Gansey on NBA doorstep
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The 2006 NBA Draft seems like a lifetime ago for Mike Gansey.
In a way, it probably is for the former West Virginia star.
Now two countries and two NBA Developmental League cities removed from the 14.4 points he averaged in two seasons with the Mountaineers, Gansey is today as close as he's been to the NBA as he was on draft night four years ago.
It was there, though, where things started to unravel, first undrafted and later victimized by a MRSA infection.
Today, the dream remains about as evident as it was before, offering hope to not just Gansey, but also to Da'Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks and even Wellington Smith, no matter what happens in Thursday's draft. They've each left their WVU careers behind in pursuit of a pro basketball career some how, some way, somewhere.
"I think I'm at the top of where I've been playing-wise since I left," said Gansey, who just finished his best professional season as a starter for the D-League's Erie BayHawks. "Playing in the D-League is right below the NBA level and there are a lot of guys who should be in the NBA and have been in the NBA at one time.
"Playing so well, I got a lot of exposure and kind of put my name out there again. When I got sick, my name fell off the radar. I feel like I'm back on there now. People know my name again."
Gansey, 27, was acquired by the BayHawks in a midseason trade from the Idaho Stampede. The Stampede had a strong team with three players called up to the NBA during the season. Gansey was able to start only once in 11 games and averaged just 21 minutes before the trade.
In Erie, Gansey started 26 of 27 games and averaged 43.2 minutes, 18.4 points, 8.2 rebounds - roughly double his Idaho figures - and 2.8 assists. He played more than 40 minutes 20 times, and the full 48 five times.
Along the way, Gansey learned an NBA general manager likened him to former NBA guard Bob Sura.
"Change of scenery," Gansey said. "When I think about it, it didn't hit me until the end of the year. In the D-League you're playing four or five games a week, back-to-back games, sometimes 48 minutes a game, and in the D-League it's up-and-down.
"It's not like college or Europe where you bring the ball up and play from there. I was in pretty good shape and I think people saw that and thought, 'Wow, Gansey's playing 48 minutes, 42 minutes and he's playing well and the team's winning some games.'"
When the season ended, Gansey started to look for opportunities for next season. There were NBA teams interested in offering a roster spot for the NBA Summer League next month in Las Vegas, but Gansey opted for the D-League Select team.
The 10-player squad plays in that same summer league. It was 2-3 last year.
"It's a no-brainer," Gansey said. "There are only 10 guys, so you don't have to worry about draft picks or returning guys or younger guys or where half the team is already on the (regular-season) roster. I know I'm going to play a majority of the game, and it's the same incentive.
"The main reason to be there is to play. If you go there and play well, there are European scouts. Maybe you get a training camp invitation from a NBA team. Anything is possible if you play three, four, five good games. Some guys go there and have a huge tournament and the next thing you know they're on the main roster."
For the first time in a long time, he has options at the ready.
Gansey was with the Miami Heat as a free agent following the 2006 draft, but MRSA pulled him off the court and stole 40 pounds and valuable time. He wasn't allowed to do anything related to basketball for six months. He spent his down time working clinics in Morgantown. The first day he resumed activity, he was worn out after a simple shooting drill.
"I put up 30 or 40 shots and almost fell to the ground," he said. "That was the low of all lows. I remember thinking, 'How am I going to get back into shape? This isn't even funny.'"
MRSA cost Gansey a full year before he regained the weight and muscle, reacquired his confidence and reappeared in the summer league in 2007 with the Los Angeles Clippers. That earned him a contract in Italy. The following year he played in Germany. He cashed in on the combined efforts to get with the Stampede last year.
Erie can retain his rights, but Gansey is free to go to an NBA roster or a European contract. If he goes to Europe, where the money is better than it is in the D-League and virtually all living expenses are covered, he can return to the United States at the end of the season and rejoin the BayHawks.
He isn't sure where he heads next, but knows he's going somewhere after wondering if the game would ever take him anywhere.
"I just want to keep playing as long as I can," he said. "I feel like I had a good year this year at a top level so I don't want to stop now. I want to keep pushing. When I was sick and trying to come back, I took a whole year off.
"I couldn't do anything to get my mind off of it and I was so miserable. You go from playing basketball every single day to doing nothing. It felt like my life was over. But to be where I am now, after all of that, it's like, man, anything now is a bonus.
"Why quit now?"
Contact sportswriter Mike
Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.