Sixers host 6 college seniors in search of ‘overlooked' players


The Sixers kept busy Tuesday, doing their due diligence and hosting six prospects in one session and potential top-10 pick Jaylen Brown in a second session at PCOM.

Seniors ruled the first session, with all six participants having spent at least four years in college. Sixers director of basketball operations/scouting innovation Vince Rozman knows the team can leave no stone unturned when looking for NBA talent.

"Just to check all the boxes," Rozman said when asked the purpose of Tuesday's first session. "We have a D-League team, so we evaluate them on that level but we've also done really, really well with the second round, undrafted, kind of overlooked guys the last couple years and we want to continue to do so. These are some really productive upperclassmen so we just have to make sure to do our work."

Let's take a closer at the prospects and how their day went:

Georges Niang, F, Iowa State (6-9/231)
Niang had the best résumé coming in and was probably the best player on the floor during Session 1 at PCOM. Niang is not the most explosive athlete, but what he lacks in that department, he makes up for in basketball IQ and a decent touch for a 6-foot-9 forward.

Niang was hoping to catch up with his high school and AAU teammate, Sixers big man Nerlens Noel. The two grew up in Massachusetts and attended Tilton High School. Niang has fond memories of Noel singing and picking his flat top during long bus trips to play games in Virginia.

"I was looking for him," Niang said of Noel. "I was waiting for him down in the locker room. Maybe he'll show up later today. It'd be great to be back here with him. He's a longtime friend, a longtime teammate. The success he's had here is awesome. If I partner up with him it would be great."

It could be difficult for that reunion to take place. Niang thrived as a point forward for the Cyclones, a role that will belong to likely No. 1 pick Ben Simmons. If the Sixers move one (or two) of their big men, Niang would be an intriguing player to look at in the second round or as an undrafted free agent.

Niang still has workouts scheduled with the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers.

Jarrod Uthoff, F, Iowa (6-10/214)
Temple fans may remember Uthoff as part of an Iowa team that broke the Owls' hearts in the NCAA Tournament's Round of 64. Uthoff's development has been impressive. Once named Mr. Basketball in the state of Iowa, Uthoff was redshirted upon his arrival to the Hawkeyes. 

As his body matured, he was able to improve and become a dominant player in the Big Ten. During his senior season, he led the conference in total points and field goals made and attempted. He was also named a second-team All-American. 

"Maturity is the biggest thing," Uthoff said when asked the biggest advantage of staying in school. "Going through college I just matured and really expanded my game. Putting the ball on the floor, shooting. My defense improved vastly. I got more athletic. I got stronger."

Uthoff is actually the highest projected of all six players, according to Draft Express. He seems like he'd be a great fit in today's NBA as a stretch four. Expect him to go somewhere late in the second round.

Uthoff has three more workouts scheduled, but said the process has been a "blur" and couldn't remember off the top of his head which three teams he'll be visiting.

A.J. English, G, Iona (6-4/180)
English can flat out score. During his senior season, he averaged 22.6 points per game, 10th in Division I. He can shoot (37 percent from three) and facilitate (6.2 assists per game). Turnovers may be a bit of an issue, but English found himself handling the ball an awful lot at Iona.

English will have to fight the stigma of coming from a mid-major program. He did lead the Gaels to the MAAC championship and a tilt with Niang's Iowa State team as a 13-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Iona lost, but English was able to record 28 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals.

"I'm just blessed to be able to do this," English said. "I'm just trying to keep the momentum. I've had a decent amount of workouts. I just want to continue to play how I played in college and put it on the court as far as the next level."

The Delaware native was impressive during the 3-on-3 portion of the workout that was open to the media. He made a corner three and had several strong drives to the basket. He has broad shoulders and an NBA body. 

With the Sixers' willingness to bring in players like Robert Covington and Ish Smith, English could be a name to watch on the undrafted free-agent market. He could be a candidate to play in his hometown for the Delaware 87ers.

English still has workouts to complete with the Orlando Magic and Golden State Warriors.

Michael Bryson, G, UC Santa Barbara (6-4/201)
Like English, Bryson is a scorer from a weak conference. Bryson is deadly from three-point range. He shot 38 percent from three during his senior season and is willing and able to shoot from anywhere on the floor. 

He'll need to improve his game off the dribble and, at 6-foot-4, will have to become more of a combo guard at the next level. He said he's ready to accept that challenge and become more of a facilitator. 

"I think that I can learn," Bryson said of playing the point in the NBA. "I'm a quick learner. I'm a hard worker. Get me into a situation where I'm able to just feel the game and just see the floor. Working off the dribble, I think that I can develop that game but right now I'd say I'm a shooter first and obviously I can grow and develop."

Bryson won't get drafted because of his inability to get his own shot and his playing in a weaker conference. Shooting is at a premium in the NBA and a guy like Bryson could carve himself out a role on an NBA bench if he shoots well and defends.

He did have a workout with the Toronto Raptors set up, but passport issues may prohibit that trip from ever happening. He's worked out with his hometown team, the Sacramento Kings, as well as with the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryson knows Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak well. He played with Kupchak's son, Maxwell, at UC Santa Barbara this past season.

Dyshawn Pierre, G/F, Dayton (6-8/223)
Pierre has great size and length, can shoot the ball a little bit and is an excellent rebounder for a wing player (10.2 rebounds per 40 minutes). His biggest issue was an incident involving an alleged sexual assault. Dayton suspended Pierre for the first six weeks of the season and Pierre has denied any wrongdoing.

Pierre is just putting that behind him and looking to make his NBA dreams a reality.

"When I was back home I didn't take any time off," Pierre said of his suspension. "I was still working out. Just constant focus on wanting to be ready to come back and be ready to win games for the team. That was the main thing."

Pierre will likely have to win teams over during the interview process more so than on the floor. His size and skill could play at the next level if a team is willing to give him a chance as an undrafted free agent.

Pierre still has a workout scheduled with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Tomasz Gielo, F, Ole Miss (6-9/220)
Gielo is a native of Poland who spent the first three years of his college career at Liberty. After graduating, he transferred to Ole Miss as a graduate student. Gielo has great size and flashes potential as a stretch four in the NBA.

He credits head coach Andy Kennedy for making his transition to a tough conference like the SEC smooth.

"It was a transition for sure, but Coach Kennedy and the whole coaching staff at Ole Miss, they did a tremendous job," Gielo said. "Coming in I was coming off a foot injury so he accepted me even though I wasn't 100 percent, I wasn't healthy yet. He told me, 'I know who you can be. I'm not looking at who you are right now struggling with a foot injury. I'm looking at what you could potentially be for our team.'"

The Sixers scheduled Gielo for this workout after seeing him play during a workout at UNLV set up by his agent. Gielo said there were about 20 NBA teams there. The Sixers were the only one to offer him a workout.

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