DALLAS — After introducing a trio of rookies to the Dallas media Wednesday, the Dallas Mavericks set the stage for their summer league squad that will be competing in Las Vegas beginning Saturday.
Wednesday, Mavericks president of basketball operations and GM Donnie Nelson joined coach Rick Carlisle in introducing Israeli point guard Gal Mekel, first-round acquisition Shane Larkin and second-rounder Ricky Ledo. The three will now join forces with last season’s rookie crop of Jae Crowder and Bernard James to headline the Mavs’ summer league roster.
“Really excited about these young men, just because they’re terrific, young basketball players with great upside,” Nelson said when addressing members of the Dallas media. “They’re class, young individuals that are also about integrity and doing it the right way.”
But each new addition also has plenty to prove as they begin their NBA journeys.
In Mekel, the Mavs add a 25-year-old floor general that enters the league after leading his Maccabi Haifa team to the Israeli championship. The 6-4, 190-pounder also claimed his second MVP trophy in four professional seasons before landing with the Mavericks this offseason.
“This is a big day for Israeli basketball and the country. We recognize that,” Carlisle explained while acknowledging media outlets in town from Mekel’s native country. “The one thing I would like to say is Gal in particular has been a very successful player internationally and I know he’s a big hero in Israel. We think he’s a very good player, but we want to make sure that the expectations here are not like that he’s going to come in here and be like the star player right away. We think he’s young enough to where he’s a very good player and could get better, but like Shane and Ricky he’s a rookie in this league and he’s going to have to start here. His learning curve is going to have to be one that he’s going to have to work with, but his experience is going to help him.”
“It’s an exciting day for me and for my family,” Mekel added. “I’m sure a lot of people in Israel are watching now and it’s really exciting. If I can say a few words about my game, I mean, I’m a true point guard. I like to get everybody involved and try to make my teammates better and help the team in every aspect. If it’s passing, defense, or points, everything to help my team win. I’m a true point guard.”
The former Miami standout was the player of the year in the Atlantic Coast Conference while also garnering Second Team All-American honors and the ACC tournament MVP. Larkin averaged 14.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 36 games as a sophomore, emerging as one of the top pick-and-roll point guards in the nation while connecting on 47.9 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from 3-point range. Still, even after a bevy of draft-night deals by the Dallas front office to land the 5-foot-11 lead guard, he knows he has plenty to prove in order to earn minutes in Carlisle’s rotation when the 2013-14 season gets underway.
“I told them when I came here to work out that this was one of the places I wanted to go, and they had enough confidence in me to draft me. … I’m still excited to be here, I’m still willing to work and just willing to go out here and compete,” the son of baseball Hall of Famer Barry Larkin said while hoping to make a name for himself. “I just got to go out there every single day at practice, whenever I get a chance in the game, go out there and show what I can do, and then hopefully get minutes and produce in those minutes and gain more playing time like that. I don’t expect anything to be given to me, and as a rookie you’ve got to work for everything you can get, so that’s what I’m willing to do.”
Lastly, and perhaps more eager to touch the court than his two peers, was Ledo, who even at 6-7 possesses some of the same ball-handling skills as the two guards that sat to his right.
Ruled ineligible by the NCAA during his lone season at Providence, Ledo was relegated to simply practicing while his teammates played on without him. The Jordan All-American averaged 23.4 points and 6.2 rebounds during his senior season of high school, ranking No. 5 in the nation according to Scout.com at the shooting guard position. And after the Mavs acquired the 43rd overall pick in last month’s draft from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for a 2014 second-round pick, he’ll now try to take his game immediately to the next level, hoping to also make up for lost time.
“Just the overall atmosphere of playing in front of my hometown and just playing against friends and just competitive nature. I feel like I missed out on that,” Ledo said while reflecting. “But I also learned a lot by sitting out and learning the game of basketball more and really knowing what basketball means. … When the team left, I stayed in the gym and I worked, so just worked out all year.”
Mavericks fans will now get their first look at the rookie crop Saturday, when the Mavericks face off against Sacramento to open summer-league play.