LAS VEGAS, Nev. & ORLANDO, Fla. – The University of Colorado had six former players play in the two NBA summer leagues throughout the month of July. Other than having played at CU, they all went into their respective summer leagues with vastly different paths but similar goals.
The six former Buffs made headlines throughout the summer leagues with perhaps the top breakout story, a compelling comeback attempt and the worst injury sustained during the leagues. Two young Buffs also helped the worst team in the league to a 4-1 record while another one was the league’s second-leading scorer.
Carlon Brown, Alec Burks, Chris Copeland, David Harrison, Cory Higgins and Xavier Silas run the gamut of how they came to be where they were in July after leaving Boulder anywhere from eight weeks ago to eight years ago. All are hoping for the same outcome, however, that of an NBA roster spot for the 2012-13 season.
Brown is an NBA rookie, the only one in a summer league fresh off his senior season in Boulder in which he led the Buffaloes to the Pac-12 Championship and NCAA Tournament third round after a magical run in March. He joined Higgins playing for the Charlotte Bobcats, who had the NBA’s worst record last year, helping them to an impressive 4-1 record.
Both had very similar numbers, with Brown averaging 9.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game and Higgins, the second-year player looking to stick to a roster next year, averaging 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.
Both players also went for double figures in three of the five games and both players scoring high was 15 points. Brown had his best game against the Denver Nuggets with his 15 points coming off of a 6-of-10 shooting performance and he added two assists. Higgins saved his best for last with a 15-point outing against Memphis in the finale.
Burks, the former lottery pick the Jazz put in the summer league to continue to develop, did just that, averaging 17.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.0 assist as the Jazz went 3.2 in the Orlando league. He was the second leading scorer of the Orlando league and his best outing was a 31 point performance, when he shot 10-of-14 from the field and 10-of-11 from the line in an 84-80 win over the 76ers. He also had 22 points, seven boards and five assists in an 87-81 win over Indiana.
Copeland was perhaps the best the breakout story of either summer league, as the former Buff who has spent the few seasons in Europe, averaged 13.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.0 block per game for the New York Knicks. Copeland went for double figures in each of the final four games, including 17-point outings against both Phoenix and Toronto. He was also solid against the Denver Nuggets when had 15 points and seven rebounds.
NBCSports.com’s Scott Schroeder gave high praise to Copeland, stating that he “wasn’t on the radar of hardly any American basketball fans … but he looked like a hidden gem in Vegas.”
From hidden gem to last chance, a name CU fans may not have heard the last few years resurfaced in Las Vegas as Harrison showed up on the Dallas Mavericks roster. Harrison did play last year in the D-League after a few years in China, where he went after the conclusion of the 2008 season and a four-year NBA career riddled with black-eye events.
Harrison did well in China, eventually winning a championship with the Guangdong Southern Tigers. He was featured along with two other “last chance” players, Adam Morrison and Hilton Armstrong, in a nice article on Grantland.com (http://sh2.sh/Nc4UR0) that came out Friday.
By far the scariest moment of the summer league was that of Silas, who had to undergo surgery after an elbow from teammate Solo Jones not only gave him a concussion, but fractured his sinus in several places. The injury happened in the final game for Philadelphia on July 13 (Friday) and he had surgery the following day. He went to block a shot and after being hit by Jones, he fell into a row of chairs courtside.
Silas tweeted on July 22, “A week after they pulled my face off and I’m feeling great.” And then again on July 25, he thanked his doctors with a photo post on twitter and said he is cleared for unlimited cardio.
He averaged 7.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game, scoring in double figures in each of the first three games, including 12 points, four rebounds and three assists in a win over Brooklyn in the Orlando league.
Silas played for the Buffaloes for two seasons before following former CU coach Ricardo Patton to Northern Illinois. There as a senior he averaged 22.3 points, the sixth best mark in the nation in 2010-11. He went undrafted but was immediately signed by the Sixers and spent some time in France last season. He played in four games, including two against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
In his only two regular season games, accompanying the team on a road trip to Milwaukee and Detroit, where he scored five points in his NBA debut against the Bucks and followed that up with six points the following night against the Pistons.
NBA teams will open camp in September with preseason games starting the first week of October. The regular season will get underway Oct. 30 with a game between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics.