By Wayne Otto
College Basketball Columnist
College Sports Journal
PORTSMOUTH, VA — The 61st annual Portsmouth Invitational Tournament is again the center of professional basketball for a four day run in the unlikely city of Portsmouth, Virginia, a neighbor of Norfolk.
The April 10-13 event, which has 64 of the nation’s best collegiate seniors, is the only 5 on 5 post season event that enables the NBA, NBDL and foreign league team’s to evaluate collegiate prospects in an all-star type setting.
The NBA is represented by over 250 scouts, team general managers and personnel directors in attendance as well as over 100 player agents and legions of foreign league personnel. All here to find the player that will take their team to the next level or a “diamond in the rough” that they will be able to develop with time into a productive professional basketball player.
The 2013 event has everything from Carl Hall, who just competed in Atlanta in the Final Four for the Wichita State Shockers to known collegiate stars as Tony Woods (Oregon), Travis Releford (Kansas), Dexter Strickland (UNC), Mike Rosario (Florida), Elston Turner (Texas A&M), Durand Scott (Miami), Jack Cooley (Notre Dame), Will Clyburn (Iowa State), Scott Wood (NC State), Elijah Johnson (Kansas), Vincent Council (Providence), Damen Bell-Holter (Oral Roberts) and Rotnei Clarke (Butler) and team mate Andrew Smith.
There is no shortage of talented collegiate players that are try to get professional contracts as players like Ramon Galloway LaSalle), Khalif Wyatt (Temple), Kevin Foster (Santa Claa), Jared Berggren (Wisconsin), Devin Booker (Clemson), E.J. Singler (Oregon), Lamont “MoMo” Jones (Iona), Brandon Davies (BYU), Mark Lyons (Arizona), Reggie Buckner (Ole Miss), Jake Cohen (Davidson), Rodney McGruder (Kansas State) and others that are all trying to impress the professional scouts. All have had terrific collegiate careers and are looking to play at the next level. The PIT has been a springboard for basketball talent since its inception in 1952, has sent over 1,000 players to the NBA and thousands more to foreign leagues.
“There has been many players discovered at the PIT that went on to blossom and become major stars in the NBA such as Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, John Lucas, Rick Barry, Tim Hardaway, John Stockton, Dave Cowens and Earl “the Pearl” Monroe. You never know when a player will develop into a star but you have to do your best evaluation and go through the process” states Richard Kaner of Sports Programmers, Inc., a long time player agent who had attended 42 straight PIT’s. “It’s all about finding that one guy that you can develop into a star.”
“It doesn’t matter if you come from a small school or a high profile school, it’s all about how you play basketball” says David Solomon, head coach of Svit, a pro team based in Slovakia. “Your rep (reputation) or street cred means nothing here. Everyone is playing for jobs, and in some cases draft position.”
With the digital age moving at a rapid pace with social media and the instant access of the internet, some players and agents are staying away from the PIT with the fear that this high competition would endanger their draft stock and fall in the draft selection.
Duke’s Mason Plumlee, Kansas’ Jeff Withey, South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters, Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum and Erick Green from Virginia Tech all declined invitations thinking their draft potential could slip. These are currently the highest rated seniors in the country.
Since the collective bargaining agreement signed in 2006 by the NBA, high school players have been prohibited from being drafted.
>Now, a typical NBA draft has 10 freshman entrants, 20 underclassmen that declare and about 10 international players which leaves around 20 spots that are taken by the graduating seniors.
Many of these 64 PIT players will be signed by NBA teams for their rookie/free agent league teams that play during the summer. Some will play in the NBA developmental league, the NBDL and some will play professionally overseas.
The 4 day PIT basketball event will certainly shape a lot of careers and lives with the basketball play of these collegiate seniors.