76ers

Virginia connection has 3 Eagles supporting Sixers' Justin Anderson

Virginia connection has 3 Eagles supporting Sixers' Justin Anderson

There’s a Sixers fan favorite among some of the Eagles, and it’s not Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons. Torrey Smith, Rodney McLeod and Chris Long are pulling for Justin Anderson. 

Anderson’s link to this trio of Eagles goes back to Virginia. Now they are living out their goals of being professional athletes just feet away from each other at the Wells Fargo Center and Lincoln Financial Field. 

Among these Eagles, Anderson has known Smith the longest. Their mothers are close friends and the two grew up 15 minutes apart. 

“Torrey is obviously a special case for me,” Anderson said. “Torrey is like family.”

Smith has been showing his support for Anderson’s career before he was traded to the Sixers in February. The friends spend time together in Philadelphia and back home, including a crab dinner this offseason.

“My son loves him to death,” Smith said. 

Anderson met the “super swaggy,” as he described him, McLeod at Virginia. The freshman Anderson was drawn to McLeod, a senior, for the way he carried himself off the football field. 

“His aura, how he carries himself, it’s pretty cool,” Anderson said. “It’s one that when you look at him, you’re like, ‘I want to dress like him. I want to talk like him.’ But he’s a really nice dude.”

McLeod took on the role of tour guide when Anderson moved to Philadelphia. From suggesting a barber to helping with an apartment search to attending the Roots Picnic together, McLeod has been a local go-to. 

“It’s good just to have a guy that you’re familiar with in the area,” McLeod said. “He actually lives right behind me now, so I guess he’s my next-door neighbor of some sort.”

Anderson, 23, wants to be more of a leader this season for the Sixers. One player he will look to as an example is Long. They met when Long returned to Virginia to speak with Anderson’s basketball team. 

“Being able to talk to him," Anderson said, "what it takes to be a pro, also now as a champion, just being able to use him as another resource has been phenomenal.” 

Long can see Anderson taking on that kind of role. He is proud to have another UVA alum playing professionally in Philadelphia. 

“Knowing him as kind of a family friend now, it’s fun to keep up with him,” Long said. “The energy he plays with, I think guys will gravitate to that.”

With overlapping seasons, the most convenient way to see one another is at their games. All four will be checking their schedules to find an open day or night. 

“Obviously, there are some perks that go with it,” McLeod said with a laugh. “I’ll get him into the Eagles game. Hopefully, he’ll look out and have me at some Sixers games this year. I’m excited for their season.”

Said Smith, “That’s like family to me. Any chance I get the opportunity to support him, I’ll be there.”

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Sixers' No. 26 pick Landry Shamet is thrilled to be part of 'The Process'

Sixers' No. 26 pick Landry Shamet is thrilled to be part of 'The Process'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Back on Feb. 11, 2014, Landry Shamet, the Sixers’ pick with the No. 26 selection in the draft, sent out a tweet that, in retrospect is … interesting.

The Sixers had just lost, 123-80, to the Warriors. So chances are Shamet was joking.

However, Shamet clearly trusts the process. Check out this retweet, from Sep. 2017, as he was recovering from a broken right foot.

And notice the passion with which Shamet, normally not the most expressive person, defended the Sixers’ polarizing rebuilding mode under Sam Hinkie.

“You gotta respect the rebuild,” Shamet said after his introductory press conference Friday, “and have confidence to go out and say, ‘We’re rebuilding, and we know that.’ Take punches that [the media] was probably throwing at them at the time, to accept that over an 82-game season, you gotta give credit there where it’s due. And obviously, it’s a great time to be here.”

As if you needed more evidence, Shamet got a “Trust the Process” bracelet before the draft. An image of the bracelet is below, via Shamet's Instagram story. He had a feeling he was headed to the Sixers.

“You know sometimes you get that feeling in your chest, you just know?” Shamet said. “That was my hunch. I told a couple people, I was like, ‘I don’t know man, I just feel really good about Philly.’”

OK, so Shamet is a process believer. But can he help on the court? He’ll have to compete for minutes, but Brett Brown feels he has a good chance.

“There were a vast variety of offensive skills that suggested he can just play basketball,” Brown said. “He’s a combo guard. He certainly can shoot. You started looking at the creative playmaking and his handle and his vision finding people, you just felt like that can translate to a modern-day player.”

There’s no doubt Shamet, who made 44.2 percent of his three-point attempts last season, is an outstanding shooter. And he was an excellent facilitator as well at Wichita State, leading the American Athletic Conference in assists per game (5.2) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.5).

