While he didn't get a ton of minutes as a rookie, Jordan Adams got a taste of what it takes to be successful in the NBA last season.
In those 30 regular season games and four playoff contests he played in -- not to mention all the time spent with his veteran-laden teammates in practices -- Adams got a chance to learn from established NBA stars such as Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter.
That experience continues to pay off for the former UCLA standout. He led the Memphis Grizzlies with 20 points in a 81-73 victory over the Brooklyn Nets on the opening day of Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League action. He went 10-for-10 from the free throw line.
Adams wasn't the only second-year prodigy to shine for the Grizzlies, who outscored the Nets by 12 in the third quarter before surviving a furious rally by the Nets down the stretch.
Jarnell Stokes pitched in 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting from the field. Stokes played in 19 games last year for Memphis. He also spent a good portion of the season with the Iowa Energy of the D-League where he played in 23 games and averaged 15.1 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.
Brooklyn relied heavily on 3-point shooting but didn't have much success (6-for-24 from distance). Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who the Nets acquired in a draft-night deal with the Blazers, recorded nine points and three rebounds in his professional debut.
The Grizzlies will take on the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET, while the Nets will look to bounce back when they clash with the Miami Heat at 5 p.m.
While Frank Kaminsky's strong second half for the Hornets is likely to receive the majority of the attention, it was a second-year standout for the Thunder who stole the game and the show.
Semaj Christon fired off 14 points, including a game-winning layup with 20.4 seconds left, to propel Oklahoma City past Charlotte for a 76-74 victory on the opening day of Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League action.
It was a well-balanced performance for the guard, who spent last season with the Oklahoma City Blue after being acquired by the Thunder on 2014 NBA Draft night, as he also tallied 10 assists and five rebounds.
"He was confident, he scored some important points for us and at the same time he was sharing the ball and playing the right way," said Oklahoma City Summer League Head Coach Darko Rajakovic.
Another second-year player for the Thunder, Mitch McGary, also showed signs of making strides. The 6'10" power forward, who's dropped approximately 20 pounds since the end of last season, posted eight points and 13 rebounds.
Rookie Dakari Johnson made an impact, tallying seven points and 11 boards.
"It went really well," Johnson explained. "We were practicing for a whole week, so we were prepared for this and we just tried to get better on the defensive end."
While the Hornets dropped the contest, they'll take solace in the fact that Kaminsky instantly made his mark on the game.
The No. 9 overall pick in 2015 NBA Draft erupted for 19 points and 12 rebounds.
"He played a great game," said Charlotte Summer League Head Coach Patrick Ewing.
Kaminsky also put his versatility on display, stretching the floor by connecting on 4-of-8 shots from downtown.
"I think that's great," Ewing added. "It's definitely going to open up the floor."
The Hornets received quality contributions from Aaron Harrison. The University of Kentucky standout, who went undrafted, did his best to open some eyes around the league by notching 10 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists.
"He's been playing extremely well for us in camp," Ewing said.
Charlotte returns to action on Sunday when they face the Memphis Grizzlies at 3 p.m. ET, while Oklahoma City has the day off before taking on the Magic Blue team on Monday at 3 p.m.
Mario Hezonja, the fifth overall pick from last Thursday's NBA Draft, drilled a go-ahead 3-point shot with 12.9 seconds remaining that proved to be the winning points in Orlando's 75-74 overtime defeat of the Los Angeles Clippers in first-day action of the Southwest Airlines Orlando Pro Summer League.
Known throughout Europe as a knock-down shooter and a player loaded with confidence, Hezonja took a pass from Devyn Marble on the left wing and never hesitated on the shot that put the Magic (1-0) into the lead for good. Hezonja, a native of Croatia who played in the Spanish League the past three seasons, finished with 12 points, two 3-pointers and two steals in nearly 24 minutes of action.
"This,'' Hezonja said with a broad smile after the game, "is the beginning of the journey.''
Hezonja's heroics backed up a stellar performance from second-year pro Aaron Gordon, who had 22 points, 18 rebounds and two blocked shots in 33 minutes. Gordon scored 10 straight points during one stretch of the first quarter to help the Magic jump out to an 18-2 lead in the opening minutes.
The Clippers (0-1) battled back behind Branden Dawson (14 points and 14 rebounds), C.J. Wilcox (13 points), Nate Wolters (12 points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals) and Jordan Hamilton (11 points). The Clippers appeared poise to win the game in regulation, surging ahead by five points before the Magic came storming back in the final 90 seconds. Hezonja connected on two free throws with 1:30 to play and Gordon had a difficult bank and a free throw to knot the game at 72-all and force overtime.
In the extra period, each team had just one basket, but the difference came on the 3-point shot by Hezonja. Knowing for having as much confidence as he does talent in his 6-foo-8, 218-pound frame, Hezonja welcomed getting the ball with the game on the line at the end of overtime.
