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NBLC wraps up competitive draft combine

By Justin Prince

Note: This story was originally published on NBLCentral.

Over the past two days, more than 140 players from across North America have been competing for a chance to play in the National Basketball League of Canada.

Now, they play the real game – waiting to see if their name is called in this year’s entry draft.

The 2016 NBL Canada Draft Combine is now finished at the Athlete Institute in Mono, Ont. after a hard-fought final day of combine games. Coaches and general managers from across the league were in attendance, evaluating the talent available and making their pitches to prospective players.

Every player at the combine is on the board for tonight’s 20 draft selections.

“It’s a unique combine because a lot of these kids came to my (and the league’s) other combines over the summer and then came back,” said NBL Canada Commissioner David Magley prior to the end of the event. “I’m a good source of reference, so they’re asking what I think of this kid or that kid, and some of those guys may be drafted which is really exciting for me.”

Today’s event featured many players from yesterday’s combine such as former Oklahoma Wesleyan University guard Devin Harris and forward Ndubisi Ezeigwe to give the league staff a second look at them. Others such as Roanoke College product Cameron Ray Smith returned to network with them and pitch their skills while also learn who they might be going up against in the draft.

Another returning player, guard Dwight Gentry, also returned today to try and earn a roster spot. He is used to doing so because he had been a walk-on player for the University of Texas Arlington Mavericks. By his senior season, he had earned a scholarship and became a starter. He then played professionally in Ecuador, Spain and France.

He said that experience helped him this weekend.

“I basically had to fight my way up to the top (in college),” said Gentry. “I’m basically trying to do the same thing with the NBL Canada combine. (I’m going to) try to fight my way for a position, try and earn a contract.”

Some of the other standouts today included NBLC veteran Fred Sturdivant and former Idaho Stampede guard Ta’Quan Zimmerman.

“It was one of our best years,” said Magley. “There’s a lot of good players here that are going to make our league and impact our league. And every year, we’ve had great talent. It’s just the depth of talent (that’s higher). There’s always going to be a lot of guys that are not drafted that are good enough to play in our league, that’s for sure. This year is no exception.”

With Zimmerman, he drew a lot of attention because of his strong play and for his neon green outfit. The Waterbury, Conn., native said he tried to show the coaches all his abilities during the combine.

“I try to do a lot of the small things that help teams win games,” said Zimmerman. “Like (the coaches) said, they aren’t really here looking for superstars. They’re looking to pieces of the puzzle. I tried to expose my skills so I can show I can be one of those pieces to their puzzle.”

Prior to the combine, Zimmerman had been in negotiations to play professionally in Israel. Recently, his agent told him the process to go there may take longer than expected. Because of that process, he became a free agent.

He decided to come to the combine because he knew players who played in the league in the past and knew the season had not started yet. Zimmerman, 24, also wanted to gain some more experience this year after being released by the Stampede last season.

Zimmerman said if any team selects him in the draft, he will make it his home and stay committed to playing in NBL Canada.

“I think I played well enough to be selected. If not, God has a plan for us all,” said Zimmerman. “I played hard and did what I can do … I just tried to get ahead and did the best I could do and as hard as I could. Hopefully the coaches liked it.”

Gentry, 29, also hopes to be selected tonight. He feels positive about how he played. He said a few teams had showed interest in his after his performances this weekend.

“I know it’s a process and some guys pray on it, but I think I did everything I can do and everything in my power, so it’s in God’s hands now,” said Gentry. “I did everything I could do and left it all out on the court. We’ll see tonight.”

The full draft results will be released at 8 p.m.

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