.

Kilpatrick played just over 10 minutes in his first NBA game, a 95-92 Minnesota victory over the Knicks. He took only one shot, which he missed, and grabbed one rebound. During his four games with the Wolves, he would average 5.5 points and 1.5 rebounds in 18 minutes per game. He understood that once those 10 days were up and some of the injured Minnesota players returned, he would be back in the D-League, but that didn't deter him.

"Sometimes it gets discouraging but then you got to also remember that you're a fighter, you got to continue to keep doing everything that you can just to continue to keep trying to get where you're going," Kilpatrick said. "When you're dealing with a 10-day like this, when you're trying to make sure that you're trying to stick in the league, you're going to any and everything just to make sure that you get there. So this is part of the process, sometimes you might hear the things that you want to hear, then sometimes you don't and with the others team I didn't hear what I wanted to here."

This past summer, Kilpatrick joined the Milwaukee Bucks for a stint in Las Vegas. He led the Bucks in scoring, averaging 18.2 points despite coming off the bench in four of the six games. New Orleans signed Kilpatrick in September, but he didn't shoot well from the outside during the preseason, converting just six of 25 attempts from long distance. He was cut before opening night and before any of his salary became guaranteed.

The 87ers reacquired Kilpatrick in November, where he appeared in 28 games and averaged a league-high 26.4 points per game. He connected on 42.6 percent of his 3-pointers and earned a trip to the D-League All-Star game. He latched on briefly with the Denver Nuggets on two 10-day deals. He appeared in eight games, averaging 3.4 points in 10.3 minutes per game. But it's his work in the D-League that got people to take notice.

"I would say from the D-League standpoint anyone can make it out of there as long as you got the right drive and right attitude about things and you're going about things the right way, then you're pretty much set with where you're going and your goals," said Kilpatrick, who turned down more money from teams overseas. "With me, not giving up, I just wanted to continue to keep making it to the NBA. That's something that I wanted to do, that's something that's been a dream all my life. The money don't mean nothing to me, I play the game because I love it."

In nine games with the Nets, Kilpatrick has averaged 11.9 points in 19.1 minutes while shooting 49.3 percent from the field and 47.1 percent from three-point range. His Brooklyn teammates have helped him quickly get acclimated, interim coach Tony Brown has entrusted him in late-game situation, and most importantly, he gets to play in front of family and friends almost every night

"Now it's like I'm home," said Kilpatrick, who joins Andray Blatche (Syracuse) and Chris McCullough (Bronx) as the third New York State native to play for the Nets. "With these guys giving me an opportunity to really showcase what I can do, that's all I wanted to ask for and I'm just going to make the best out of it."

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