The D-Fenders selected six players in the 2014 D-League Draft on Saturday, adding a variety of talents from colleges around the nation and countries around the world.
Eloy Vargas, Kentucky (First round, 17th overall)
Vargas went relatively unnoticed in two seasons at Kentucky, where he played just 6.1 minutes per game, averaging 1.2 points and 1.9 rebounds in the 2010-11 and ’11-12 seasons. However, Vargas attracted the D-League’s attention playing abroad in Spain and his native Dominican Republic. Most recently, the 6-foot-11 big man scored 14.0 points and grabbed 8.3 rebounds per game in six contests with the Dominican Republic’s Metros de Santiago.
”He’s really long and athletic,” said D-Fenders general manager Nick Mazzella. “He can run up and down the floor, which in the D-League is a very important skill to have, especially for a big. He can also spread the floor a little bit because his shooting ability’s pretty good.”
Naadir Tharpe, Kansas (Second round, 26th overall)
The starting point guard for the NCAA’s No. 14 team last season, Tharpe ranked third in the Big 12 with 5.0 assists per game. The 5-foot-11 former Jayhawk was also his team’s top 3-point threat (37.7 percent), and showed significant improvement in his overall shooting from 2012-13 (34.3) to ’13-14 (43.6).
”He’s a very smart player,” Mazzella said, who also praised Tharpe’s speed and shooting. “I think that’s something that people may not see right away when you see the film. But when you ask around and talk to former coaches, he’s a very smart basketball player. … I think he’s a guy that a lot of NBA teams will be watching this year.”
Ray Turner, Texas A&M (Third round, 53rd overall)
A four-year player for the Aggies, Turner rounded out his collegiate career in 2013, finishing as Texas A&M’s 20th-leading rebounder with 536 career boards. He started all but one game as a senior and averaged 9.2 points with 6.2 rebounds. In the past year, he has played in Cyprus and Australia.
”Ray is this great body with a great motor,” Mazzella said. “He’s a guy that will dive for balls and just someone that will be tough to deal with down low. … (He’s) really a guy we didn’t think would fall to the third round at all. We had him as a a top-20 talent.”
Charles Hinkle, American (Fourth round, 71st overall)
After struggling to find his footing in two years at Vanderbilt and one at American, Hinkle took off for the Eagles in his senior season (2011-12). The 6’5 forward was named First Team All-Patriot League and made the fourth-most 3-pointers (85) in one season in program history. He also averaged the second-most points in the Patriot League (18.4). Since college, he has played in Hungary, Turkey and Israel.
”I think he’s a guy that, in the fourth round, is a very good value pick there,” Mazella said of the “It’s also nice to have a guy whose hometown is L.A.”
Jordan Burris, Cal State San Bernadino (Fifth round, 89th overall)
The 6’7 Burris led the Coyotes with 140 rebound, 30 3-pointers and 18 blocks last season. He also ranked second on the team with 14.8 points per game.
“He came to two of our tryouts and was really impressive in both of them,” Mazella said. “… He was an All-CCAA (California Collegiate Athletic Association) second team (player) last year, and we able to get a good look at him.”
Sammy Yeager, Cal State Fullerton (Seventh round, 119th overall)
A local product, Yeager led the Titans in 3-point shooting, while also notching 15.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game as a senior in 2012-13. Yeager has D-League experience from playing with the Texas Legends last season, where he averaged 5.9 points on 52.7 percent shooting in 11.1 minutes per game off the bench.
”He’s a phenomenal 3-point shooter,” Mazella said. “He averaged two 3’s a game last year and shot 53 percent from 3. That’s something we need. I feel like we have a lot of scorers, but we could use a little extra shooting.”