Haywood Highsmith and Shake Milton pull double duty for Sixers, Blue Coats

Haywood Highsmith and Shake Milton pull double duty for Sixers, Blue Coats

Shake Milton is an unlikely source of advice on playing in the NBA.

Yet, as the 22-year-old rookie headed to the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday afternoon for his second game of the day, he found himself offering a few words of wisdom to another 22-year-old rookie.

He was riding with Haywood Highsmith, who’d just signed a two-way contract at the Sixers’ facility in Camden, New Jersey (see story). A few hours earlier, Highsmith (seven points, eight rebounds) and Milton (33 points, eight assists) had played in the Delaware Blue Coats’ 119-108 win over Raptors 905. 

“Just told him to be ready,” Milton said. “At the end of the day, it’s just basketball. It’s not that hard once you get on the floor and get those jitters out. So I just told him to stay ready, and he was.”

Milton and Highsmith became the 25th and 26th players to ever play in a G-League game and an NBA game on the same day, as both saw action in the Sixers’ 132-115 win over the Wizards (see observations).

Even after talking with Milton, Highsmith, a product of Division II Wheeling Jesuit, was still processing the fact that he was in the NBA.

A crowd of approximately a dozen reporters hovered around his locker before the game, and he shook the hand of every one. Then he tried his best to answer their questions.

“This is crazy,” he said. “I don’t even think it’s hit me yet. I don’t know what to feel or think. The feeling is excitement, but it’s just a lot of feeling and a lot of thoughts.”

When head coach Brett Brown talked before the game, it sounded as if Highsmith would get to soak in the game from the bench, while Milton would see significant minutes with JJ Redick sidelined by lower-back tightness.

Yet, with the game in hand, Highsmith saw the floor.

On Nov. 30, Milton had nailed his first NBA shot, a three-pointer from the right wing in a blowout win over Washington.

Tuesday, Highsmith curled around a pin-down screen from Jonah Bolden, received a pass from Milton on the left wing and let it fly on his first NBA touch. He drained a three-pointer. 

“It was the reaction you dream about your whole life, that you think about as a kid,” Highsmith said. “It’s something I’ll always definitely remember.”

It was the culmination of an improbable rise to the highest level. 

Before the game, Highsmith explained that he’d had Division I interest from a few schools out of Archbishop Curley in Baltimore, Maryland, including Long Island and Richmond, but they wanted him to spend a year at prep school to develop.

He decided to go to Wheeling Jesuit in West Virginia, where he played for four years. The Sixers invited him to summer league minicamp, then cut him before departing for Las Vegas. 

Highsmith eventually made the Blue Coats, and he’s impressed in 21 G-League games, averaging 13.8 points on 39.4 percent three-point shooting, 6.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists.

He thinks he has what it takes to stick in the NBA.

“My game has always been translatable to the NBA game, I think I just had to develop more in a few areas,” he said. “Just develop more, just keep working. I’m versatile, 6-7, can switch onto people, shoot the three — that’s a pretty good game for an NBA player. I knew it was there, just needed to take a couple more steps.”

As for Milton, he played a career-high 20 minutes vs. the Wizards, with four points, four rebounds and three assists. 

While he did commit his first NBA turnover, he’s only coughed the ball up once in 75 NBA minutes. 

In stoic fashion, he downplayed the physical toll of playing 58 minutes in a day.

“I feel good,” he said. “Just between seeing the massage therapist and doing the cold tub, my body feels good.”

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Sixers sign and then waive Shizz Alston Jr., Terry Harris for purpose of adding them to Delaware Blue Coats

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Sixers sign and then waive Shizz Alston Jr., Terry Harris for purpose of adding them to Delaware Blue Coats

Updated: 2:27 p.m.

The 2019-20 Delaware Blue Coats are shaping up to be a fascinating team.

The Sixers are signing and then waiving Terry Harris, Shizz Alston Jr., Julian Washburn, Jared Brownridge and Xavier Munford with the purpose of adding them to the Blue Coats. Harris' deal is an Exhibit 9 contract.

Terry Harris is the younger brother of Sixers forward Tobias Harris, whom the team re-signed to a five-year, $180 million contract this summer. Terry played for the Sixers this year in summer league and scored nine points in three games. The 6-foot-6 wing worked out with the Sixers in June and said "it would be a blessing" to play with Tobias for the first time since eighth grade. As a redshirt senior at North Carolina A&T, Terry averaged 8.1 points per game and shot 41.1 percent from three-point range. Outside shooting is his trademark skill.

