Fans who attended the Nike Pro City summer basketball league games to watch NBA stars like Kyrie Irving and Kenneth Faried also got a glimpse of some of the potential that Yale men’s basketball has for the upcoming season.
Guard Armani Cotton ’15 and forward Justin Sears ’16 played for Dyckman New York Athletic Club in the Nike Pro City pro-am summer league this summer in New York City alongside many elite players from the NBA as well as from overseas professional leagues. Sears said that he plans to apply the lessons he learned from playing in such a talented league to Yale’s upcoming season.
“I got to play with guys who are much older,” Sears said. “They were more mature and experienced so they were able to break down the game a lot more. They were great athletes who were just physically more mature so I had to play harder to keep up.”
Sears said that he got involved in the league when teammate Cotton texted him over the summer asking if Sears would play in the league and play pickup at the New York Athletic Club three times a week. According to Sears, a spot opened up for him on the roster because center Brian Dunston’s professional contract would not allow him to play in a pro-am league. Dunston, a product of Fordham, signed a contract with Olympiacos of the Greek League in July.
Bulldogs head coach James Jones said that Cotton and former Yale star guard Austin Morgan ’13 got the opportunity to play for Dyckman because former Yale guard and team captain Matt Minoff ’04, who coaches with the team, asked them to play.
Jones said that although NCAA regulations prevented him from watching his players in summer league games, he was able to stay updated on Sears’ and Cotton’s progress by talking to Morgan.
“[Morgan] is still trying to live the dream and play professionally in Europe,” Jones said. “He told me that both guys played extremely well.”
Jones added that both Cotton and Sears showed their explosive potential on offense. He said that Sears was “a double-double waiting to happen” and had a 30-point game, while Cotton had scoring totals in the 20s in several games.
Nike Pro City was not the only league to feature Elis. Jones said that forward Brandon Sherrod ’15 played in a summer league in Hartford, Conn., while most players participated in summer leagues near their hometowns.
Sears said that playing with some of the best basketball talent in the world helped him to gain confidence.
“Just to hear [NBA guard Landry Fields] … say that you definitely could’ve been a high major player and made an impact at Stanford or at any other high major school … gave me confidence going into the upcoming season,” Sears said.
The Bulldogs will tip off the 2013-’14 season Nov. 9 against Central Connecticut State University in the Connecticut 6 Classic.