Ryan Boatright was the smallest in stature of the 61 prospects gracing the NBA combine in Chicago in May, topping out at 5-10, 170 pounds, and his wingspan measured among the shortest.
But he's out to prove he has the biggest heart of them all, and the undersized, undrafted free agent point guard certainly got off to a good start by holding his own during the Nets summer league action, leading the team in scoring in Orlando and Las Vegas.
Brooklyn has a need at the position after Deron Williams agreed to a buyout two weeks ago so he could sign with the Mavericks, and the Nets shipped Steve Blake to the Pistons less than a month after acquiring him. Jarrett Jack and Shane Larkin head a depth chart that Boatright, who inked a two-year, $1.4 million minimum deal with $75,000 guaranteed if he's on the roster Aug. 1 -- is hopeful of joining.
"I haven't gotten a 'for sure,' but they have been making the moves to tell you that I am here," Boatright said in Las Vegas last week. "But I am going to continue to work, and continue forward and do what I've got to do until I get that guarantee."
In four games in Las Vegas, Boatright averaged 14.3 points and shot 45.5 percent from the field, making 47.8 percent of his attempts beyond the arc and 84.2 percent from the free-throw line before sitting out the final two games while nursing neck spasms. The 22-year-old's most memorable moment may have been his late-game bucket against the Bulls, when he made a nifty spin move to get to the basket and converted a three-point play to put the Nets ahead with 2.4 seconds remaining, lifting them to victory.
"We saw enough of Ryan's talents here to understand who he is, and what he is and how we need to improve him," Nets assistant coach Joe Wolf said. "So that's the challenge for us as assistant coaches -- is to understand that and to enjoy it and make him understand it."
Working out for the Nets during the pre-draft process put Boatright on their radar. Although other teams were vying for his services once his name wasn't called on draft night last month, he said the Nets were the first team to chase him, giving him the partially-guaranteed deal.
He's connected with Nets coach Lionel Hollins during the process, drawing on the experience of running things on the court under UConn coach Kevin Ollie, a former point guard himself who spent 13 seasons in the NBA.
"He's a good person," Boatright said of Hollins. "He's got a good personality. He's hard on point guards. He's supposed to be. The point guard is supposed to be the floor general and he played point guard, so he's going to be tough on them. I've played for coaches that were point guards before and they are real tough on point guard, so it's nothing new to me.
"But I am just thankful for the opportunity."
One he doesn't plan on letting slip through his fingers if at all possible. He understands he will have to have to do a lot of things well to make up for a lack of height in a league playing among giants nightly.
"Whatever I've got to do to win a basketball game, that's the type of player I am," Boatright said. "If I've got to go out there and score, if I've got to go out there and play defense or run the team, I can do it all. I think I can bring that energy off the bench, that heart and that passion that they were lacking last year and do whatever I've got to do."