SALT LAKE CITY – Beating the odds to make an NBA roster is never easy for an undrafted player. Without the luxury of a guaranteed rookie contract, undrafted prospects have to turn heads in summer league play to even get an invite to an NBA team's fall camp.
Former Villanova standout Ryan Arcidiacono and former Temple stars Will Cummings and Quenton DeCosey are banking on a summer league stint with the San Antonio Spurs turning into a launching pad for an NBA career. They are playing with the Spurs in both Utah and Las Vegas this month.
Each player has a goal of proving their skills can translate to basketball's highest level after getting overlooked by scouts and general managers when they first came out of college.
“I feel like I belong here,” Arcidiacono said. “Even though I was not drafted, I still feel like I can play.”
What Arcidiacono did at Villanova certainly offers a good template in building a successful pro career. He became the first player in Wildcats history to record more than 1,500 career points and 500 career assists. Arcidiacono ranks fourth all-time at Villanova with 535 assists and finished with 1,604 points.
With him at the controls, Villanova posted a 35-5 record this past season and earned its second national championship in school history. Arcidiacono was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2016 Final Four.
“I don't think you count a kid like that out,” Spurs summer league coach Will Hardy said. “He started four years at Villanova. Obviously, had a great career there and won a national championship. So, yeah, I wouldn't count him out.”
Arcidiacono averaged 1.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.0 steals in 22.7 minutes per game in Utah this week. Hardy praised his effort on the defensive end and his ability to put teammates in good positions on offense.
Solid and gritty play has brought Arcidiacono to this point and he is counting on that same formula to earn him a chance in the NBA.
“I just have to keep doing what I did in college,” Arcidiacono said. “That's what got me to this point. If I tried to change everything, I'd be giving myself a worse chance of making a team. My best chance of making a team is to keep doing what I did in college: be a leader, be very vocal, play solid defense, find people and be able to make open shots.”
Players like Cummings bring a different perspective to summer league basketball. The former Temple guard spent last season in the NBA D-League, playing in 49 games with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. He made the most of his opportunities at that level. Cummings averaged 20.5 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 36.3 minutes per game for the Vipers. He was selected to both the All-NBA D-League Second Team and the NBA D-League All-Rookie Team at season's end.
“I already knew I wasn't going to get drafted,” Cummings said. “I was already mentally ready to go through what I was going to go through. I already knew what I had to do to prepare myself and get better and have the season I had in the D-League.”
One year of pro experience also has Cummings feeling confident he can now take the next step up to the NBA. In Utah, Cummings averaged 6.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 15.7 minutes per contest for the Spurs.
He feels a difference in his overall skills and his confidence level from this time a year ago.
“I have a better understanding for the pro game,” Cummings said. “Just having that year under your belt helps you coming out. You're more calm. You're more relaxed. You kind of know what to expect.”