Mavs’ diverse 2012 draft class has lots to like

DALLAS — The three members of the Dallas Mavericks’ 2012 NBA Draft class are definitely a diverse group. One, first-round pick Jared Cunningham, is an early-entry player from Oregon State who is from the hoops-rich area of Oakland, California, an area which also produced former Mavs point guard Jason Kidd among others.

Another, second-rounder Jae Crowder, has bounced around a bit, playing at two different junior colleges, including one highly successful year at Howard JC in Big Spring before finishing his college career at Marquette. And the final member of the class, Bernard James, spent six years in the U.S. Air Force before starring collegiately at Florida State his final two seasons. In short, it’s a group with plenty of upside.

“Well, we’re just proud and happy to welcome the newest Mavericks to the Metroplex and looking forward to working with these young men in the future,” Mavericks General Manager and President of Basketball Operations Donnie Nelson said at a press conference to introduce Dallas’ 2012 draft class on Tuesday. “They’re not only great young talents with upside, but they’re all quality young individuals.”

And considering that the Mavs’ roster situation is currently in limbo, there’s no doubt this talented trio is coming into a great situation as far as possibly getting an opportunity to play substantial minutes as rookies. “These are great kids,” Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said. “Got a chance to spend some time with them this morning on the court and this is the beginning of a long journey for them. And there’s going to be opportunity here. I think that’s pretty obvious. We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. These next few weeks are going to be important.”

It won’t take long for this group of rookies to see what life is truly like in the NBA as the Vegas Summer League starts on July 15 and all but Cunningham, who is currently bothered by a hamstring issue, figure to be big components of the Mavs’ summer league roster.

“Jared’s got a couple of little physical issues that we’re working through. He’s got a hamstring that we’re working on getting better and so we’re going to be able to do some things on the floor with him in terms of footwork, shooting, those kinds of things but how much he actually plays in the summer league games or if he actually plays at all is to be determined,” Carlisle said. “But the important thing is that we get him completely healthy and ready for September 28, when veteran’s camp starts and we’re excited to have these guys here.”

Cunningham played both at the point and at the two while at Oregon State and no matter what spot he plays at, he knows that being a first-round pick doesn’t guarantee that he’s going to come in and play right away as a rookie. “It’s something I have to earn. I’m a rookie coming in with my work ethic, just hard work and just determination,” he said. “There’s a couple guys in front of me so I’m just going to go in, compete every day and try to make myself better.”

As for Crowder, he is a 6-foot-6 forward who was the 2012 Big East Conference Player of the Year as a senior at Marquette. Carlisle loves the Georgia native’s energy and how hard he plays the game, something he feels no NBA team can ever have too much of, energy. He’s also previously spent time in the Lone Star State after a short stint at Howard JC and he’s definitely happy about being back in Texas.

“Last time I was in Texas a lot of good things happened for me. I loved it out there,” Crowder said. “This where I flew out of, I used to come to Dallas. It’s a great situation and I look forward to it. I look forward to the heat. I look forward to the good food. I look forward to the fans here in Dallas. It’s a great situation for me.”

Carlisle is also pretty stoked about working with James, a player with as interesting of a back story as he’s ever seen in all his years in basketball. “To me, 27-years-old is young,” he said. “We viewed his age as a positive. This is a special guy. So we’re excited to have him here from a basketball standpoint but we’re honored to have him as part of our organization for what he’s done for us and our country and all those things. So that’s a big deal and you don’t get an opportunity to draft a guy like that every day.”

All told, James, a 6-10 forward/center, spent six years in the Air Force and admits he never really thought playing in the NBA was an option until his senior year at Florida State. His original plan was to finish his degree and return to the military as a commissioned officer. But even though he’s no longer enlisted, he carries two huge traits from his time serving our great nation, determination and perseverance with him every time he hits the hardwood.

“Just those traits being key to success [is the biggest thing I take away from being in the service],” he said. “The military kind of hinges on that-just having perseverance, toughness and all that translates into basketball perfectly because the military’s just a big team. Just going to basketball, you’re on another team and you’ve got to work together. You’ve got to figure out what your job is, do it, do it well and do it every day. Even when there’s distractions or obstacles pop up, you still have to get your job done. So that’s where perseverance comes in and all of it directly translates over to basketball.”

The stories of the three newest members of the Dallas Maverick organization are definitely intriguing ones and it will be interesting to see how Jared Cunningham, Jae Crowder and Bernard James develop as NBA rookies. All three hit the Association with solid basketball resumes but their new head coach might have offered the biggest ringing endorsement about the incredible potential this talented group presents.

“When you draft nowadays in the NBA you want to get guys that have skill, that have talent. But for us, hard play and that kind of toughness is one of the talents that we look for,” Carlisle said. “And so we like these guys a lot and we know that our fans will be very proud of the kind of guys that we’ve brought in here in this draft. To get three guys like this is a coup for us we really feel.”