Basketball never stops. Especially when attempting a foray into a professional career overseas.
A handful of former MAAC stars recently took the first steps of their professional careers when they participated in the Gotham Hoops Invitational April 22nd.
The event – in its fourth iteration this year – provides graduating players with an opportunity to showcase their talents as they pursue professional careers. Participants primarily include mid-major talents along with standouts outside of the Division I level. Players are sorted into four teams which face off in a tournament style, with a consolation game included.
The MAAC was guaranteed a champion, thanks to a quartet of Peacocks. Saint Peter’s University, fresh off its CIT championship, sent its entire senior class of Trevis Wyche, Quadir Welton, Chazz Patterson, and Cavon Baker to take part in the event. With each sorted onto a separate team, it was Baker’s “4th Family” which prevailed over Wyche’s “Bold New York” in the championship round to take home the Gotham Hoops title.
“It definitely feels good to go through [the pro process] with my brothers,” Wyche said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun trying to get to the next level and doing it with all my guys.”
Baker had a standout event, averaging 13.5 ppg, 8.0 rpg, and 4.0 apg over his two contests. His performance fit the mold of how he envisions success at the next level. The Queens native spent just one season with the Peacocks, averaging 6.6 ppg and 2.6 rpg and shooting 47% from the floor in just 15.9 minutes per night.
“I feel like I have an all-around game,” Baker said. “I take pride in scoring, playing defense, rebounding, everything.”
Wyche was his usual self running the point, including a stellar championship game in which he handed out eight assists against two turnovers. The all-MAAC second team member averaged 11.5 ppg and shot 8-12 from the field over two contests. During his senior season, Wyche averaged 11.3 ppg and 3.8 apg along with 1.5 steals per contest.
“I’m just a true point guard,” Wyche said. “I can play in the pick and roll; they do a lot of that overseas. I’m going to make open shots, I can defend, and pretty much I’ll make plays, be a playmaker.”
2017 MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, Patterson showcased his trademark defensive tenacity, while adding eight points and a 2-3 performance from behind the arc in his team’s consolation game victory. Patterson averaged 1.6 steals per game in his senior campaign while being whistled for just 1.9 fouls per contest despite his tight coverage, according to Kenpom.com.
“That’s what I do best,” Patterson said of his defense. “That’s what I always brought to my team to help us win and make us better. I play hard as hell every play. I think I’m very coachable, so whatever coach needs me to do, whatever position he puts me in, I’ll do whatever it takes.”
Welton averaged 9.0 ppg and 7.0 rpg over two games, but had a stellar first contest in which he notched a double-double on 12 points and 11 boards along with three steals and three blocks. The all-MAAC first team selection averaged 12.0 ppg, 8.3 rpg, and 2.1 apg during the 2016-17 season.
“I have an old-school style post game, so I think that’s what’ll help me out a lot,” Welton said of his skill set. “I’m a good passer, and I can do it in the post. I played against a good big mostly every night and they all had different types of games, so I think it prepared me a lot for playing pro.”
Former Quinnipiac guard Giovanni McLean also took part in the Invitational. He teamed up with Patterson on team “Sports Hub.” The Bronx native led the Bobcats with 12.9 ppg and 3.3 apg during the 2015-16 season.
“I’ve just been meeting with some agents, trying to stay in the gym, stay in shape a little bit,” McLean said. “It’s a strenuous process, but it’s working so you’ve just got to trust it and at the end of the day hopefully it’ll work out on my end.”
One of a number of players caught up in a transcript forging scandal headed by former coach Tyrone Mushatt at Westchester Community College, McLean was ruled academically ineligible upon his arrival at Quinnipiac in 2014. After sitting his first year at the school, McLean led the charge in his second season before unexpectedly being awarded an extra year of eligibility due to an injury years prior.
“You can’t make everyone like you, but you can do your best and be a standup guy at all times,” McLean said. “That’s what I try to be. I try to be a leader at every level.”
Given another chance to play, McLean took his talents to Texas Tech. He averaged 2.6 ppg while playing in nine of the Red Raiders’ first ten games, but returned home soon after. Now finished with the college ranks, McLean is eagerly anticipating an opportunity to let his talent shine overseas.
“I have a whole long list of people I know that have played at the pro level, whether it’s NBA or overseas,” McLean added. “I just communicate with them and see what their thoughts are. They feel like I’m able to play, because they’re over there and they see it, so I’m just waiting on my opportunity.”
A member of another quartet of accomplished seniors, Siena’s Lavon Long was the lone Saint to take part in the Gotham Hoops Invitational. The Baltimore native poured in 17 points on 6-12 shooting along with six rebounds and three steals in his team’s opening game.
Formerly a commit to coach Jimmy Patsos at Loyola (MD), Long followed Patsos to Albany when he took over as head coach of the Saints in 2013. Long averaged 9.4 ppg as a freshman, and pushed that mark into double digits for each of the next three seasons despite facing off against a slew of talented post players including Welton, Jordan Washington, Chris Brady, and Kahlil Thomas.
“I definitely feel like I had good competition to get me ready for [a pro career],” Long said. “Nothing was ever easy. Nothing was ever given. That continuous grind definitely got me in the mentality that it’s not going to be easy.”
Despite being listed at 6-foot-7, Long at times saw opportunities at the point guard position. During his junior campaign when teammate and primary ball-handler Marquis Wright sustained a stress fracture in his foot which led to a 15 game absence, Long averaged 3.3 apg. In his senior season, Long notched 12.6 ppg along with 6.3 rpg and 2.6 apg.
“It definitely was a good opportunity being the head of the team, making plays, calling plays, things of that nature,” Long said of his time at the point. “It definitely helped me.”
Long is currently signed with an agent through the RBA Sports agency.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.