Philly area natives Tahjere McCall, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson bond on Nets' summer league team

Philly area natives Tahjere McCall, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson bond on Nets' summer league team

LAS VEGAS -- A distance of 23 miles is minimal in the grand scheme of the NBA.

So when North Philadelphia’s Tahjere McCall and Chester’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson met for the first time on the Nets' summer league squad, they clicked instantly.

“We like to see other kids from our area do good,” Hollis-Jefferson said.

Hollis-Jefferson and McCall, who attended high schools just 23 miles away, took very different paths to get to the same summer league squad.

Hollis-Jefferson became a McDonald’s All-American while at Chester High School. He declared for the NBA draft after two years of college ball at Arizona. He was selected 23rd overall in 2015 and is entering his third season in the league. Hollis-Jefferson already has played in 107 games for the Nets.  

McCall went to Carver High School of Engineering & Science in Philadelphia. He didn’t play high school basketball until his junior year and never played on the AAU circuit. McCall initially attended Niagara before transferring to Tennessee State, where he graduated this spring. The Ohio Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year, McCall went undrafted in June and received a summer league invite from the Nets after making an impression during a pre-draft workout. He also worked out for the Sixers at one point before the draft.

Despite different their different paths, the two players bonded.

“He has the best personality, kind of reminds me of me,” Hollis-Jefferson said with a laugh. “It’s amazing to have that around you, that energy. I just gravitated to him and likewise. It was fun being out there, him dancing. It’s good to see people like that. Teams like when you have somebody that can bring up the energy.”

Hollis-Jefferson averaged 23.5 minutes for the Nets in the summer league. McCall, however, was sidelined because of injuries. He didn’t appear in the games, yet stayed positive over the two weeks.

“[I want to show I am a] good character kid,” McCall said, maintaining eye contact and keeping a smile throughout the entire interview. “Everybody out here is skilled and could do things, but I just want to be a good teammate and a good person.”

Hollis-Jefferson is under contract with the Nets this coming season. McCall will try to continue his basketball career at the next level. He knows he has a lot to prove, but he’s been in this situation before.

“You get it from being in Philly — wherever you go, you feel like you’re the best player and nobody can beat you,” McCall said. “But flying under the radar, that just let me be myself and let me move freely. I’m used to it so it doesn’t really bother me anymore.”

Should Sixers' Jonah Bolden have been a lottery pick?

Should Sixers' Jonah Bolden have been a lottery pick?

If you were impressed with the play of Jonah Bolden during summer league, you're not the only one.

The 21-year-old Australian forward also caught the eye of the Ringer's Jonathan Tjarks. The site did an "A Way-Too-Early 2017 NBA Redraft" based on the NBA summer league. A little silly, but both Tjarks and fellow writer Kevin O'Connor acknowledged the silliness of it all. (And don't worry, they still had the Sixers snagging Markelle Fultz No. 1 overall.)

Tjarks chose Bolden, a second-round pick by the Sixers (36th overall), at No. 13 overall.

"Bigs who can switch screens, shoot threes, block shots, and make plays with the ball should not have fallen to the second round," Tjarks, who thought highly of Bolden before the draft, writes. "Bolden gave Celtics 7-footer Ante Zizic trouble out in Vegas, and if Bolden can play the 5, he opens up a lot of interesting lineup possibilities."

Bolden averaged 8.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks in eight games (three starts) in the Utah and Las Vegas summer leagues combined. He shot 31 percent from three (11 of 35), which isn't eye-popping but for a 6-foot-10 player capable of playing in the post, it shows promise. He was also extremely active defensively, switching onto guard and getting deflections and blocks as Tjarks mentioned.

Bolden finished high school in the U.S. and went to UCLA. After not playing his first year for academic reasons, Bolden was unhappy with his role when he finally got to play. He decided to jump ship and play in Serbia instead of finishing out his season with the Bruins. 

In his one season with Beogard, Bolden averaged 12.9 points and 7.2 rebounds a game while shooting 42 percent from three on his way to receiving the Adriatic League's Top Prospect Award. That award has gone to the likes of Denver Nuggets budding star Nikola Jokic and, of course, the Sixers' Dario Saric.

The Sixers are in an interesting spot with Bolden. Since he was a second-round pick, he's eligible to be on a two-way contract. That would allow the team to stash Bolden on their G-League affiliate the Delaware 87ers while still being available for the Sixers. 

The lure of possibly playing in the NBA this season rather than return to Serbia where he is under contract with Beogard would likely be enough for Bolden to go with a two-way deal. The Sixers would also have to buy out the rest of his deal overseas.

"I could start today," Bolden said the day after the draft of when he'd like to play for the Sixers. "But there's uncertainty with that. The organization drafted me with a plan and I'm going to stick to the plan. I'm subject to a European contract at the moment but whatever the organization wants and they say is what'll happen." 

Did Bolden do enough in summer league play to alter the Sixers' plans? Training camp will go a long way in answering that question.

Furkan Korkmaz knows work must be done after summer league with Sixers

Furkan Korkmaz knows work must be done after summer league with Sixers

LAS VEGAS — Furkan Korkmaz is leaving Las Vegas with a better picture of what he needs to work on before beginning his rookie season with the Sixers this fall.

Korkmaz will go straight from summer league to Turkey's under-20 competition in Greece on Saturday (see story). From there, he will play for the Turkish national team in EuroBasket. Korkmaz is taking with him nearly two weeks of experience on the NBA stage, his first taste of his new league.

“I am trying to keep me in shape,” Korkmaz said of his upcoming international games. “I know I have to be better and better. I have to work on some of my dribbles … there’s no time to just rest.”

Korkmaz scored a team-high 22 points and pulled down eight rebounds in Friday’s 99-82 consolation loss to the Bulls (see Instant Replay). He shot 4 for 9 from long range and alternated his game to attack the rim (see highlights).

“You cannot make all the shots in the same game,” he said. “Sometimes you’re not in shape and then you have to find some other solutions to score, get teammates into the game. I think that’s the key.”

Korkmaz struggled at times during summer league action. He shot 16.7 percent from the field in two games in Salt Lake City. He got settled into a rhythm in the second of five games in Las Vegas. 

“As the whole thing’s gone on, he’s gotten far more comfortable, far more aggressive,” Sixers video coordinator Connor Johnson, who filled in as head coach on Friday, said.  

Korkmaz worked closely with the Sixers’ strength and conditioning staff to improve his physical development. At 6-foot-7, 192 pounds, he will have to put on muscle to hold his own against NBA-level opponents. 

“I have to improve my body,” Korkmaz said. “My body’s not enough for the NBA. But that’s why I’m coming here to get the experience.” 

Korkmaz, 19, paid a hefty buyout to play for the Sixers next season. He has a long way to go and could spend time in the G-League, but set the foundation playing in summer league. 

“I think he’s young and had a lot of good experience here, but that maturity will really help,” Johnson said. “I think the same thing about being aggressive in different offensive situations. I think he got better as time went on.”