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When you think of former UMass Minutemen who succeed in the NBA, only a handful of names come to mind: Julius Erving, Marcus Camby and Al Skinner, to name a few. It is very difficult to get a shot at playing in the NBA while not coming from a major conference.
In last week’s draft, UMass had two hopefuls in Tony Gaffney and Chris Lowe. Realistically, Gaffney was the only one who had a shot of having his name called, but the night came and went and no UMass player was selected. The only Atlantic 10 player who was selected was Derrick Brown from Xavier, taken by Charlotte with the 40th overall pick.
Even if their name is not called on draft night, players still have a shot of proving themselves through free agency and summer leagues. The day after the draft, Gaffney joined the Los Angeles Lakers Summer League team and will have almost two weeks to impress the Lakers, and other NBA teams, and earn a roster spot or, at the very least, playing in the NBA Development League.
Gaffney, a 6’8″-205 pound senior center, played to his potential during his senior season at UMass where he led the A-10 in blocks (3.8 pg), finished second in rebounds (10.2 pg) and steals (2.0 pg), and averaged a double-double (11.5 ppg and 10.2 rpg). These defensive accomplishments earned him the Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year and he was also named to the A-10 Second Team and All-Defensive Team. Gaffney did see a big increase in minutes to improve his statistics, so he will have to prove that he is not a one year wonder.
Joining Gaffney in the Summer League is former UMass guard Gary Forbes. Forbes went undrafted a year ago and has bounced around in different leagues since then. He has played in the NBA Summer League and D-League and this summer will be on the 76ers squad.
Going undrafted definitely leaves a little chip on a player’s shoulder and might ignite the fire that helps motivate these players into earning a spot on an NBA team or even stealing a spot away from a second round draft pick. Overall, Gaffney and Forbes both are talented enough to get a chance to play in the NBA and they hope to prove it during the Summer League later this month.