The questions about Shamet’s lack of elite athleticism and smaller stature, however, are why he was widely projected as a second-round pick. It’s also fair to wonder what exactly Shamet’s role will be with the Sixers, given he’s not the long, three-and-D sort of wing that many thought the team would want to acquire.

Even if he doesn’t fit that traditional mold, Shamet thinks his consistent defensive effort and versatility will help him earn minutes.

“I was recruited as a two, which people forget about, so I honestly feel confident playing either guard spot,” Shamet said. “And even being a point guard, I don’t have to have the ball in my hands. I understand Ben [Simmons] is a guy that’s good at creating space, having the ball, playmaking. Getting to play with him, he’s going to make my life a lot easier finding me and being a willing passer, making plays. That’s exciting for sure. But I have confidence I can play off the ball, I honestly feel that’s a strength of mine.”

As far as attitude, Shamet feels Philadelphia is a fit. He trusts the process, and he thinks he can be part of the next stage, one that doesn’t regularly involve 40-plus point losses.

“Wichita State is very blue collar, so I understand working hard,” Shamet said. “I understand the fan base here in Philly. I’m just excited about that and I feel I fit here.”

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Trainer Drew Hanlen says Markelle Fultz's new shot is 'ahead of pace' after case of 'yips'

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Trainer Drew Hanlen says Markelle Fultz's new shot is 'ahead of pace' after case of 'yips'

Since Markelle Fultz arrived at Sixers training camp last season, there has been a mystery surrounding what exactly happened to his pure jumper that was last publically seen at the 2017 summer league.

This week, trainer Drew Hanlen, who has been working with the former No. 1 overall pick in an effort to rework his shot, joined the Talking Schmidt Podcast  and was the first person around Fultz to put a name to what has been speculated to have caused his broken his shot: "the yips."

"With Markelle, obviously, he had one of the most documented case of kind of the yips of basketball in recent years," Hanlen said, "where he completely forgot how to shoot and had multiple hitches in his shot."

There's no need to take a speculatory deep dive back into Fultz's weird rookie season. Regardless of whether it was the yips, a shoulder injury, a combination, changing the shot, or any other reason; it already happened. He lost that awesome jumper he had coming out of Washington, a shot that had a huge factor in the Sixers spending a valuable future asset in the Kings' 2019 first-rounder to trade up two spots and select him in last year's draft.

The more notable thing here is that Fultz is working to get it back and is using a popular trainer in Hanlen, who works with numerous NBA players, including Joel Embiid. 

And if you're starving for some Fultz jumpshot optimism, Hanlen delivered some:

For me, it was hey listen 'how can I get this kid that was No. 1 in last year's draft back rolling and get him to the point where he was before, or if not better?' We've been working hard everyday, working on rewiring his body and getting kind of a smooth stroke back in his shot. We're way ahead of pace where I thought we were gonna be. I thought it was gonna take me at least six weeks before we had kind of a serviceable jump shot. We already started to shoot with a jump in Week 2.

It's not perfect yet, but I think by the end of the summer it will be perfect, he'll be back rolling and he'll show people why he was the No. 1 pick. Even though I do give him trouble on a daily basis and tell him and remind him that I still believe Jayson Tatum was the best player in that draft.

Perfect by the end of the summer? Forget summer league, I think every Sixers fan will be fine signing up for just that. Hanlen, who has worked with Tatum dating back to before last year's draft, didn't reveal whether Fultz approached him about a complete rebuild or just adjustments, but he did describe the light-hearted conversation he had with the Sixers' guard before they started working together:

I knew (Markelle) because of Joel. Obviously, I spend a lot of time in Philadelphia working with Joel. Basically what I told him is, me being me, I said, 'Markelle listen, you're going to make me really famous and you're going to make me a lot of money when I fix your shot and can sell your program. And the good news is, I can't go down because it can't get worse.' So I said, 'Give me a chance, let me help you get back to who you are.'

He kind of laughed and chuckled and I said, 'Let's do this.' For two reasons: One I wanna get you back rolling. I wanna get you back kind of loving basketball and finding success. And two, I wanna arrogantly be able to tell everybody, yeah, that's me right there I fixed it. We took a kind of funny approach to get rolling, but we've been working hard every single day. We spend a couple hours in the gym. So far the program is going well and he's finding some success with the new shooting motion.

If Fultz shows up to training camp with a reworked, reliable shot, Hanlen would become a legend in Philly.

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