Norvel Pelle (screen shot via YouTube)
Before he began helping Norvel Pelle prepare for this year's NBA draft, athletic trainer Robbie Davis wanted to be sure his newest client understood what was at stake.
Davis pulled Pelle aside and urged the promising but unproven 6-foot-11 former St. John's signee to work harder than he ever has preparing for workouts with NBA teams because they could determine the trajectory of his pro career.
Unlike most draft prospects whose strengths and weaknesses are well established after a year or more competing in college or against pro players internationally, Pelle remains a mystery to NBA teams.
Once the No. 1 center in Rivals.com's Class of 2011 rankings and the centerpiece of a decorated St. John's recruiting class, Pelle never played a minute of college basketball because he was unable to meet NCAA minimum academic requirements. Instead the Los Angeles native has spent the past two years in anonymity at three different prep schools, meaning pre-draft tryouts will be most NBA teams' lone chance to scout him against top competition.
"Workouts for NBA teams are sometimes a little overrated, but for Norvel, it's make-or-break," Davis said. "Some guys they've scouted four years and the workout is more about getting to know the guy, shaking his hand and seeing how hard he works in person. For Norvel, it's way more than that because there's no tape on him. This is their one chance to judge him as a player too."
That Pelle's lifelong dream to play in the NBA may rest on a handful of 45-minute workouts makes him one of the biggest wildcards in this year's draft. NBA scouts who tracked him in high school recall being intrigued with his shot-blocking prowess, baseline-to-baseline speed and ability to defend multiple positions, but they also remember a player who gave spotty effort and often seemed content to get by on talent alone.
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