Former Herd hoops star on NBA mission
In his final NBA Summer League appearance in July, Tyler Wilkerson had an opportunity to leave a lasting impression.
The former Marshall basketball star needed to remind NBA personnel - the roster decision-makers - of his presence. Emphatically, if possible.
So, in a move that he made seem almost routine, Wilkerson took a pass from San Antonio Spurs teammate Alonzo Gee, elevated and dunked over 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet with one hand.
As Wilkerson slammed the ball through the basket, Thabeet, the second overall pick in 2009, had to pick himself off the court at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas.
"I'm on a mission," Wilkerson said in a phone interview Monday from San Antonio, where he is working out in hopes of parlaying his summer performance into a full-time roster spot with the Spurs.
"I'm out here working, doing everything I can to make this team."
That showed in San Antonio's five Summer League games.
He averaged 11 points and 6.6 rebounds, shot 54 percent from the field and made 9-of-10 free throws. Against Thabeet's Grizzlies, the 6-foot-8, 240-pound Wilkerson concluded his five-game stint with 10 points, six boards and four steals. Two games earlier, he scored 20 points and had nine rebounds against the Los Angeles Lakers. In that game he was matched up with two familiar faces: former UTEP star Derrick Caracter, and West Virginia's Devin Ebanks.
The Spurs went 5-0. Wilkerson averaged 23 minutes and started three of the five wins.
"When you get an opportunity you have to seize it," said Wilkerson, who is 22 years old. "That was just me seizing it. I got an opportunity and I made the best of it."
Now Wilkerson has options.
Wilkerson has agreed to a deal with defending Israeli Super League champions Galil Gilboa. He can head overseas if the Spurs do not offer him a spot on their team.
"It's a deal we had on the table for some time," Wilkerson said. "I have it in case I don't make an NBA team. It's a great situation for me."
But, Wilkerson said he's growing more optimistic about his chances with the Spurs with each passing day. The organization continues to request Wilkerson's return to San Antonio to work out at the team's training complex.
There are five players there, including Gee, a 6-6 guard from Alabama, and James Gist, a 6-9 forward out of Maryland. Gee averaged 14.2 points and 5.2 rebounds. Gist posted an even 9 points and 5 boards a game.
The Spurs will likely hand out two roster spots to the final five competitors.
"We all played together in Summer League and we all played well," Wilkerson said. "I know my situation. They keep calling me back here every week. As long as they keep doing that, I'm all right."
Contact sportswriter Chuck McGill at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.