HENDERSON, Nev. — A few minutes at a time, a different Toronto player entered the Del Sol High School gymnasium here while the Raptors’ summer league team practiced.
DeMar DeRozan. Tyler Hansborough. Rudy Gay. Terrence Ross. Having covered the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas over the last five years, it is very unusual to have a majority of a team’s current roster here. Maybe a player or two. The only Toronto player under contract not participating in the workouts is Landry Fields, whose wife is expecting.
The current Toronto players either took a seat behind the Raptors’ bench or jogged next to the court. Their eyes sometimes became fixed on the court to see what young talent might join them in Toronto for the 2013-14 season.
One of the more interested observers was point guard Kyle Lowery, a seven-year veteran. He presently is Toronto’s only point guard under contract.
Former Xavier and Arizona point guard Mark Lyons is one of those prospects under Lowery’s watchful eye. He is the only prospect without professional experience. The other point guards on the NBA Summer League roster — Jordan Taylor, Ricky Harris and Tywain McKee — played professionally overseas last season.
Toronto’s coaching staff here, none of whom are under contract yet, according to a team spokesman, can speak of Lyons’ ability quite yet. They will get a better idea when the Raptors play their first game Saturday night against Miami at Thomas & Mack Arena.
The feedback Lyons has heard from current players and teammates to this point is encouraging. He concluded his second practice with the summer league team this morning.
“I’ve heard that I play hard, I compete, I’m shooting the ball well, defending … I’m just doing what I have to do,” Lyons told me. “Everybody is out here trying to compete, going hard. We’ll see what happens.”
Toronto’s first two practices have consisted mostly of drills, not set plays. Lyons said he will be prepared with game management Saturday because of his development under Arizona coach Sean Miller and assistants Book Richardson and James Whitford (who is now Ball State’s head coach).
“To play for one of the best male figures in my life, Coach Miller, and also Coach Book and Coach Whit, it was just a great place to be for one year,” said Lyons, who transferred to Arizona last season after playing his first three with Xavier.
“It means a lot to me to uphold that tradition (of successful former players in the pros) at Arizona,” Lyons added. “That’s why I went there. When I was walking down the hall (at McKale Center) I saw all those guys (former UA players who advanced to the NBA). It’s Point Guard U. I’m a point guard, so I couldn’t turn that down.”
Lyons will play professionally somewhere in 2013-14. He has signed a contract with French professional team Chorale Roanne contingent on whether he makes an NBA roster.
He grew fond of Tucson in his one season with the Wildcats and wants to return to McKale as one of those players who grace the walls with their accolades.
“Tucson is a great place and the U of A fans are great,” said Lyons, who mentioned this despite drawing criticism from some of them for being a point guard with a scorer’s mentality with the Wildcats.
“To be a part of that program means a lot to me. That’s why a lot of guys want to play there. Every kid’s dream is also to play in the NBA. I have to come out here and work hard to make that happen.”
Here’s a current list of the Pac-12 players slated to be in Las Vegas:
Abdul Gaddy, Washington
Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Washington
Carrick Felix, ASU
Cory Higgins, Colorado
Dewayne Dedmon, USC
Derrick Low, Washington State
Jerome Randle, California
Renaldo Woolridge, USC
Tony Wroten, Washington
Larry Drew, UCLA
Michael Dunigan, Oregon
Scott Suggs, Washington
Shabazz Muhammad. UCLA
NBA D-League Select
Kyle Weaver, Washington State
Josh Owens, Stanford
Jon Brockman, Washington
Arsalan Kazemi, Oregon
Brock Motum, Washington State
Thomas Abercrombie, Washington State
Allen Crabbe, California
Jorge Gutierrez, California
Aron Baynes, Washington State
Mark Lyons, Arizona
WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports, TucsonCitizen.com and Sports Illustrated-sponsored site ZonaZealots.com.