For a very small Country Lithuania produces more than it’s share of professional basketball talent and yet another center to watch is the undrafted senior from Evansville Egidijus Mockevicius now affiliated with the Brooklyn Nets.
The 6’10 Mockevicious led the NCAA in rebounding at 14 boards per game last season and according to Josh Riddell of Draft Express,
Egidijus Mockevicius had his most productive statistical year as a senior by averaging 19.5 points and 17.6 rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted. The Evansville center has been one of the best Missouri Valley Conference players over the past few seasons, being named to the All-Conference 1st Team for the past two seasons and the All-Conference Defensive Team for the past three.
Mockevicius ranks among the most dominant defensive rebounders in college basketball history, easily finishing #1 in the nation in that category. He’s committed to tracking down every loose ball, running straight to the front of the rim after every shot and tracking down balls outside his area.
Mockevicius played in Mississauga recently with the Long Island Nets and he made an impression despite his team getting blown out 117-83 by the Raptors 905.
As advertised the big Lithuanian isn’t exceptionally athletic or fast, but he ran the floor well and somehow seemed to get to where he needed to be when he needed to get there. Not surprisingly he led his team with 8 boards in just 23 minutes of action to go with 12 points on 6-10 shooting. He stood out as a contributor with his hustle.
Mockevicius is what’s called an Affiliate player in the ever evolving NBA Development League. The Brooklyn Nets approached his agent after the draft and brought him in for a workout in May. Then a stint in Summer League and an invite to training camp with some burn in a preseason game before getting him to agree to play with the Long Island Nets. A series of moves which may turn into the two-way contracts envisioned in the revised NBA CBA expected to kick in next season.
“I am Affiliated right now with (the Brooklyn Nets), but hopefully one day I’ll get called up,” Mockevicius told Pro Bball Report. “That’s what I an trying to work on.
“I’ve been at Summer League with them, so I’ve been with them for quite some time now.”
Through four games with the Long Island Nets, Mockevicius has averaged 13.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.5 blocks in 23.9 minutes, showing he can produce in a fast paced league that isn’t often kind to more traditional centers. However, the big man is trying to avoid the traditional center label. He wants to show he’s a lot more versatile than that.
“It’s a Development League, so you are just trying to develop overall,” Mockevicius said. “You don’t want to (focus) on just one thing. You want to do a bunch of things because if you only do one thing right it might not give you a shot at the highest level, so it’s way more important to be doing a lot of stuff.
“It would not only be rebounding. It’s scoring, being comfortable with the ball making good decisions. That’s how basketball is played, you can’t do only one thing. Especially with how the (NBA) is developing, every big I know has to do a lot of things. Everyone is a good rebounder, everyone is a good passer. The NBA is based on shooting right now, there is a lot of things to improve on to get a shot (a chance).
“In the NBA you can play the four/five, it’s not any different. That’s the thing I am trying to develop right now. Be more like a diverse player. Be able to roll, be able to expand the floor, be able to shoot. You can’t really be just one thing.”
A very good college player, Mockevicius is getting a chance to to develop his game and expand his skill set with the Long Island Nets. It’ll be tougher place to play than in college and not just because the players around him are better, stronger and faster. The D-League plays more small ball and at a faster pace than in the NBA, so the match-ups will push him to figure out how to be effective enough stay on the court in a challenging environment.
If this traditional center can cut it in the D-League, NBA teams will have yet another Lithuanian to keep an eye on.
Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.