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Get to know Sixers rookie Haywood Highsmith

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Get to know Sixers rookie Haywood Highsmith

On Tuesday night, Haywood Highsmith became just the second active Division II basketball player to receive an NBA call-up. Hours before the Sixers tipped off, Highsmith had just finished playing in a game for the Delaware Blue Coats, before driving to the Sixers practice facility in Camden, New Jersey, to sign his two-way contract.

Before the game, even head coach Brett Brown said he likely wouldn’t see any time for quite a while.

But Highsmith’s story has been everything but predictable, so when Brown called his number with 5:14 left in the fourth quarter in Tuesday night’s win over the Wizards, he once again defied the odds.

From Baltimore, Maryland, to Wheeling Jesuit University, to getting cut from the Sixers' summer league roster to being signed in the G-League, to stepping up on the NBA stage for the first time in his life, it’s been quite the ride for the Sixers rookie.

We wanted to get know a little bit more about the newest addition to the Sixers' roster.

Let’s starts with basketball as a kid … who introduced you to the game, when did you first pick up a basketball and what was your relationship like with the sport growing up?

My father really introduced me to the game, because he played basketball until his college years. We’ve really bonded over it. I probably started playing around the age of two or three but started shooting on a regular hoop at like four or five.

Can you remember the first time that you beat your dad on the court?

I think I was like 13 and I went up for a dunk and almost made it. So after that, he's like, okay. I think I'm getting too old for this. This is crazy.

After playing four years at small school Wheeling Jesuit, Division II player of the year, you’re having trouble getting any NBA teams to meet with you … Are you still thinking that you'll be able to make basketball a career? Or is that when doubt starts to creep in?

Yeah. I didn't know what path I was going to take, whether I was going to go overseas or try to play in the G-League, but I talked with my family and got an agent who definitely thought that I was an NBA-caliber player, and we stuck with a good plan. There were definitely some ups and downs throughout the path, to where I am now, but this was one of the organizations that gave me an opportunity and it was really inspiring for me to just get an opportunity like that. Some doubt definitely came in every now and then, but I always felt like I could play overseas somewhere. The question to me was if I could play in the-G League or the NBA.

Take me through some of those ups and downs…

You definitely have to have mental toughness as a person to go through stuff like that. I got cut from the Sixers' summer league team, a day before they left for Las Vegas, which was kind of hard to swallow as a person, as a basketball player. But, when you have a family support system like I do, they always encouraged me and kept making me feel positive. We just stuck to a path and stayed patient and like people said, good things come to those who wait, and a good thing came with the G-League team.  

So when you got the call-up, and after your Blue Coats game that you played in earlier that day, that you’re going to be with the Sixers, what’s going through your mind?

My mind was just going a lot of places. Was this really happening? Was I dreaming?

And then, I had to go straight from my game against Raptors 905 to Camden (where the Sixers' facility is) to sign, and then straight from signing to the arena to play for the Sixers.

And then, not even a practice and probably don’t expect to get time, but you score your first NBA bucket, and it so happens to come from your Blue Coats teammate, Shake Milton.  What do you think you'll remember most from that night?

I'll probably consider that like one of the greatest days of my life right now. A lot of memories, putting that jersey on and walking out to the crowd in probably the biggest arena I've played in since I played basketball, just joyful. From where I came from, and just to be a part of something like that. It's just crazy to see how that happens and my family was there. One of the greatest days of my life definitely.

Time for some fan questions …

How did you come to get arguably the best basketball name ever?

Me and my father actually share the same name. He's a senior and I'm a junior. I've heard that a lot that I've had a great basketball name. Every time I was in school and my teacher announced my name on the first day, they would always say, ‘Wow that's a great name.' So I'm used to it.

Do you have any nicknames?

Some people call me Hay. Some people call me Wood. Some people call me Haywood. My coach one time called me H squared cause I have two HH's, double H, H squared, I don't really like that one though.

So it sounds like fans need to come up with a new nickname?

Yes, definitely.

How do you like your cheesesteak?

I'm a big cheesesteak guy but I've tried to stop eating them because they're not healthy for a guy like me. But provolone cheese, no tomatoes, no ketchup, salt and pepper on a nice roll. 

What current player you looked up to and why?

