LAS VEGAS — Noah Clowney didn’t expect to have a Summer League debut comparable to fellow rookie and No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama. Yet it was because neither had the best of starts Friday.
Wembanyama shot just 2-for-13 in front of a sold-out crowd at Thomas & Mack Center. Clowney, playing simultaneously at Cox Pavilion, was 1-for-9 with only four points in the Nets’ 101-97 loss to the Cavaliers.
Yet there was little to criticize about his play. The 18-year-old forward and first-round pick added seven rebounds and two blocks, both team highs. He also shot with confidence and wasn't deterred despite his lone make coming on a three-pointer in the third quarter.
“I work too hard. I’m in the gym everyday, twice a day. I work too hard not to be confident in the game,” said Clowney, who finished 1-for-7 on three-pointers. “There’s been times that I drop my head after missing a lot of shots. Maybe air-balling one here or there, but today every shot I shot felt good.”
It’s an attitude the Nets hope can fuel his development after his lone season at Alabama. Nets Summer League coach Trevor Hendry was pleased with Henderson's activity and energy on both sides of the floor.
Even though he didn't shoot well, Hendry admired the confidence to not let it keep him from shooting or affect contributing in other ways.
“I think a lot of guys his age wouldn’t do that,” Hendry said. “They’d go ‘I missed four in a row, I’m not going to shoot the 5th one.’ I love that from him.”
As the youngest drafted player in team history, Clowney’s process is a long-term play. With Day’Ron Sharpe playing center behind Nic Claxton, the Nets don’t need Clowney to be an immediate contributor.
So for now, he’s learning how to handle the speed of Summer League and what to expect next season. There’s also the subtle changes of being a rim-protector in the pros instead of college.
“The rotations are a little bit different here with the defensive three seconds, so you got to play it a little differently,” Clowney said. “But yeah, I can do that.”
As for the shooting, it can always be fixed or worked around since Clowney only shot 28.3% on three-pointers at Alabama. For now, his calling card is manning the paint on both sides of the floor
Those are also things he shares in common with Wembanyama. Yet Clowney’s confidence and fearlessness could be key assets that helps with his first taste of pro ball, especially on defense.
“He can talk, he can fix the pick-and-rolls if he’s on the weak side. He can come protect our rim,” Hendry said. “The one time he did, it was in transition [and] they kicked out for three. I loved it. His job is to protect our rim at all costs and he will get better as we go on with this process.”