Against all odds, the Timberwolves and other NBA teams look for prospects otherwise undiscovered during open tryouts for their G-League teams.
For the Wolves, that’s Saturday at Target Center and again next week in Des Moines, home to their Iowa Wolves team.
NBA players Jonathan Simmons, David Nwaba and Alfonzo McKinnie were all were discovered that way.
“Everybody’s just looking for the diamond in the rough,” Iowa Wolves coach and former Timberwolves player Scott Roth said. “Everybody wants the next Jonathan Simmons to walk into their building. Basically, you’re trying to find someone who fell through the cracks or has been off the grid a little bit and they’re just trying to get back into basketball. And you hope they walk into your gym.”
Roth said he knows of one team that once had 100 prospects show, about half of them who had played overseas and were looking for a break – and a job – stateside.
The Wolves won’t have nearly those kind of numbers for an opportunity in which hopeful G Leaguers pay a $150 fee ($200 late registration) for a tryout.
Last year, the Iowa Wolves found former Northern Iowa player Marvin Singleton – a 6-6 forward born in Minneapolis who attended Hopkins High – in one of their two tryouts, invited him to camp, named him to the team and kept him on the roster for the season’s first month.
“You never know,” Roth said. “I’ve been doing this college and pro scouting so long, it’s pretty evident when you walk in the gym who can play and who can’t at this level. In this kind of situation, you get a lot of people who are just recreational players. But there are some guys you see and say, `Let’s bring him into camp and see what he can do.’ “
Roth is returning for his second season coaching Iowa and this season will get former L.A. Clipper C.J. Williams and former Rhode Island guard Jared Terrell as his team’s two-way players the Timberwolves signed.
At age 28, Williams has worked his way through the G League and is the kind of spot-up shooter the Wolves seek. He played 38 games last season as a rookie with the Clippers and started 17 of those. He made six three-pointers and scored 36 points the last time his Agua Caliente G-League team played Roth’s Iowa team last season.
Roth called him an Anthony Morrow-type player who spreads the defense with his shooting.
“He’s a heckuva player, especially at the G-League level,” Roth said. “He’s a good veteran, smart, can really shot the ball. That’s what he is known for. He’s a talented kid who is very close to making it in the NBA.”
Terrell was an undrafted player who impressed Roth during July’s summer league with his professionalism at the young age of 23. Roth called him a combo guard who will have to learn to play some point guard in the NBA. He’s got good size (6-3), can shoot the ball. He’s the prototypical G-League player who does very well in that league because of his skill set. I’ll anticipate he’ll have a very good year.”
Roth added he hopes Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau sees more of Williams and Terrell in Minneapolis than he does in Des Moines.
“Your goal is not to have the two-way guys,” Roth said. “Hopefully, they’re gone and up with the Timberwolves at some point.”
Roth coached former No. 16 overall draft pick Justin Patton in Iowa last season. Thibodeau said earlier this month he’s hopeful Patton will be cleared for contact play before training camp begins Sept. 25. Patton has missed summer league and training camp once in his young career because of separate surgeries on the same foot.
Roth likes Patton’s mobility, his passing skills and his improved shooting, but cautions about how much the surgeries have put Patton behind.
“He just has a lot of mental toughness things he’ll have to conquer over these next few months,” Roth said. “Sitting out two years is very difficult mentally to go through, let alone physically. It’s not easy for a kid that’s usually out playing. It’s tough. He has a tough road ahead of him. It’s not going to be easy. I just hope he’s healthy-healthy and you can see what we can do with him.”