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NBLC has successful first day of draft combine

By Justin Prince

Note: This story was originally published on NBLCentral.

The first day of the 2016 National Basketball League of Canada Draft Combine is being called a success after seeing a more talented pool of players compared to last year.

Following a busy day at the Athlete Institute, NBLC Commissioner David Magley said this year’s group showed more skill and talent compared to the 2015 NBLC Combine. Several players such as first overall pick Erik Copes and Moncton Miracles pick Brandan Kearney had made opening rosters last season after playing in the combine.

More than 90 players from Canada and the U.S. competed in the first of two draft combine days in Mono, Ont. today.

“This is a great group,” said Magley to the participants at the end of the combine. “In my conversations with the coaches, they said this was better than last year’s group and more athletic … You should feel good about yourselves.”

The combine featured talent at varying levels, from players fresh out of college to others hoping to switch sports, such as former NFL cornerback Dominique Franks.

It also had players with siblings in the NBA, including Winston-Salem State University forward WyKevin Bazemore (the brother of current Atlanta Hawks guard Kent Bazemore) and Canadian Mitchell Wiggins Jr. (the older brother of Minnesota Timberwolves starter Andrew Wiggins).

Wiggins Jr., who was playing for the first time since having surgery for a past injury, drew a lot of attention for his play and name recognition. By the end of the combine, he had become his team’s top offensive option and showed good awareness on both ends of the court.

The Southeastern University product is expected to work out for at least one NBLC team as soon as Monday.

He said he was thankful for the opportunity.

“Coming from a basketball family, if one of us makes it, all of us are excited,” said Wiggins Jr. His other brother, Nick Wiggins, also plays professionally with KK Rabotnicki AD Skopje in Macedonia. “It’s an amazing feeling. All of them especially my brother Nick, congratulated me before coming down here and they’re happy for me.”

Former Eastern Michigan guard Derek Thompson, who was selected in the first round of last year’s draft by the Windsor Express, was also competing for a contract. He also appeared to play well alongside Wiggins Jr. on the offensive end.

He said that while had some positives from today, he was not happy with how he played.

“I felt as if I could have done a lot of things better,” said Thompson. “I feel like I could have played better. If I would have graded myself, I would be pretty hard on myself and give about a C-minus. I did some things well, but then again, I felt like I missed some defensive assignments and felt we could have done a better job as a team and I could have done better as a point guard.”

Despite his play, Thompson said he had interest from several NBLC teams after his games. Like Magley had said, he felt there was a lot of competition this year.

“All the games were very competitive,” said Thompson. “It was pretty much close and competitive with guys competing hard ... It was a pretty good combine.”

Following the combine, Island Storm head coach Joe Salerno explained to the crowd that for a lot of players, this would not be their last chance to show what they can do. For some, he said this may be the first of many tryouts they have.

“This is not an easy thing to go into one of these combines. I actually had the opportunity to speak to possibly somebody’s mother who was saying ‘how can you find what you’re looking for out here when sometimes don’t get to show anything or people aren’t sharing the basketball?’” said Salerno, who has coached in the league since its inaugural season in 2011. “You have to find a niche. There’s an awful lot of things you can do to show coaches that you deserve to play for a team or in this league other than just scoring the basketball.

“We always tell guys while it’s easy to notice somebody score eighteen a game, it’s also very noticeable when you see guys take nine or ten bad shots.”

Magley, who had been cut by multiple teams in his professional career, shared similar advice to the players.

“My recommendation is just keep following your dreams,” said Magley. “If you don’t make it, it doesn’t mean you failed. It means you tried. That’s what happens in business. If you try something and it doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean you failed. It means you had the guts to try to make it work. Eventually something is going to happen to you.”

The NBLC combine’s final day starts at 8 a.m. EST. It will be followed by the league’s sixth annual entry draft.

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