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Three former Wildcats jumpstart NBA careers through participation in Orlando Pro Summer League


Former Kentucky men’s basketball players Bam Adebayo, Dakari Johnson and Derek Willis will play in the NBA’s Mountain Dew Orlando Pro Summer League, which begins Saturday at the Orlando Magic’s Amway Center practice court.

The league will jumpstart a busy summer for former UK players either making their professional debuts or looking to enrich their opportunities in the NBA.

In addition to UK’s three lottery selections on Draft Night (Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk), Willis is among five Wildcats who inked summer league opportunities with various NBA squads. Willis is playing with the Detroit Pistons.

Isaiah Briscoe is currently participating in the Philadelphia 76ers mini-camp and vying for a summer league roster spot. The 76ers are set to participate in both the Utah League and the Las Vegas League later this summer. Dominique Hawkins joins Fox on the Sacramento Kings’ summer league roster.

UK Photo by Chet White

Isaac Humphries inked a summer-league deal with the Washington Wizards, while Mychal Mulder will join the Toronto Raptors summer team. The Kings, Raptors and Wizards are not set to begin summer league action until the Las Vegas League opens on July 7.

Joining Briscoe in the 76ers mini-camp are former Wildcats Aaron Harrison (2014-15) and Alex Poythress (2013-16). The 76ers are expected to announce their summer league roster following the conclusion of mini-camp.

Up first is the Orlando Summer League. Adebayo will play for the Miami Heat, Johnson (2014-15) will suit up with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Willis (2014-17) will join the Pistons.

Monk, who was drafted 11th overall by the Charlotte Hornets last week, is listed on the Charlotte summer league roster, but the team announced last week that Monk is doubtful to participate in the Orland league because of a sprained left ankle he suffered during the draft workout process.

The Orlando league will be one week, spanning 20 games. All games will be televised on NBA TV. The games conclude Thursday. The league will feature the Charlotte Hornets, Dallas Mavericks, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder and the Orlando Magic.

Summer league rosters for the Utah league (July 3-6) and the Las Vegas league (July 7-17) will be announced at a later time.

The NBA summer leagues are an important time of the year for professional players to either earn a free-agent contract, solidify their spot on an NBA roster, or develop and earn additional playing time for the NBA regular season.

Fans can access box scores, game recaps and cumulative statistics at nba.com/magic/summer-league.

Each team in the Orlando Summer League will play five games. A point system will establish the standings leading up to the final day, with eight points awarded each game based on: four points for winning the game and one point for winning a quarter (in the event of a tied quarter, each team will receive 0.5 points). In the event of ties in seeding heading into championship day, three tiebreakers will be in place: 1) total point differential; 2) total points allowed; 3) coin flip.

Briscoe was one of the constants during UK’s league title and NCAA Tournament runs over the last two seasons. The Newark, New Jersey native, started 69 of the 70 games he played in and averaged 10.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists during his two-year college career.

As one of the few returning players from a season ago, Briscoe’s leadership was instrumental in bringing together one of the youngest teams in the country and leading it to the top of the polls in November. Briscoe went on to average careers highs in points (12.1), rebounds (5.4) and assists (4.2) in 2016-17, the only player in the Southeastern Conference to average at least those numbers in all three categories. Briscoe scored in double figures in 23 of the 36 games he played in this season, scored 20 or more points in six games, and led the team in assists in 15 games.

Among his many highlights, Briscoe became the third Wildcat in program history to post a triple-double when he recorded 19 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in the SEC opener at Ole Miss on Dec. 29.

Briscoe declared for the NBA Draft a season ago but returned for his sophomore year to continue to develop his game. The 6-foot-3 guard showed improvement in nearly every statistical category, including overall field-goal percentage (.470, up from .439 in his freshman season), free-throw percentage (.635, up from .460) and 3-pointers made (17, up from five).

Harrison

After going undrafted in 2015, Harrison signed a free-agent deal with the Charlotte Hornets. He appeared in 26 games during his tenure with the Hornets. His rights were traded to the Delaware 87ers in the D-League midseason.

He played in 38 games for the 87ers this season, averaging 17.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. Harrison connected on 44.2 percent of his field-goal attempts, including 40.8 percent from behind the arc. In one of his final games of the season, Harrison poured in 32 points on 11-of-26 shooting with five 3-pointers. He had a 16-game double-figure scoring stretch near the end of the season and finished the year with 33 combined double-figure efforts.

Harrison will forever be remembered for his three straight game-winning 3-pointers during UK’s thrilling 2014 NCAA Tournament run. He averaged 12.4 points in his two-year career with the Wildcats and sunk 121 career 3-pointers, a mark that ranked 22nd all-time in Kentucky’s record books upon the conclusion of his career.

He started all but one game in his 79 career appearances. Harrison was a Second Team All-SEC selection as a sophomore and a two-time All-SEC Tournament Team selection. For his career, he shot 41 percent from the field and 33.5 percent from behind the arc. He finished just 21 points shy of joining UK’s 1,000-point club.

Hawkins

Hawkins concluded his UK career as one of the most revered players to ever suit up for the Cats. He saved his best basketball for his final season. He appeared in all 38 games and made four starts. Hawkins earned SEC All-Tournament team honors after helping lead the Cats to the 2017 crown with a career-high 14-point performance against Arkansas in the title game. He averaged 4.7 points, 1.7 assists and 1.6 rebounds per game, while boasting a team-best 3.6 assist-to-turnover ratio during his senior campaign.

During his four-year career he played in 121 career games, the most during the Calipari era for any player. He also owns the second-best assist-to-turnover ratio (2.943) during Cal’s tenure. He was a member of two Final Fours, three SEC regular-season championships and three SEC Tournament titles.