Alston grew up in Philadelphia and attended The Haverford School before going to Temple, where he played for four years. The point guard had an excellent senior season, leading Temple to a 23-10 record and averaging 19.7 points and 5.0 assists per game. Like Harris, he had a pre-draft workout for the Sixers. Alston played with the Indiana Pacers in summer league and scored 24 points across three contests.

The 6-foot-8 Washburn has 136 career games of experience in the G League, including 38 last season between the Austin Spurs and Memphis Hustle. He signed a two-way contract with the Grizzlies in January and appeared in 18 NBA games last year, averaging 2.2 points and 2.3 rebounds. Washburn was part of the trade between the Grizzlies and Warriors in July involving Andre Iguodala, and was later waived by Golden State.

Brownridge, who played his college ball at Santa Clara, played 49 games (27 starts) with the Blue Coats last season. He led the G-League in threes made with 187.

Munford spent last season with the Milwaukee Bucks G-League affiliate, the Wisconsin Herd. He's also played in China and Spain after his collegiate career at Rhode Island ended.

In addition to Washburn, Alston, Harris, Brownridge and Munford, 7-foot-3 Christ Koumadje, Saint Joseph's product Isaiah Miles and Haywood Highsmith are candidates for the Blue Coats this season. Those three players were part of the Sixers' preseason roster and will be waived (see story).

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Sixers waive Christ Koumadje, Haywood Highsmith and Isaiah Miles

Sixers waive Christ Koumadje, Haywood Highsmith and Isaiah Miles

Updated: 2:17 p.m.

The Sixers have waived Christ Koumadje, Isaiah Miles and Haywood Highsmith. Those moves leave the team with its regular-season roster of 15 players, with Marial Shayok and Norvel Pelle on two-way contracts.

Because Koumadje, Miles and Highsmith signed Exhibit 10 contracts this summer, they can be incentivized to join the Delaware Blue Coats. Under the terms of an Exhibit 10 deal, a player who is waived can receive a bonus of up to $50,000 if he signs with the team's G-League affiliate and stays there for at least 60 days. 

Koumadje played four years of college basketball at Florida State and stands 7-foot-3 without shoes. He’s seeking to become the first NBA player from the country of Chad. Senior vice president of player personnel Marc Eversley said in June at a pre-draft workout featuring Koumadje that the big man is agile for his size, which Koumadje attributed to playing soccer and running before fully focusing on basketball.

Koumadje has been seen working on his game with 7-foot-2 player development specialist Roy Hibbert. He said at media day that the Sixers’ player development staff has been helping him develop some of the finer points of his offensive game, such as non-dunk finishes near the basket and ball handling.

A 6-foot-4 wing, Highsmith played in 46 games for the Blue Coats last season, averaging 12.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. He also played in five games for the Sixers, with the team converting his contract to a two-way deal in January. Highsmith, who was waived by the team this summer to free up the two-way spot used on Pelle before signing his Exhibit 10 deal, played at Division II Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia.

Miles played his college basketball much closer to the Wells Fargo Center, at Saint Joseph’s, and is, like Highsmith, a native of Baltimore, Maryland. The 25-year-old was on the Sixers’ summer league teams in 2017-18 and 2018-19, and last played for Limoges CSP in France’s Pro-A league.

Based on what we saw in the preseason, below is a rough, projected depth chart by position. The backup point guard picture isn't yet clear, while several of the players at the shooting guard and small forward spots are interchangeable:

Point guard

Starter: Ben Simmons

Depth: Josh Richardson, Raul Neto/Trey Burke, Shake Milton

Shooting guard

Starter: Josh Richardson

Depth: Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, Shake Milton, Zhaire Smith, Marial Shayok (Two-way player)

Small forward

Starter: Tobias Harris

Depth: James Ennis, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz

Power forward

Starter: Al Horford 

Depth: Tobias Harris, Mike Scott, Jonah Bolden 


Starter: Joel Embiid

Depth: Al Horford, Kyle O’Quinn, Jonah Bolden, Ben Simmons, Mike Scott, Norvel Pelle (Two-way player) 

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