Melvin Ejim celebrating after a career night against TCU
‘No Slowing Down the Cyclone’
By Jaspreet Grewal |#TeamOnPoint
There are plenty of variables in play when evaluating talent at the collegiate level and subsequently, determining whether or not those skills will translate to the professional ranks. Far too often we come across players who unquestionably dominate in college – see Tyler Hansbrough, Adam Morrison and to a much lesser extent, Jimmer Fredette – but fail to live up to or exceed expectations in the pro’s. Conversely, how often do we witness unheralded prospects or players out of low/mid-major schools – such as Damian Lillard at Weber State, Steph Curry from Davidson and Paul George out of Fresno State – have an almost instantaneous impact in the NBA?
The point here is that there’s no fixed standard or structured criterion on how an NBA player should play or what school he should come from. Everyone’s style is unique, which is partly why it’s such a star-driven league.
There are an array of factors that feed into who gets drafted and who doesn’t. Many NBA players – who weren’t necessarily coveted out of college or, perhaps, went to a Division II school – have seemingly paved their own way to the league through various different platforms (e.g., NBDL, Asian-European-South American leagues, NBA summer league and etc.).
One unheralded prospect who’s looking to try his hand at the big leagues is Brampton, Ontario native Melvin Ejim- a 6-6″ G/F who just completed his senior season with the Iowa State Cyclones (ISU).
Ejim, who recently led the Cyclones and Coach Fred Hoiberg deep through the NCAA tournament (Sweet 16) before losing to the eventual champs, UConn, wasn’t highly touted coming out of college- partly because of the style of play that he fosters (plays bigger than his size) and also due to the abundance of talent in this year’s draft class.
In his final year at ISU, the Canadian swing-man posted career numbers averaging 17.8 PPG and 8.4 RPG while leading the Cyclones to a 28-8 record. Amidst his rampage in the Big 12, Ejim put on a memorable 48 point , 18 rebound performance against a defenseless TCU squad- an unprecedented feat to say the least.
Although his name echoes deep within the sphere of NCAA basketball – he was a second-team All-American, the Big 12 Player of the Year this past year, and a pain for anyone who matched up against him – Ejim wasn’t one of the lucky 60 who heard their names called by Adam Silver last month, despite being considered a second-round pick by most experts and mock draft boards.
However, after accepting offers from both the Philadelphia 76ers and the San Antonio Spurs to play for their respective summer league teams this month, Ejim is looking again to prove his doubters wrong – a seemingly prevalent theme throughout his basketball tenure.
What to Expect?
While he did dominate the paint in college and excelled as somewhat of a stretch four -particularly in his final year- Ejim’s height at 6-6″ will most certainly confine him to the guard and small forward position in the NBA. He won’t have ascendency over the glass like he did in college, but he can still be a serviceable rebounding forward for any team lacking a paint presence.
In his last two years at ISU, he was able to vastly improve his long-range percentages while at the same time maintain obedience to his inside game. He can put the ball on the floor, although limited as a guard/forward, and has great finishing ability around the basket; his size and strength alone will most certainly give him a power advantage against most two guards in the NBA.
However, in order for Ejim to yield any sort of recognition in the summer league, he’ll have to dominate in areas where he excelled in college (e.g., rebounding, scoring, defense) and also show scouts something that they may have not seen or known about prior to summer league action (e.g., ball handling, consistent outside shot, quickness and so on). Organizations understand that college players who dominate at the collegiate level may not duplicate the same result in the pros; therefore, it’s imperative for a player like Ejim to out play his rival peers in any and all ways possible.
Ultimately, there’s really no quick recipe or definitive guide to making it to the NBA; several factors feed into who gets drafted and who doesn’t. For players like Ejim and fellow Canadian Myck Kabongo – who, alas, have both felt the bitter taste of draft-day rejection- there should only be one thing resonating in their minds: to work harder than everybody else.
So long as they consistently out play those considered superior to them (by experts), it will only be a matter of time before we see Ejim and Kabango gracing the NBA hardwood.
Photo Source: Purdy, David. TCU vs. Iowa State. Digital image. Zimbio.com. Getty Images, 7 Feb. 2014. Web. 4 July 2014.
Words by Jaspreet Grewal
Posted by Drew Ebanks