ST. FRANCIS, Wis. — As Damien Inglis slowly attempted to make his way down two flights of stairs wearing a walking boot and using crutches, a Milwaukee Bucks staff member reminded the rookie that the team’s training facility had an elevator he could use.
Inglis, determined to stay as active as possible despite a broken right foot, wasn’t about to use the elevator. He was already quite sick of adjusting his lifestyle around the injury.
By the time he returns to Milwaukee in late August or early September, Inglis expects to be without the crutches and ready to resume basketball activities.
"Then I will start playing basketball, finally, after a summer without playing," Inglis said. "I miss basketball."
A native of French Guiana, Inglis left home when he was 14 years old to begin his professional career in France. Inglis attended INSEP, a French training center located in Paris that has an alumni list including Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Ronny Turiaf.
Relatively new to basketball after playing soccer as a youth, Inglis averaged 15.6 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.2 blocks in 24 games in 2012-13 for Centre Federal du Basket-ball, a lower-level division in France.
Inglis began his professional career last season with Chorale Roanne Basket in the French Pro A League. In 27 games, Inglis averaged 4.6 points and 3.6 rebounds as an 18-year-old.
"My first year on a professional team was great," Inglis said. "Even though my team dropped down to the second league, I had a good year. I played against good players. It was a great experience for me."
While preparing for the draft, Inglis broke his right foot working out for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He underwent surgery in France shortly thereafter and has recently been rehabbing the injury in Milwaukee.
It is likely Inglis wouldn’t have fallen to the Bucks in the second round (No. 31 overall) if he was healthy and able to work out around the league.
"There’s no doubt," Bucks general manager John Hammond said. "They had to get comfortable with their draft position to not pull out, go back (to France) and come back in next year. We felt like if a player like Inglis does not stay in this draft and goes into next year’s draft, he’s easily a top 15 to top 20 pick. Hopefully we will have good value on that pick.
"We’re excited to have Damien. We think he has a very bright future in this league."
The draft served as a bit of a pick-me-up for Inglis, who admitted he was frustrated with the timing of his injury. He had no expectation as to where he would be selected, but he knew the Bucks were a team he had left an impression on at the Nike Hoops Summit in Portland, Ore., this past April.
"I did not have a great game with crazy stats," Inglis said. "But during the practices I showed some good stuff. That’s why they picked me up.
"For European guys (the Nike Hoops Summit) is a chance to show everybody what you can do. I could show who I was, show my body, show what I can do with the ball."
Inglis estimated he had close to 30 family members and friends gathered on draft night in his native French Guiana and the room erupted when his name flashed across the screen at No. 31. Although he was convinced he was a first-round talent, Inglis is pleased with the situation in which he landed.
The Bucks did not hesitate deciding to bring the 19-year-old over immediately, as they could have kept Inglis in France for another year. At 6-foot-9, Inglis has an impressive build for someone with his athletic ability.
"I was surprised but I was so happy for that," Inglis said of being chosen by Milwaukee. "The Bucks are a young team, and I’m so glad to be part of this project."
Hammond anticipates Inglis reporting to camp healthy and weighing in somewhere between 230 and 240 pounds. Where Inglis fits on the roster is yet to be determined, but he’s definitely an intriguing prospect.
At small forward, the Bucks have Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo to fill the majority of the minutes, meaning Inglis could be a potential candidate to play in the NBA’s Developmental League. However, the same thing was said about Antetokounmpo at this time a year ago and he ended up playing heavy minutes for the Bucks as a teenager.
Inglis will be one of three 19-year-olds on Milwaukee’s roster, joining Jabari Parker and Antetokounmpo.
"My game is all about being versatile," Inglis said. "I try to be an all-around player. My first strength might be rebounding. Defense, passing the ball. That’s the stuff I can bring to a team right now.
"I’ve got to work on decision-making, my shooting game. I’m in some good hands. I’ve got coach (Jason) Kidd and the Bucks organization."