By Ray Boyd
PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS) — Sixers fans are about to get the treat they have been waiting for for over a year now. Nerlens Noel, the team’s top pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, will get his first game action in a Sixers uniform as he suits up for the team in the upcoming Orlando Pro Summer League, July 5th-11th.
Noel has been itching for game action and it will be his first time playing competitive organized basketball since tearing his ACL in his one and only season at Kentucky.
The Sixers have 14 players invited to take part in the summer league including some of Noel’s teammates from last season and a crop of interesting new players. Some of the roster was picked in the recent 2014 NBA Draft, while others were intriguing college prospects that happened to go undrafted.
Obviously, eyes will be on the players the Sixers selected and acquired at the draft. Forward Jerami Grant of Syracuse and guard Pierre Jackson, acquired from the Pelicans, will both be looking to impress their new employers. Returnees from last season’s roster, Hollis Thompson and Casper Ware will also look to impress for the chance to return next season.
There are also some guys to look out for that are completely auditioning for a shot at an NBA roster spot.
One name to keep an eye on is Ohio State guard Aaron Craft. Despite being a leader on his Ohio State team, Craft went undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft giving the Sixers an opportunity to get an up close extended look at Craft.
Craft played all four seasons at Ohio State and averaged 9.8 points per game to go along with 4.7 assists per contest. There is nothing particularly exceptional about Craft’s game, but his intangibles are worth a look and with a lack of depth at point guard, Craft will have a chance to etch out a spot on Brett Brown’s roster.
Another guard to keep an eye on in Travis Bader. The Oakland product also played four years in college and as a Senior averaged 20 points per game and shot better than 40% from beyond the arc. The Sixers need shooters and Bader can do that. In his four seasons at Oakland, Bader averaged over 20 points per game twice. Following the release of James Anderson, there is some space at the shooting guard position.
Summer League is all about potential and one player on the Sixers roster that is dripping with potential is Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim. As a pure scorer and tenacious rebounder, it is somewhat surprising that Ejim went undrafted, but that could work out to the Sixers’ benefit. Ejim averaged 17.8 points per game in his Senior season along with 8.4 rebounds.
He is a dirty work type of player that capitalizes on hustle plays. At 6’6, 220 lbs, he has NBA size and will be a player to keep an eye on in Summer League play. Ejim set a Big 12 record last season when he scored 48 points in a game against TCU.
To fill out the wing positions, the Sixers will be taking a close look at Isaiah Sykes from Central Florida. Sykes is 6’6, 200 lbs and can play both wing positions. He tallied 17.2 points per game while shooting 37.5% from long range as a Senior.
For those fans looking for a local kid on the roster, the Sixers have invited in Ronald Roberts Jr from Saint Joseph’s. Roberts made a name for himself with his athleticism and insane leaping ability. Roberts averaged over 14 points and 7 rebounds in his final season as a Hawk.
Not competing in Orlando will be second round picks K.J. McDaniels and Jordan McCrae. Both players could take the court later this summer as the Sixers will also be competing in the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League.
The Remaining Orlando Pro Summer League Players:
Forward Ed Daniel, Murray State
Forward Jamelle Hagins, Delaware
Guard Jakarr Sampson, St. John’s
Forward Talib Zanna, Pittsburgh
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