Amongst all the hype and hysteria surrounding Zion Williamson’s NBA Summer League debut you might have missed Australian Jock Landale scoring a team-high 25 points for the Milwaukee Bucks against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Landale, a centre standing at six feet and 11 inches and weighing, hit three three-pointers and made all ten of his free throws as well as grabbing ten rebounds in a losing effort.
But the Summer League isn’t about winning and losing for a player like Jock Landale. For Landale the Las Vegas Summer League is his best opportunity to earn an NBA contract. He will have ten days to work with NBA coaches and will have between five and seven games to prove he can mix it up in the world’s elite basketball competition.
Landale has an impressive basketball resume. The 23-year-old spent four years at St Mary’s College in California, an institution with a long history of recruiting Australian players, beginning with current Basketball Australia Center of Excellence coach Adam Caporn. In 2001 new St Mary’s coach Randy Bennett offered Caporn a scholarship despite having never been to Australia to see him play. Caporn accepted without ever having visited the campus.
Since then the Gaels have always had at least one Australian on their roster, including NBA players Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova. Prior to 2001 the Gaels program had featured in the NCAA tournament three times and have made the tournament seven times. The 2016-17 season featured a record seven Australians on the roster, including Landale.
In 2018, Landale’s senior season at St Mary’s, he averaged 21.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots per game and went on to win the award for West Coast Conference player of the year and earnt his second straight selection to the First Team All-WCC.
Unfortunately Landale would not be drafted in the 2018 NBA draft; however, he would sign with the Atlanta Hawks for the 2018 Summer League. While unable to find an NBA home, Landale signed with Serbian club Partizan NIS of the Adriatic League. He was selected to the All-Adriatic team at the conclusion of his first professional season and on 20 May signed a two-year contract, with a player option on the second year, with Lithuanian club Zalgiris Kaunas.
Back in Las Vegas but this time with the Milwaukee Bucks, Landale couldn’t have dreamt of a better start to his Summer League. Big men who can stretch the floor and also protect the rim are at a premium in the NBA today, and no team knows this more than the Milwaukee Bucks, who found a perfect fit for MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in stretch five Brook Lopez.
Lopez creates the space Giannis needs to attack the rim and take full advantage of his absurd physical and basketball talents while also anchoring the defence. Lopez is a major reason the Bucks were the second-ranked defence and the third-ranked offence in the NBA last season.
Landale will be hoping to catch the interest of any NBA team; however, he may be perfectly placed to impress the Bucks as a potential long-term understudy to Lopez, who will be 34 when his new contract ends.
Landale needs to consistently repeat this performance throughout the rest of his Summer League if he is going to have a chance of landing on an NBA roster. Landale and the Bucks will play the Atlanta Hawks next before facing the Minnesota Timberwolves and then the Chinese national team, who are a new inclusion in the tournament along with the Croatian national team.
There are five other Australians playing in this year’s NBA Summer League.
Isaac Humphries (Los Angeles Clippers)
Humphries went undrafted in 2017 and returned home to play for the Sydney Kings through the 2017-18 season. He joined the Atlanta Hawks in October 2018 on a training camp deal, but he was immediately waived and added to the training camp roster of their G-League –that is, the NBA’s development league – affiliate Erie BayHawks, where he spent the season. On 1 April he was recalled to the Hawks NBA roster for the remainder of the season and played in five NBA games. The Clippers will begin their Summer League against the Lakers on Sunday.
Mitch Creek (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Creek, another Australian with NBA experience, played eight seasons with the Adelaide 36ers before departing for Germany in 2018. However, his stint there was shortlived as he joined the Dallas Mavericks for Summer League. Afterwards Creek signed a short-term deal with the Brooklyn Nets and played a preseason game before being assigned to their G-League team, the Long Island Nets. He was called up to the Brooklyn Nets for two ten-day contracts before finishing the season with the Wolves.
Creek played 28 minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers in his first Summer League game but scored only six points. He will be looking for big performances against the Hawks, Bucks and Heat this summer. He’s already 27, and that will certainly impact how teams perceive him, so will need to significantly outperform younger competitors to convince he is worth a roster spot.
William McDowell-White (Houston Rockets)
McDowell-White, from Brisbane, never went to college after academic issues ruled him ineligible at Fresno State University. Instead he joined the Sydney Kings during the 2016-17 season. He spent the next two seasons playing in Germany before declaring for the 2019 NBA draft. Although he went undrafted, the Houston Rockets signed him to a ten-day deal for the Summer League. The Rockets get their campaign underway on Sunday against Dallas before facing Portland and Sacramento.
Xavier Cooks (Phoenix Suns)
Cooks, from Ballarat in Victoria, is a six foot eight shooting guard and small forward. He played four years of college basketball with Winthrop of the Big South Conference and was selected to the First Team All-Big South twice in 2017 and 2018, and he was awarded Big South player of the year in 2018 after averaging 17 points, nine rebounds, 3.6 assists and two blocks per game.
Cooks went undrafted in the 2018 NBA draft and then joined the Warriors for Summer League. He did not earn an NBA contract and headed to Germany to play for s.Oliver Wurzburg. The Suns first Summer League game was postponed after the earthquake; they will face Memphis and San Antonio next, and Cook will be hoping the Suns lack of wing depth works in his favour and results in an NBA contract.
Deng Adel (Houston Rockets)
Adel played 19 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers to end the 2019 season. Originally from South Sudan, he moved to Melbourne when he was eight years old. He played college basketball at the University of Louisville, and in his junior season he led the Cardinals in scoring with 15 points per game.
Adel entered the 2018 NBA draft but went undrafted. He played for the Rockets in the 2018 Summer League and earnt a training camp contract with the Toronto Raptors. He played in two preseason games before being sent down to the G-League affiliates, Raptors 905, where he was averaging 12 points and 5.4 rebounds.
In January he signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers on a two-way contract and made his debut shortly thereafter. With 19 NBA starts to his name, he will be very disappointed if he cannot secure at least a two-way contract following Summer League.