Wisconsin guard Traveon Jackson's confusion was perhaps understandable when he first saw Satnam Singh at the Washington Wizards' latest draft workout.
The mountainous 7-foot-2, 290-pound center is trying to become the first player in the NBA from India, though not the first of Indian descent. This is where Jackson's case of mistaken identity kicks in.
“I thought he was Sim Bhullar at first until he told me his name,” Jackson confessed following Wednesday's session.
The 7-foot-5 Bhullar, who hails from Canada, broke the barrier when he played three games with the Sacramento Kings last season. Another milestone would fall if Singh lands with an NBA team.
“I feel good about this because in India there are a lot of Indian players who could have a chance to come here and play in college and play in high schools,” Singh said. “I think I can open the door for everyone to come here and play. So it’s good for India and all the players. It’s good for me and my country.”
Though he epitomizes the term raw prospect, Singh also offers upside. DraftExpress.com, one of the leading NBA Draft websites, ranks the 19-year-old as the 66th best prospect in the 2015 class.
Singh is also something of a mystery man. He left India - a recent Sports Illustrated article said he hails from a small wheat farm in Punjab - in 2010 for the IMG Academy in Florida. That's where he trained for the past four years before declaring for the draft.
Though a member of India's national team, Singh didn't play D1 college basketball unlike the other five players working out Wednesday before members of the Wizards organization, including team President Ernie Grunfeld and coach Randy Wittman.
Jackson, a 6-foot-3 senior and son of former NBA standout Jim Jackson, played with frontcourt standouts and potential lottery picks Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker during the Badgers' run to the national title game. On Wednesday, he and Singh were on the same side during 3-on-3 drills.
"He nice. He good. He’s definitely rough around the edges, but, man, he’s big,” Jackson said of Singh. “He was able to set some big ball screens and he can really hit the pull-up, pick-and-pop shots. So he’s definitely going to be on a team. I don’t know what team he’s going to be on but he’s going to be on a team for sure."
Singh previously worked out for the Kings and Boston Celtics.
Two other Big Ten products, Iowa center Gabriel Olaseni and Minnesota forward Maurice Walker, and a pair of Southeastern Conference players - Auburn guard Antoine Mason and Ole Miss forward M.J. Rhett - rounded out the session. Only Singh ranks among Draft Express's top 100 prospects.
The Wizards, who own the 19th and 49th picks, have center Marcin Gortat under contract for the next four seasons. With reserve big man Kevin Seraphin likely to sign elsewhere in free agency, Washington could look for a backup plan in the upcoming draft. Singh screams D-League project, but with Gortat around, the Wizards can afford patience with a possible second round selection.
“He’s got good hands. He’s a big guy. He’s got a soft touch,” said Olaseni, who was also on Singh’s team. “Obviously being 7-2, close to 300 pounds, he’s effective around the rim so he kept a lot of loose balls alive for us. So being only 19 years old he’s got a lot of upside.”
Notes: University of Maryland standout Dez Wells headlines Thursday's workout session along with UNLV guard Rashad Vaughn.