Magic guard Elfrid Payton, who finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting this past season, had seven points and nine assists. Devyn Marble, whose rookie season was cut short by a detached retina injury, had 14 points, four 3-pointers and a steal in the final seconds as the Clippers were pushing the ball ahead in hopes of swiping the victory.
Eight straight points early in the fourth quarter -- six of them coming on 3-pointers from Scottie Wilbekin and Taylor Braun -- broke open a close game and Orlando's White squad defeated the Detroit Pistons 87-76.
Orlando's White roster, a team filled with free agents and D-League hopefuls, played well in the second half and especially in the fourth quarter to rally for the win. The first 33 minutes of the game featured 14 lead changes and seven ties before Orlando (1-0) pulled away late in the game.
Orlando outscored Detroit 47-34 in the second half and it held a 23-15 edge in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
Keith Benson had 19 points for the Magic, while former Michigan State standout guard Keith Appling chipped in 17 points, four assists and four steals. Melvin Ejim added 11 points and seven rebounds.
Stanley Johnson, the No. 8 pick in last week's NBA Draft, had 13 points, four rebounds and three assists for the Pistons (0-1). Adonis Thomas, a 10-day signee for the Magic from two seasons ago, hit three 3-pointers and added 17 points for Detroit.
Wilbekin had seven points for the Magic, while Braun chipped in eight points. The two of them combined for three of Orlando's five 3-pointers.
The Magic's White roster, which is being coached by Magic D-League coach Bill Peterson, is compiled with free-agent players and ones who spent last season playing in the Developmental League -- some even with Orlando's affiliate in Erie, Pa. Keith Appling and Glen Rice Jr. were two of the more notable players in the starting lineup for Orlando on Saturday.
Orlando White has Sunday off and plays the Indiana Pacers on Monday at 1 p.m.
Orlando White trailed 42-40 at the half -- largely because of the play of Detroit's Johnson and Thomas. Detroit was a plus-17 in Johnson's nine minutes on the floor in the first half. He had six points and two assists -- both leading to 3-pointers in the early going. Thomas, who briefly played for the Magic in the 2013-14 season, had 10 points and two 3-pointers in the first half for the Pistons.
Benson got the Magic offense going early on by making five of his first eight shots for 11 points in the first half.
The Magic looked sharp and ran their offense well early on, leading much of the first quarter and holding a 19-17 edge after one period.
Both the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers must feel encouraged about how their prized rookies and draft lottery picks performed in their NBA debuts.
Justise Winslow, selected 10th overall by the Heat, didn't necessarily shoot well from the field (4-for-8 from field and 1-of-3 from 3-point distance), but his aggressiveness and willingness to attack inside resulted in eight free throw attempts and 15 total points in Miami's 92-76 win.
"I just let the game come to me," Winslow said. "I try to stay aggressive, don't force anything."
Turner, who was chosen 11th overall by the Pacers, posted 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, eight rebounds and three blocks. He committed five fouls, however.
"Those jitters were heavy but once I got the ball rolling I was good," Turner said. "Once you're out there competing, I'm comfortable and playing my role."
The two 19-year-olds, who were born two days apart, weren't the only two youngsters to stand out. James Ennis, who averaged five points in 62 games with the Heat last season, recorded 13 points and seven rebounds. Zoran Dragic, the younger brother of Goran Dragic, finished with 12 points.
Miami did most of its damage from the free throw line. The Heat attempted 32 foul shots, making 25 of them, while the Pacers went just 9-for-11 from the stripe. Miami will play the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday at 5 p.m. ET.
Jarell Eddie contributed 16 points for Indiana, which has Sunday off before returning to action on Monday when it plays Orlando Magic White at 1 p.m. ET.
Rakeem Cato is in some pretty elite company after an electrifying CFL debut on Friday night.
The 23-year-old completed 80 per cent of his passes (20-of-25 passing) and threw three touchdown passes, picking apart the defending Grey Cup Champions to lead the Alouettes to their first win of 2015.
Consider the situation and it’s even more impressive: Cato didn’t even suit up in Week 1. The Alouettes passer hadn’t even attempted a single regular season pass before Friday’s matchup against one of the CFL’s perennially top-ranked defences.
The last 16 CFL debut starters have gone 10-6, but overall, first-time starters are 37-70-1 since 1995. The upward trend could be explained by teams being patient with their backups and letting them learn and develop before their first career starts, yet for Cato the opposite was the case.
When comparing Cato’s debut to those of Matt Dunigan and Ricky Ray, let’s just remember that the Als’ starter is as pure a rookie as it gets – and again, he’s only 23.
Here are some of the top debut starting performances that come to mind when we think of quarterbacks’ first CFL starts:
Matt Dunigan – June 30, 1984 vs. OTT
Like with Cato, the first start in Dunigan’s illustrious CFL career came at the age of 23. The strong-armed Edmonton Eskimo led his team back from deficits of 14-0 and 24-14 to score 18 fourth-quarter points on the way to a thrilling 32-31 victory. He finished the game with 14-of-33 for 254 yards and four touchdowns to go with three interceptions.
