Moving on From Scottie Wilbekin

Wilbekin headerCairns Taipans head coach Aaron Fearne has spoken of feeling proud following the news that star import Scottie Wilbekin has secured a long-term NBA contract.

The Philadelphia 76ers have agreed to a 4-year deal with Wilbekin, the financial terms of which have not yet been released.

Wilbekin has been playing in the Las Vegas Summer League with the Sixers, after playing five games with the Orlando Magic at the Orlando Summer League earlier this month.

He will now opt out of the one-year deal he recently signed with the Taipans, exercising his NBA out-clause to join the Sixers.

It is bitter-sweet news for Fearne, but he said he’s pleased that Wilbekin has the opportunity to achieve a life-long dream.

“Look we are very happy for Scottie and wish him the best of luck for what will be an exciting adventure for him,” Fearne told Downtown.

“We have been a small part but have been very happy to help continue to develop his game.”

Playing alongside high-profile lottery pick Jahlil Okafor, Wilbekin has been super impressive in Las Vegas.  In five games he has averaged 14.4 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.6 steals per game on .436 shooting from the field.

The most startling aspect of his Summer League play has been his terrific three-point shooting, something he struggled with at times during his season with the Taipans.  Wilbekin has shot 15/34 (.441) from long range in Las Vegas and 25/60 (.416) overall.

He has caught fire a couple of times as well, knocking down 5/8 from downtown against Charlotte in Orlando and 6/8 in a show-stopping 26-point performance against New York last week.

Philadelphia’s summer league coaching staff have been blown away by Wilbekin’s long range shooting.

“That’s been a great surprise, how well he’s shooting the ball,” said summer league head coach Lloyd Pierce yesterday.

“With each game, confidence builds. I think his confidence is supreme right now.”

One thing’s for sure, it will be a bit of a squeeze at point guard on the Sixers’ roster this season. The team already has four under contract in Tony Wroten, Isaiah Canaan, Pierre Jackson, and T.J. McConnell.

Perhaps Wilbekin could play off the ball at times?

“If you put the ball in his hands, he’s able to make plays,” Pierce said. “He’s played point guard his entire life. But if he’s shooting the ball that well, you can put him off the ball as well. So I think so.”

Fearne said Wilbekin’s improved play has been one of the key talking points at Las Vegas this year, 12 months after the former Florida Gator went undrafted in the 2015 NBA Draft.

“Talk here at summer league has been about how impressively his game has developed,” Fearne told Downtown this morning.

“We have been a program about developing talent and Scottie is another example.”

The search is now on for Wilbekin’s replacement.  That, of course, is no easy task when you’re talking about a guy who nearly led the Taipans to the NBL title last season in his first year as a pro.

“We will put a list of guys together and find the best guy for the job,” Fearne said.

One possibility that springs to mind is former UConn standout Ryan Boatright, who played in both Orlando and Las Vegas with the Brooklyn Nets.

After impressing during his time on the floor, Boatright suffered a minor neck injury last week that prematurely ended his summer league campaign.

The 5-foot-10 Boatright went undrafted last month due to concerns about his diminutive frame, but is an elite talent nonetheless.

Boatright led the American Athletic Conference in scoring last season, at 17.4 points per game, and was one of the league’s best facilitators. He was the smallest invitee at this year’s NBA Combine but his 41” vertical leap was topped by only three of the other sixty players there.

After playing well in Orlando, Boatright’s play in Las Vegas had been outstanding prior to getting hurt.  Across his four full games in Vegas, the sparkplug playmaker averaged 18.5 points, 2 rebounds, 3.25 assists and 0.75 steals at .412 shooting from the field and and .414 from downtown.

He even knocked down a game-winner, connecting on this teardrop over Cameron Bairstow to secure a win over the Bulls.

Brooklyn head coach Lionel Hollins told NBA TV last week that Boatright was a good chance to receive an invitation to attend training camp with the Nets, something that could dissuade Aaron Fearne from recruiting him.

Either way, the reigning NBL Coach of the Year will be working his phone over the next few days to find himself a new point guard.

The NBL and the Cairns Taipans are a little poorer today after the loss of Scottie Wilbekin to the 76ers.

But the reputation of the Australian league as a pathway to the bright lights of the NBA has only gotten stronger.

 

 

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