As some of the nation’s top prospects turn their attention to the NBA draft, many are trying to show off their game as much as they can in order to build their draft stock.
NBA hopefuls are now working hard around the clock in order to be in the best shape that they can be with the draft a little over two months away. For many, this means training on the hardwood and hitting the weight room as many as three times a day.
NBA teams and scouts got their first look at some of the top seniors in the country over the past week at the 2016 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. The annual basketball tournament brings in 64 of the top seniors in the country as prospects participate in 12 games designed to show off their skills in front of representatives from NBA teams and international teams.
Former Iowa State forward Jameel McKay was among the 64 seniors that participated in the four-day tournament. With so many important scouts and basketball personnel on hand watching, McKay flashed his wide-ranging arsenal and left those in attendance impressed with his game.
In three games at Portsmouth, McKay averaged 11 points, four rebounds, two assists, 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. In addition, McKay shot 55.6 percent from the field, which was tied for 12th-best among all players in the tournament. In his first game of the tournament, he finished with 12 points while converting on 6-7 shots from the field.
At 6’9, McKay proved in college to be a player that can run the floor and provide his team with a ton of energy. He’s also shown a strong ability to be able to put the ball on the floor and finish pick-and-roll drives at the rim.
“I think I’m very versatile,” McKay told Basketball Insiders. “I can make different plays and I can put the ball on the ground. I wasn’t able to show that [in college], but hopefully as a pro prospect I’ll be able to show that a little bit.
“You want to go out there and leave people with the best impression. As a competitor, you want to be the best player in the workout. Every workout that I go into, I’m going to strive to be the hardest-working player, the most vocal and the best player there.”
While McKay has shown that he can be a capable player on the offensive end, the strongest aspect of his game is on the defensive end.
He was named the 2014-15 Big-12 Defensive Player of the Year, despite playing in just 25 games. He averaged 11 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game that season and became the first Cyclone to be named as the conference’s top defender.
His numbers improved last season after averaging 11.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game while shooting 60.5 percent from the field. For his efforts, he was named to the All-Big 12 Honorable Mention team.
It seemed as though those defensive skills McKay flashed in college have translated well so far during the pre-draft process. Perhaps one of the most impressive parts about his game is his size as he was measured at 6’9 at Portsmouth with a 7’3.5 wingspan (the third-highest wingspan in this year’s tournament).
His 1.3 steals per game at Portsmouth ranked 19th and his 1.3 blocks were seventh among all players. McKay turned in his best game of the tournament on Thursday, when recorded 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and one block in 22 minutes of action.
“You want to be around great competition and push yourself everyday,” McKay said. “I use it as a guidance to get me ready for the future workouts and I think it’s a great opportunity for me to go against guys that are bigger and stronger to be able to show that I can put the ball on the court.
“I want to show development in my body and just show progress made in every area of the game. There is not one thing that I’m targeting other than my body, I want to show people a little bit of everything. I want everything to be better than it was this past season.”
Now that the week at Portsmouth is complete, McKay will continue his draft preparation. He has been working out with about six other Division I draft prospects at Elite Skills Training in Miami. Among those draft prospects are Angel Rodriguez, Adrian Diaz, James Webb III and his former Iowa State teammate, Abdel Nader.
“As a college athlete, you got to mix in basketball with school, but right now it’s just strictly basketball everyday, all day,” McKay said. “You focus and you got to put your all into it and Tony [Falce of Elite Skills Training] is a great guy and he helps us get prepared. I think we’ll be well prepared.”
Facing off against some of the other top prospects in the draft will only continue to help McKay prepare for workouts with NBA teams. Some players in the past have been able to climb up teams’ draft boards after dominating workouts and embarrassing other prospects.
He is entering the pre-draft process ranked 40th among all seniors, according to DraftExpress. Teams love a player that has notable length and can do a little bit of everything, and McKay fits that bill given his wingspan and ability to knock down shots. He is hoping to get more opportunities to show off his game at next month’s draft combine.
“That would be a blessing,” McKay said. “There are a lot of players out there who deserve it and I just hope the people selecting the players feel as though I’m worthy of one of the selections.”
It remains to be seen where McKay will ultimately end up. While the NBA remains the goal for many of these players in the draft, a season or two in the D-League or overseas could be what’s needed in order to land with an NBA team.
We’ve seen a number of players put together strong campaigns in the D-League and overseas that eventually catch on with a team. It’s clear these days that the NBA will find talent, and players like McKay are hoping to catch the attention of an NBA team.
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