CAMDEN, N.J. — Steve Vasturia’s best memories of Sixers games are in the First Union Center. His family used to have season tickets. He was at Allen Iverson’s 44-point Game 7 effort that put the Sixers past the Bucks and into the 2001 NBA Finals.
“I’ve been a Sixers fan forever,” Vasturia said.
Now the Sixers are fans of him.
Vasturia was one of six prospects to work out for the Sixers on Wednesday in the team’s latest wave of pre-draft workouts at their training complex. After four years at Notre Dame, it was a homecoming for the Medford, New Jersey, native and Saint Joseph’s Prep graduate. He spent the night in his own bed before making the short drive down the road to have the team he spent his childhood watching watch him for a change.
“To come down here and put on the jersey and compete with some of the guys was just a really great experience," Vasturia said, "and I'm grateful for the opportunity and try to come out here and show some people what I can do.”
Of those participating in Wednesday’s session, the 22-year-old guard might have the slimmest chances of being drafted. As Sixers vice president of basketball administration and Delaware 87ers general manager Brandon Williams said after the workout, Vasturia lacks “elite quickness.” But after setting St. Joe’s Prep’s all-time scoring record with 1,766 points and building a reputation as a smart player with a smooth stroke at Notre Dame, he’s garnered a reputation that should give him a chance with an NBA team come this summer.
“Can he be developed physically, given some of our tools here? I think so,” Williams said. “You look at his numbers and his shooting and winning at Notre Dame — I don't think you want to take that lightly.”
From his sophomore year on, Vasturia was a starter on a Notre Dame team that went 37-17 in ACC play against stacked competition. He averaged double figures in points each year, and the Fighting Irish reached the Elite Eight twice. His best season from deep was his sophomore campaign, in which he shot 41 percent.
In the portion of the workout open to the media, Vasturia teamed with Oregon junior forward Jordan Bell and Georgetown junior guard L.J. Peak in three-on-three action. In half-court play, he came off a screen well and sunk a three with ease. Bell fed him for a clean layup after cutting across the lane. The trio looked good.
But in full-court action, Vasturia appeared outmatched at times. Fatigue might have factored in considering it was the end of the workout, but one jumper went straight into the palm of 19-year-old French guard prospect Elie Okobo, who’s 6-foot and barely had to jump to block the shot. After Oregon guard Tyler Dorsey gave his team the lead with 3.4 seconds left in the full-court game, Vasturia’s side called a timeout to draw something up. He lost the handle after the inbounds play and had to throw up a shot at the buzzer that was lucky to hit the front of the rim.
These workouts are not life and death. Teams have drafted players they never even worked out, and the bulk of a player’s case is compiled from their play during the season. Still, Vasturia wasn’t making any excuses about the format of Wednesday’s workout.
“I think three-on-three, five-on-five, there's different things you can do but you've gotta be able to adjust and make things happen in different situations,” he said.
Williams wasn’t concerned with what he saw. He said if there’s one elite skill the Sixers see Vasturia utilizing at an NBA level, it’s simply knowing how to play. They like Vasturia’s IQ.
“I think Steve looks much better in the context of five-on-five,” Williams said. “Watching him at the Portsmouth Invitational, as an example, making the right pass at the right time, knowing when to jam the player.”
The Portsmouth Invitational is a four-day, 12-game tournament that showcases the top 64 seniors in front of NBA executives and scouts. It happened in April. In his three games, Vasturia averaged 9.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals, while shooting 33 percent from three.
Earlier this week, the Knicks had Vasturia in for a workout. The Nets are next on his schedule.
But this one was special. Add one more to Vasturia’s Sixers memories.