Definitely a big Kevin Durant fan, just a humble person like I am, so one of my favorite players I've ever watched. He's from the D.C. area, which is not too far from me, where I'm from, so I look up to him. I like watching Paul George as well, who does a lot of everything. A two-way player, superstar type of player. Those two I definitely watched a lot of growing up, trying to play like them. 

What current Sixer has the capability to help out your development the most?

A lot of them. But Jimmy Butler, someone who has been in the league for awhile and been in big games, and just been a great player in the league, and another guy that came from a later pick (30th), and an All-Star type of player. His toughness, his grittiness, I can definitely learn a lot from him

What's something you've learned about Philly that you didn't know before?

They call this city the City of Brotherly Love, but you don't actually know that until you get in the city and see how it is, see the vibe of the city. The city of Philly is amazing. I've even gained like 3,000 followers since I've been here!

Do you have a favorite quote/saying?

Good things come to those who wait. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. 

Interests outside of basketball?

I definitely love food. My aunt makes tremendous salmon cake. I like seafood, being from Maryland. I'm a big animal guy too. I like tigers and lions. I used to watch Animal Planet back in the day, they had something called Big Cat Diary that I used to watch with my father, it was a show on big cats, lions, leopards, stuff like that. And I play Madden and 2K.

What advice would you give to other non-D-I athletes?

At the end of the day, if you are talented you are going to get your shot somewhere. Just because you don't go D-I, doesn't mean your opportunity with the NBA or G-League is over. I am living proof that if you have a goal, and you stick to a path, and you have support around you that you can get there. It might take time, but you just have to be patient. A lot of people don't understand that patience is a good trait to have as a person because a lot of people aren't patient, can't wait and just want to get there without putting all the hard work in. It takes a lot of hard work to get here, but once you get here, it feels amazing, and my message would be, keep grinding. You can get here from anywhere.

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Sixers sign veteran wing Corey Brewer to 10-day contract

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Sixers sign veteran wing Corey Brewer to 10-day contract

The Sixers have filled their open roster spot. For the time being, anyway.

General manager Elton Brand signed veteran Corey Brewer to a 10-day deal on Tuesday.

Brewer was among a group of players the Sixers had recently worked out that included Brandon Rush and Jodie Meeks

A back-to-back national champion at Florida in 2006 and 2007, the 32-year-old Brewer also has an NBA title, with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. He's averaged 8.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 11 NBA seasons, and last played in the league last season, appearing in 72 total games for the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder. 

The 6-foot-9 Brewer will have a chance to show he can provide some of the perimeter defense and athleticism the Sixers have been lacking off the bench. The Sixers have had a vacant roster spot since their trade for Jimmy Butler, when they acquired two players (Butler and Justin Patton) in exchange for three (Dario Saric, Robert Covington and Jerryd Bayless.)

The team will have a chance to assess Brewer and determine if they want to sign him to a longer deal prior to the Feb. 7 trade deadline. Over the next 10 days, the Sixers play five games — against the Timberwolves, Pacers, Thunder, Rockets and Spurs. 

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Sixers vs. Timberwolves: 3 storylines to watch and how to live stream the game

Sixers vs. Timberwolves: 3 storylines to watch and how to live stream the game

There are an abundance of storylines to look out for as the Sixers (28-16) play the Timberwolves (21-22) at Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night.

Here are the essentials for the game. 

• When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.
• Where: Wells Fargo Center Center
• Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
• Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are our three storylines to watch.

The return

All eyes will be on Jimmy Butler as he matches up against his former team for the first time tonight. Since Butler made it clear he wanted out of Minnesota, there will be a lot of attention surrounding the current Sixers shooting guard. Butler has not made any recent comments about tonight’s matchup.

The return 2.0

It will also be Robert Covington and Dario Saric’s return to Wells Fargo Center, but Covington is sidelined with a right ankle injury. T.J. McConnell said it will be weird to see Covington and Saric in different uniforms, and Joel Embiid said there is a humorous locker room void without Saric. I think the fans of Philadelphia will also have a special place in their hearts for both of these two guys, and I’m excited to see what the fans do when Saric checks into the game for the first time.

Marc Zumoff’s 25 years!

The Sixers are celebrating Marc Zumoff’s 25 years as the Sixers' play-by-play announcer, which means we’ve got a lot of surprises in store on our broadcast tonight! Zumoff will be calling his 1,883rd regular season game tonight and will ring the ceremonial Liberty Bell just before tip. Stay glued to the broadcast, because we have so many fun things to share with you!

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