It’s pretty clear that if you are a young player who is not opposed to getting your nose dirty defensively, you have a chance to come out smelling like a rose on the Mavericks’ summer league squad.

Josh Reaves’ pedigree should serve him well in that regard.

The Penn State product finished his college career as the school’s all-time steals leader and is tied for sixth in Big Ten history.

Just ahead of him in fifth? Former Mav Brian Cardinal, who was part of the NBA championship team in 2011.

Reaves went undrafted last month, but that wasn’t necessarily bad news. He knew the likelihood of getting picked was iffy. And when it got to picks in the 50s, he saw the value in not being selected at all.

“It’s not going to change what I do or how hard I play,” Reaves said. “Nothing’s going to change just because my name wasn’t called. This is the path I have to take. My agent was saying sometimes it’s better to go undrafted than drafted. I feel like I’m in the best spot to start my career with a lot of experienced coaches.”

Reaves said defense isn’t necessarily being stressed to him because it doesn’t have to be. It’s second nature for him to embrace that end of the court.

He was all-defensive first team in the Big Ten as both a junior and a senior. But it didn’t take long in the NBA draft run-up to learn that defense is a little different at this level. The 6-5 Reaves already has had a rude awakening, even before the NBA draft.

“I’ve never backed away from a challenge,” Reaves said. “I always coach coach (Pat) Chambers, if somebody’s getting hot … let me at them. I’m more than willing to guard anybody.

“I had to guard Tacko Fall (the 7-6 center from Central Florida) in predraft workouts. That wasn’t fun at all. But it was a challenge. I’m going to play hard on that end, no matter what.”

Said Mavericks’ summer-league coach Mike Weinar: “He’s a well-regarded player, high accolades out of college, well-coached there. Very knowledgeable about the game and can defend multiple positions. That’s what’s needed nowadays because everybody does a lot of switching. He can defend bigger guys as well as guards and that’s key.”

Reaves is naturally a swing-type player. But the list of players he guarded in college includes Caleb Swanigan and Ethan Happ, both of whom are power forwards or centers.

Reaves also is getting used to the NBA 3-point line. His perimeter shooting got better as he went along in college. And he understands his ability to make the 3-ball is going to go a long way toward determining if he can stick in the NBA.

“He’s been making sbots,” Weinar said. “That always helps. I’m encouraged by that. We’ll see what it turns out to be long term and how successful he is in the heat of the moment in Las Vegas. But he’s had a great camp so far.”

That heat of the moment begins Friday at 6 p.m., Dallas time, when the Mavericks open play in the MGM Resorts Las Vegas Summer League against Brooklyn.

Twitter: @ESefko


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