Minnesota’s Janning would love to play in NBA, but likely bound for overseas

Matt Janning shot 4 for 15 from the floor (3 for 9 from 3-point range) and averaged 18.5 minutes in four games for the Timberwolves' summer league team.

Bart Young/NBAE/Getty Images

MINNEAPOLIS — Few if any American basketball youngbloods grow up heaving shots at their backyard baskets with an Anadolu Efes jersey hanging from their shoulders.

Matt Janning isn’t living his dream. What’s become an annual chase constantly proves unfruitful.

But traveling the world and earning six figures to play the same game he and his boyhood mates did on Watertown, Minn., blacktops isn’t exactly a nightmare.

"I knew I would play after college," said Janning, a late addition to the Timberwolves summer league team that wrapped up play Friday in Las Vegas, "but never in my mind did I dream about playing overseas and getting to see everything that I’ve seen.

"Not making the NBA isn’t the worst thing."

That hasn’t stopped the 6-foot-6, 220-pound Watertown Mayer High School and Northeastern product from trying, though.


Every summer, the same routine. Summer league, wait for a training camp invite, come up empty, scramble to find an international flight.

Italy. Spain. Croatia. Unless something goes different this summer, Turkey will join the list.

A pre-summer-league scrimmage offered friends and family from Janning’s home town — population 4,200 — their first chance to see him play in person in years. Minnesota’s six games in Las Vegas, four of which Janning appeared in, are likely the only games he’ll play in the Western Hemisphere this year.

So goes life on the NBA cusp.

"It’s difficult coming from small-town Minnesota, but it’s been a real honor for me to kind of be able to get in here, get in all these other places, play overseas," Janning told FOXSportsNorth.com. "I just take it one step at a time and just keep grinding."

The steps have been many. The Wolves are Janning’s seventh summer league team in the past five years; this was the first year besides the 2011 lockout where he didn’t participate in both the Orlando and Las Vegas Summer Leagues.

An undrafted free agent, Janning is a fundamentally sound combo guard who’s content to move the ball in an offense but can shoot with precision. He’s an adequate defender, too.

But those facets and his frame don’t automatically translate to the NBA. Janning is 4-for-15 from the floor (3-for-9 from 3-point range) and has averaged 18.5 minutes in four games this summer.

There’s virtually no room for him on the Wolves roster. So now comes the period where Janning guns for an NBA training camp invite, then weighs that against what Europe has to offer.

He already has a deal lined up with Istanbul’s Anadolu Efes. Each of his seasons in Italy paid around $100,000, whereas an NBA camp contract can pay anything between nothing and $50,000.

It’s been a really great thing to be able to see a lot of those places and play basketball (overseas), but obviously to get back here would be the best.

Matt Janning

So far, he hasn’t been one to sacrifice financial stability for the desperation chance camp might present. Any NBA opportunity must present blatant congruency, both on Janning’s and the franchise’s sides of the equation.

"It’s been a really great thing to be able to see a lot of those places and play basketball over there," Janning said, "but obviously to get back here would be the best."

He’s only 26 and said he hopes to play for the next 10-15 years, if possible — even if that’s miles from home.

Last season for Montepaschi (Siena, Italy), Janning averaged 8.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. In four pro seasons since he graduated as the No. 4 scorer in Northeastern’s history — including an NBA Developmental League stint in 2010-11 — he’s shot worse than 33 percent from 3-point range just once.

"He can really shoot it," said Wolves coach and president Flip Saunders, who already has five guards under contract for next season. "He’s played well in the past . . . had a great year over in Italy last year."

But great over there and great over here are two different things.

So Janning’s sojourn continues.

"Just try to keep playing," Janning said. "A long career would be great."

Follow Phil Ervin on Twitter