With the NBA Summer League rapidly approaching, teams around the league are looking to fill out their rosters for the Orlando session that begins on Saturday at 9 a.m. ET.
Former St. John's talents Max Hooper, Chris Obekpa and Norvel Pelle have signed deals to participate in the Orlando Summer League as they try to prove their worth in an NBA setting. Scouts and executives will be lining up to find the next unheralded bench player or possible starter down the road.
Hooper signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who will play in the first game Saturday morning against the Dallas Mavericks. The 6'6" guard from Carmel Valley, CA began his career with the Harvard Crimson, where he played in just two games back in 2011-12. Hooper transferred to St. John's and averaged 3.2 points in 2013-14.
But Hooper only played nine minutes per game and rarely had a role in Big East play. He once again decided to join another program, this time taking his talents to Oakland (Michigan). The sharp shooter had a career season during his senior campaign as he averaged 10.7 points and didn't shoot a SINGLE two pointer ALL SEASON for Grizzlies.
Obviously, Hooper will have a difficult time making a true NBA roster. The only value he brings to the table is his undeniable work ethic, high basketball IQ and shooting ability. Maybe he is able to carve out a role on a D-League roster or overseas, but the NBA is truly unlikely.
Obekpa, the most well known Johnnie to sign, will play under Juwan Howard with the Miami Heat. The former Our Savior New American product played three years at St. John's, but never took part in an NCAA Tournament. Obekpa and the Johnnies failed to make the Big Dance in his first two seasons on campus, however, when they clinch a berth in the tournament in 2014-15, Obekpa was suspended by the NCAA for two weeks for a reportedly failed a drug test.
The undersized power forward/center had his best season in his final year on campus, averaging 5.8 points, 3.1 blocks and 7.0 rebounds per game. He averaged a career high 4.0 blocks per outing in his freshman season and became the program's all-time block leader after just two years.
When Chris Mullin took over, Obekpa was not fond of the newfound discipline and opted to transfer to UNLV. He never played a second and declared for the 2016 NBA Draft.
Other than blocking shots, Obekpa doesn't offer much else. He's an intriguing athlete, but he is often out of position defensively, has no offensive game whatsoever and lacks the strength to battle for rebounds on the interior. Their are questions about his attitude and off-court decisions, although, you cannot question the Heat for wanting to take a peak at a leaper and possible rim protector.
Pelle is also signing with the Miami Heat, so he will play alongside Obekpa. The 6'11" center from Compton, CA never played a game for the Red Storm (or any college) after he was ruled ineligible for at least the first semester of his freshman season. Pelle de-committed from St. John's in 2011, leaving the Red Storm without size and depth in their front court.
Following his departure from the school, Pelle played at three preps schools in two years before landing in the D-League with the Delaware 87ers. He left the team to play in Taiwan and has bounced between the D-League and overseas since.
Pelle has shot blocking ability and is a solid rebounder, but he was known for his spotty effort and developing offensive game.
It will be difficult for any of these three to stick at this level, but at least they have a shot to impress executives and scouts over the next week or so.