Brian Kelly hauled in all four, including a 65-yarder to move the Eskimos to 1-0 that season. The young Dunigan battled through pre-season to earn his starting job but proved in the opener he belonged, paving the way to a memorable CFL career.
The next year, Mitchell became a full-time starting CFL quarterback and won a Grey Cup, flirting with a record for Grey Cup completion percentage in a victory over the Ticats. He’s won 16 of his first 19 starts, giving him arguably the best start to a career in league history.
Collaros looked like a magician that game and his career trajectory continues upward, as he’s already appeared in a Grey Cup Championship with the Ticats after just one season as a full-time starting quarterback. The sky is the limit for this guy.
Rakeem Cato turned in a dream CFL debut against the defending Grey Cup Champions on Friday night, throwing three touchdown passes to lead the Alouettes to a 29-11 upset over the Calgary Stampeders at Montreal's Percival-Molson Stadium.
Samuel Giguere and Nik Lewis caught their first touchdown passes as Alouettes while Cody Hoffman scored the first of his career, as the Als' offence ignited to to provide Montreal its first win of 2015. Tyrell Sutton chipped in with a game-high 119 yards on 22 carries, powering an Alouette offence that never ceased control of the game's tempo.
Cato, 23, earned the late nod as the Als' starting quarterback after injuries to Jonathan Crompton and Dan LeFevour. With the spotlight on and the league's top-ranked team in town, he made the most of it, throwing for 241 yards and three touchdowns on 20-of-25 passing.
Equally impressive was the Als' defence, holding Jon Cornish to 59 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries while Bo Levi Mitchell threw for 219 yards on 14-of-24 passing but failed to score a touchdown.
Former Stampeder Lewis had 65 yards on three catches for Montreal while S.J. Green chipped in with 60 yards on a game-high seven catches. Marquay McDaniel had a game-high 113 yards on six catches for Calgary in a strong losing effort.
Cato, just 23, showed no jitters out of the gate in his first career start. After first down completions to Green and Giguere followed by a 12-yard run by Sutton, Cato connected with Lewis to put the Als’ offence right on the doorstep.
That play was the difference between three points and a touchdown, as Cato went straight back to Lewis on the next play and the former Stampeder looked his vintage self, shaking off contact after the catch and bowling over the defender on the way to a six-yard touchdown. The two-point convert failed but the Alouettes took a 16-0 lead into the half.
The Als’ offence kept the foot on the gas in the third quarter, starting with the first possession out of the gate. Cato connected with Hoffman and Giguere twice on second down to keep the drive alive, then on second down connected again with Hoffman for a 15-yard touchdown strike, the first of the rookie receiver’s career.
Just like that, Montreal posted a 22-0 lead following a 12-play drive that consumed more than half the entire third quarter. The Stamps and Als exchanged field goals after that to make it 25-3, but what plagued the Stampeders in the third quarter turned out to be the story of the game: The Alouettes simply controlled possession of the football.
Calgary touched the ball only once throughout the third as Cato continued to move the chains on second down and frustrate the Stamps defensively, keeping the explosive Cornish-led Calgary offence on the sideline.
Nik Lewis steamrolled his former team on Friday night, proving a touchdown and 65 yards in the Als' win.
The Stampeders battled back to make this an intriguing game in the fourth, starting with a one-yard Cornish plunge over the goal line midway through the game's final frame. Mitchell connected on the two-point conversion to make it a 14-point game, but on the next Stamps' possession couldn't connect with Anthony Parker on third down.
Boris Bede struck for his third field goal of the game after that, putting the game out of reach for the Stampeders just inside the three-minute warning.
The loss marked the first of Mitchell's young career away from home, while the Stampeders failed to rush for 100 or more yards for the second time in two tries this season. In 2014 they eclipsed the century mark in 16 of their first 17 games.
The most impressive turnaround, however, was for the Alouette offence. The Als recorded a league-low 188 net yards on offence a week ago and this week eclipsed that in the first half alone, putting up 228 yards through just the first two quarters. Meanwhile, after the Als' three quarterbacks combined to go 10-of-28 a week ago, Cato completed 80 per cent of his passes on Friday night.
Brandon Bridge was highly anticipated to start in this game after playing in the second half last week, completing 5-of-10 passes for 62 yards with one interception. He would have become the first Canadian QB to start a game since 1996, but in a decision that came right down to the wire, Head Coach Tom Higgins opted to go with Cato under centre.
Cato will look to keep his hot hand a week from now when the Alouettes pay a visit to Winnipeg, while the Stampeders look to rebound back at home when they host Trevor Harris and the Toronto Argonauts on Monday, July 13.