Final Thoughts on Mini-Camp

Thursday, June 30, 2011
By Jon Newberry

That was quick… Three days, six practices, 19 players, countless jump shots and your June edition of Rookie/Free Agent Mini-Camp is in the books. Without the added benefit of being able to watch these guys in summer league action this offseason, this mini-camp became a priority for the Hawks coaching staff.

“This mini-camp… I think it was a great idea,” said Head Coach Larry Drew. “We wanted to bring as many bodies in here to get a really good look at these guys. Now that there is no summer league my staff and I will have to really sit down and look at each guy individually.”

As a whole, this collection of guys really impressed the coach.

“Really, really good group,” commented coach. “Some very, very competitive guys at all positions. There are some guys that didn’t get drafted that was really surprising. I’m glad we’ve been able to get them in here and take a really good look at them. It’s just unfortunate that we’re not putting together a summer league team. It would give us a chance to evaluate them even more under game-like conditions.”

One player that the Hawks coaches were sure to keep a close eye on was their recent draft pick, Keith Benson. Benson was matched up with some big bodies, and although he ran into plenty of sizeable opponents while at Oakland University (See Previous Post), this was one of the first times he was battling them on a daily basis.

“He looks pretty good,” LD concluded. “It’s something that he’s going to have to get acclimated to as far as banging with guys bigger than him… bigger and stronger. Certainly he see’s where he has to get stronger. He’s gotta pick up a little weight. I really see some things that I really like about him. He has something that I think can help this ballclub.”

As for the rest of the guys, only time will tell. There are too many of them and too few hints from the coaching staff to guess who left the strongest impression, but coach Drew went back to one of his favorite traits when describing what he was looking for in this camp.

“As I told them before we started our first practice, we’re looking for guys that have that blue collar mentality,” said Drew. “That come out and work hard everyday. We want those guys where that’s already in their DNA.”

And did he see that?

“We’ve got some tough guys out here. Guys that really look to bang and mix it up.”

Plus, with four-year starters from big time colleges (David Lighty), NCAA tournament stars (Omar Samhan), former lottery picks (Joe Alexander), and other very experienced players, this group seemed to have a very high basketball IQ.

“These guys seem to have a real high IQ as far as basketball is concerned,” said Drew. “What we’ve implemented … they’ve picked up really fast. Probably faster than any group I’ve been associated with during this time. When you look at the roster and look at the guys that are here, all these guys are very capable. If you take some of these guys and put them in other years they definitely would have been drafted.”

All in all, it was a productive three days. A great opportunity for free agents and rookies to show what they have to offer, and a great opportunity for the coaches to take a closer look at some guys that are available.