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David Duke Jr. getting noticed ... for all the right reasons

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2021 NBA Draft Combine Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

David Duke Jr. doesn’t think his name is unfortunate. He likes the way it flows. Three syllables, alliterative. Easy to remember.

“I feel like it’s a nice name, it kind of flows smoothly,” he told Brian Lewis. “But one day I’m just hoping that when you look it up, it won’t be so much negative around it. We’re progressing as a society and as a country and for me, I just want it to mean something in a positive light.”

Negative indeed. The (currently) more famous David Duke is also infamous: a white supremacist, convicted felon, neo-Nazi and former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Not to mention the foil in Spike Lee’s “Black Klansman.”

The 6’5” Providence product is a rookie in Nets camp out in Vegas and getting past all the talk about his name is the least of his worries. He’s trying to make a championship contender’s roster despite going undrafted. So far, so good. He started —at small forward — in the first game of Summer League and the Nets signed him to an Exhibit 10 deal, which is ideal for him and the team. It allows a player to participate in an NBA training camp while also allowing the team to control the player’s G-League rights. (The Nets haven’t signed their three second rounders. They already hold their rights.)

His coach likes him too. Jordan Ott, the Nets assistant, who’s handling head coaching duties, raved about his defense and motor both in the loss to the Grizzlies and practice.

“He earned it. We’re here in summer league, and he brings it every day,” Ott said. “You saw it in the game. That’s what he’s done every day in practice. His defensive mentality we loved. We thought it fit with that first unit, the style of play we wanted to play here in summer league and for our big club: Toughness, aggressiveness.

“We’re out here trying to find guys that want to get after it defensively, and he displayed it every day in practice. He displayed it again [Monday]. He was unbelievable on the point of attack, the ball pressure. … So, we were really happy with the way he played [Monday] and throughout the week before.”

Ott isn’t alone. In the past week, Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report, draft guru Chad Ford and Fran Fraschilla of ESPN have all suggested that even after making five picks back on July 29, the Nets did well in getting Duke. Fraschilla was the latest...

The 21-year-old certainly has the physical tools. He’s 6’5.5” in sneakers, has a 6’9” wingspan and a 39” max vertical.

Duke said the Nets called him even while they were still picking in the second round. The Nets convinced him that going undrafted could present him with an opportunity. So he bet on himself.

“It was a situation where I could’ve had my name called,” Duke said. “The Nets, they said you can do that, or go the undrafted route. And you’d basically do this, this and this; be able to go into training camp, fight for a spot. I had a good workout with them, and they were really excited about me.

“Doing this route, being able to determine my own situation, for me it was just about my confidence in myself. It wasn’t so much about getting my name called, I just want the opportunity and a chance. This way, I definitely will [get one], and be able to have things in my hand.”

The Nets will have options with Duke come October. They could sign him directly to Long Island or to a two-way deal. It’s unlikely he’ll make the 15-man contract, but he’s ready done well, well enough to give him confidence that he can erase and replace the other David Duke in people’s consciousness.

“I’ll use this whole thing as motivation to me. One day when you look it up it’s just gonna be me and not the other dude,” Duke said. “If anybody should change his name, it should be him. I should be the one to keep it.

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Meanwhile, Ott also had good things to say about first round pick, Day’Ron Sharpe who’s hoping he can show his coaches things that the North Carolina staff didn’t want him to try in games.

“He could be a great rim protector just his size alone. They felt him right away. Memphis guards, they’d try to get downhill, they’d see him [and] right away pull back out,” summer league coach Jordan Ott said. “That’s a big reason — and screening; offensively he could be a great screener and still be dynamic enough to roll. Great hands.

“And obviously offensive rebounding, you can feel him throwing people. You talk about steps … it’s so obvious, the young guys you could literally see step-by-step development from Day 1 to Day’Ron to know.”

Ott also hinted that the Nets have been scouting Sharpe since his high school days so while he didn’t show his ball-handling and shooting UNC, the Nets scouting staff had a baseline that gave them confidence at his full range of skills.

“I feel like I could dribble a little bit. In high school, my coach let me do what I want, and in AAU he’d seen it in me, so he pushed me to do it more. But right now, the team I’m going to I don’t really have to do that,” Sharpe told Lewis. “So whatever I got to play to win the game, that’s the role I take. If it’s going to rebound, blocking shots, I’ll do that. If I had the ball in my hands more I’ll do that.”

You can watch Duke and Sharpe on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. ET when the Nets Summer League entry takes on the Bucks in Las Vegas.