Training camp has begun and that means players no one has ever heard of are starting to come out of the woodworks. Every year, fringe NBA hoopsters get invited to camp and work their tails off to try to scratch their way onto a team’s roster.
In the case of the Clippers, the training camp invitees probably don’t have much of a shot – that is because Los Angeles enters camp with 15 players already under contract for the upcoming 2012-13 season. However, if you’re looking through the numbers from Wednesday’s starters vs. reserves scrimmage and you realize that you have no idea who five of those names are, you aren’t crazy. Not everyone wastes away their college years watching amateur hoops, but fortunately for this piece, I did.
Here is a quick history of each of those five training camp invitees:
- Courtney Fortson – Fortson’s name might sound familiar and that is probably because he was a Clipper last year – albeit for a brief stint. Fortson split his 2011-12 NBA service time between Los Angeles, Houston, and the D-League. In his two college seasons at Arkansas, Fortson was an undersized, score-first point guard (measuring in at only 5-foot-11 and that seems generous). He had streaks when he could score as well as anyone else in the country – best on display when he dropped 33 in the second half of a 67-62, comeback win against Mississippi State. His scoring ability hasn’t been able to translate to the league, mainly because of his diminutive stature.
- Chris Johnson – The issue for Johnson in the NBA might also be size. He was a good college player at Dayton, competing in a strong Atlantic 10 conference for four years. He was able to play both the two and the three. He could shoot consistently from the outside and get by guys. But Johnson isn’t particularly imposing. In the NBA, a 6-foot-4 small forward that isn’t overwhelmingly athletic probably will struggle to make noise.
- Hank Thorns – Thorns made the Mountain West Conference First Team at TCU last season, but just like Fortson, he is not exactly the biggest guy on the court. Thorns measures at only 5-foot-9 and seems like he could be smaller. He turned into a pretty respectable long-range shooter in his senior season (39.2 percent from three), but was still terribly inefficient and struggled with shot selection, shooting 37.8 percent from the field as a senior and only 35.7 percent from the field in his career.
- Marqus Blakely – If you’re looking for wingspan, Blakely is your guy. The former Vermont Catamount can stretch out to 7-foot-1 from fingertip to fingertip. Like Fortson, he might look familiar. He was the final cut from Clippers’ training camp in 2010. He spent last season in the Philippines, where he averaged 22.4 points per game and 13.4 rebounds per game in 22 games. Those numbers are dominant, but remember that Blakely is a three or four that stands at only 6-foot-5. That doesn’t bode well for his NBA prospects.
- Trent Plaisted – Hide the coffee. We’ve got a former BYU Cougar on our hands. Plaisted graduated after the 2008 season and headed straight to Europe. The 6-foot-10, 26-year-old center has played in the Ukraine, Lithuania, Croatia, and most recently, in Turkey, where he averaged 14.0 points per 36 minutes and 8.5 rebounds per 36 in 16 games for Aliaga Petkim. Right now he is trying to make his mark in the NBA, but considering the number of bigs currently on the Clipper roster, his fate might take him back to Europe in a few weeks.