Hawkins recorded four double-figure scoring games after having just two during the first three years of his career, with three of the four coming during the season’s last five games. He had 10 first-half points while adding three rebounds against North Carolina in his final appearance for the Wildcats. Prior to his late-season senior run, Hawkins’ entered UK folklore with a career-high 13-points on three 3-pointers in a win over archrival Louisville during his junior season.

Humphries

The 7-footer from Sydney, Australia, played a key role off the bench in each of Kentucky’s last two SEC regular-season and tournament championships. Humphries averaged 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 51.1 percent from the floor during his sophomore season.

Playing alongside some of the best talent in the country, Humphries made the most of his opportunities when he got them, most notably in last month’s Elite Eight matchup vs. North Carolina. Playing in a season-high 21 minutes under the national spotlight, Humphries scored a career-high 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting. More importantly, he scored eight points during a 10-2 UK run that gave the Wildcats a 64-59 lead with 5:10 to play. The effort nearly willed Kentucky to the Final Four.

Other notable performances included a nine-point, nine rebound game in 11 minutes vs. Cleveland State and nine points, nine rebounds, three blocks and three steals vs. Stephen F. Austin. UK was 24-1 this season when Humphries scored.

A late summer addition to the 2015-16 roster, Humphries earned valuable minutes late in the year, breaking out with a six-point, 12-rebound game at Texas A&M.

Johnson

Johnson, a member of the Oklahoma City Blue, started all 49 games this season en route to All NBA D-League honors. He averaged 18.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game, while shooting 55.7 percent from the floor and 68.4 percent from the charity stripe. A 2016-17 D-League All-Star, Johnson enjoyed a breakout season becoming one of the league’s most dominating post presences. He notched career highs in points (31) and rebounds (11) on April 19 against Rio Grande Valley during the playoffs.

The Brooklyn, New York, native was the league’s seventh-leading scorer and its fifth-leading rebounder. Johnson produced 29 games with 20 or more points, along with 17 double-doubles. He led the Oklahoma City Blue to the semifinals of the NBA D-League playoffs, averaging 24.8 points and 10.0 rebounds a night. Johnson scored 24 or more points in five of six playoff appearances and had four double-doubles.

A two-year player at Kentucky, Johnson was a member of two teams that advanced to the Final Four. Johnson was a vital member of the 2014 team that appeared in the NCAA championship game where UK started five freshmen. In 2015, Johnson and company set an NCAA record by winning their first 38 games of the season. He averaged 5.8 points and 4.3 rebounds in his career, while playing in 78 career games before being drafted 48th overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Mulder

Mulder will get his shot with the Raptors after completing a two-year career with the Wildcats. He appeared in 56 games and helped UK win consecutive regular-season and tournament SEC crowns. He came to Kentucky following an All-America career in Junior College at Vincennes University.

During his senior campaign at Kentucky, Mulder became a reliable sharpshooter and provided valuable minutes to an Elite Eight team. He averaged 4.7 points and 1.5 rebounds in 10.5 minutes per game. His 35 made 3-pointers on the year ranked third on the squad. He knocked down at least one 3-pointer in 21 of the 32 games he appeared, and he provided four double-figure scoring outputs. In his most impressive performance of the season, Mulder drained three 3-pointers in the second-half comeback victory at Georgia to keep the Cats in the regular-season title race. Mulder also sparked the biggest comeback in the Calipari era with five straight points to end a scoring draught in the opening half of the Senior Night win over Vanderbilt.

At Vincennes, he averaged 15.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a game while connecting on 46.3 percent of his long-range attempts during his All-America season.

Poythress

Poythress was a D-League All-Star in his rookie campaign with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants before signing with the Philadelphia 76ers on April 11 and earned All-NBA D-League honors following a successful start to his professional career.

While with the Mad Ants, Poythress averaged 18.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. He shot 52.7 percent from the floor, 40.3 percent from 3-point range and 78.3 percent from the free-throw line. The Clarksville, Tennessee, native poured in a career-high 35 points on Jan. 12. He scored 20 or more points on 21 occasions and had 10 double-doubles for the season.

After earning a call-up to the NBA, Poythress made the most of his opportunity. In eight games with the 76ers, Poythress averaged 10.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game and connected on 46.3 percent of his field-goal attempts. Against the Indiana Pacers, Poythress drained five 3-pointers for 15 points before concluding the season with a career-high 18 points in 32 minutes against the Knicks.

A four-year player for the Cats, Poythress became John Calipari’s first Academic All-American during his senior season. He played in 112 career games and averaged 8.6 points and 5.3 rebounds. He was a member of two Final Four teams and was an SEC All-Freshman Team selection in 2013.

Willis

During his four-year career at Kentucky, Willis scored 555 points, grabbed 354 rebounds and made 108 3-point field goals. His career 3-point field-goal percentage (.3985) ranks 12th among the school’s all-time leaders.

Willis was a member of four NCAA Tournament teams, three SEC regular-season championships, three SEC Tournament titles and two Final Four appearances. He played an integral role in each of the last two seasons during limited minutes in his freshman and sophomore seasons. Willis averaged 7.7 points and led the team in 3-point field goal percentage with a .442 clip during his junior season. He led the SEC in 3-point field-goal percentage a year ago during conference play.

In his senior season, in which he started 15 of 38 games, Willis notched career highs in points (267), rebounds (205), blocks (39), assists (34) and steals (25). He was a central figure in UK’s late-season defensive improvement, totaling 18 blocks over the last nine games after recording 21 in the previous 29. He averaged 5.4 rebounds on the season, including 7.3 over the last 12 games.

Among Willis’ career highlights is a 25-point performance with a career-high seven 3-pointers vs. Tennessee last season. He came up big during UK’s run to the Elite Eight, averaging 7.8 points and 7.3 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament.

From UK Athletics


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