When Yogi Ferrell arrived at Indiana University as a McDonald’s All-American, he said he never envisioned fighting for an NBA roster spot in four years.
“But I’m not one to always try and rush the process,” he said. “The fact that it took four years, I’m actually grateful for it because I’ve learned a lot in college.”
A quick point guard, Ferrell said he rejected draft-and-stash offers — in which draftees are expected to play their first season abroad — and did not get picked on June 23. Instead, he signed a summer-league contract with the Nets, who will play their first game Saturday in Las Vegas.
“Not hearing my name, kind of sad,” he said of draft night. “A couple of teams wanted to draft and stash me, but I didn’t want to do that. I felt like I had a better opportunity choosing my team. Looking at Brooklyn, they liked how I worked out for them in the pre-draft workouts.”
The Nets have high hopes for 42nd overall pick Isaiah Whitehead, whom they acquired from Utah. Rookie head coach Kenny Atkinson has said he envisions the 6-4 Whitehead as a point guard, but Ferrell likely will receive a decent amount of playing time behind Whitehead in the summer league.
Throughout his four years at Indiana, Ferrell — a native of Greenfield, Indiana, whose given name is Kevin — ran one of college basketball’s most efficient offenses. The Hoosiers ranked in the top 10 in adjusted offensive efficiency in three of Ferrell’s four seasons, according to the advanced stats site KenPom.com.
Indiana coach Tom Crean’s teams run a significant amount of pick-and-roll action, and Ferrell proved effective in such scenarios. He also pushed the pace — Indiana ranked in the top third nationally in tempo in three of his four years — and shot 39.9 percent from three-point range, improving his mark each year.
“At Indiana, we used to run a lot of ball screens,” said Ferrell, who averaged 17.3 points and 5.6 assists per game last season. “I feel like that’s going to translate for what we like to do on the court, so I’ve got a little bit of a head start. We liked to get up and down. I know Brooklyn, we want to get out and run, so playing at Indiana definitely helped.”
Defensively, Ferrell has a less-than-stellar reputation. He is 6 feet and 180 pounds, so stronger guards can overpower him and taller ones can shoot over him. His defensive awareness also was inconsistent.
“It’s hard to project him as a strong defender at the next level with his physical tools,” Josh Riddell of the scouting site DraftExpress.com wrote in April, “but showing more of a commitment with energy, focus and playing within his team’s concept will at least allow him to provide some value.”
But Ferrell likes his chances of impressing the Nets, who not only have available jobs to be won but a head coach known for developing point guards.
“That’s very beneficial,” Ferrell said, “and I feel like I can learn a lot from him and just the way he gives his players confidence.”
1. Yogi Berra
Hall of Fame catcher
Birth name: Lawrence Berra
2. Yogi Bear
Cartoon TV star
Birth name: Unknown
3. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Birth name: Mahesh Prasad Varma
4. Yogi Ferrell
Birth name: Kevin Ferrell
5. Yogi Tea
Founder: Yogi Bhajan