2019 PIT RECAP
By Rob Reheuser, Senior Manager, Communications at National Basketball Association
The 67th annual Portsmouth Invitational Tournament (PIT), which featured 64 of the nation’s top college seniors competing in a four-day, 12-game event in front of team representatives from across the NBA, concluded on Saturday, April 20. Below is a recap of the tournament:
Better Late Than Never: Penn State’s Josh Reaves was living in the moment. And for good reason.
He’s 21 years old, a soon-to-be college graduate and full of life and emotion, which was manifesting in his gritty and inspired play at the 2019 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament.
But there’s a catch for the 6-5 Reaves, the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, who led the conference in steals for the third consecutive season in 2018-19.
In NBA scouting circles, he and the other 63 players in attendance are viewed as dinosaurs, having lasted this long in the collegiate ranks. That didn’t stop Reaves from flaunting his obvious strengths as an aggressive and versatile defender with a developing outside shot.
In his final regular-season game with the Nittany Lions, Reaves made a career-best six three-pointers. He continued his hot shooting at the PIT, finishing tied for fourth with seven three-pointers in three games on his way to averaging 14.3 points.
His defense was sublime, as he finished second with eight steals and had numerous deflections that led to extra possessions for his team. He routinely challenged shooters and helped down on bigs. His energy on both ends of the floor was contagious and lifted the spirit of the entire tournament.
That’s not to say Reaves doesn’t have his work cut out for him to convince teams that his shooting is for real and he has enough offensive craft to survive in today’s NBA. But his ability to guard on the wing and knock down open shots puts him into the very popular “3-and-D” category.
Here’s to you, Mr. Robinson: Virginia Tech’s Justin Robinson didn’t make the All-Tournament Team. His stats and measurements were ordinary. And his team was soundly defeated in the championship game.
It wasn’t enough to keep the 6-1 Robinson -- a four-year starter who led the Hokies to their first Sweet 16 in over 50 years -- from being one of the more talked about prospects throughout the tournament.
Robinson is a natural leader who commands the respect of his teammates. On a team with several of the tournament’s best overall prospects, including Tulsa’s DaQuan Jeffries and Mississippi State’s Quinndary Weatherspoon, Robinson set the tone early with his passing and defense.
Though his shot wasn’t falling for most of the tournament, Robinson played with excellent pace while generating scoring opportunities for his teammates. He’s a tough-minded defender with a knack for getting into passing lanes.
When you consider that he won’t turn 22 until October and factor in his sterling off-the-court reputation, it’s not hard to project Robinson as a potential contributor in the NBA.
Let’s Get Physical: Tulsa’s Jeffries is a physical specimen. From his chiseled physique, to his extraordinary length, to his ginormous hands, the Jeffries has many of the “measurements” teams look for.
Beyond his being an excellent athlete with an NBA body, the 6-5 Jeffries is a well-rounded player who contributes in a lot of different areas. He finished sixth in the tournament in scoring (16.3 ppg) and tied for sixth in rebounding (7.7 rpg). He also shot 7-for-17 from three-point range.
Jeffries has taken a circuitous route this point, beginning his career at Oral Roberts and making a pit stop at Western Texas Community College before playing his final two seasons at Tulsa. As a senior, he led the team in scoring, steals and blocks, and was second in rebounding.
Jeffries has obvious appeal as a small-ball forward who can guard both up or down, shoot with range and handle the physicality of the NBA.
Hiding in Plain Sight: Scouts were pleased to see Mississippi State’s Weatherspoon not only accept his invitation to the PIT, but excel throughout the tournament with his smooth and versatile game.
The 6-4 Weatherspoon was an easy choice for All-SEC First Team honors after averaging 18.5 points and shooting 50.8 percent from the field, including 39.6 from three-point range. Most players with his credentials tend to skip the PIT as they wait for an invitation to the NBA Combine in May.
Weatherspoon opted to lace them up, showing an impressive mix of skill, playmaking and athleticism while averaging a team-high 17.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.7 steals. He’s comfortable playing with the ball in pick-and-roll situations or on the wing and is a solid defender.
Weatherspoon has a good chance to be evaluated in this type of setting again in May, either at the NBA Combine or the NBA G League Elite Camp, which will likely take the next 40 guys who don’t get invited to the Combine.
Trending Up: Wyoming’s Justin James was a popular player heading into the tournament, having forged his way into some of the more prominent mock drafts. It’s easy to see why.
The 6-7 James is an effortless athlete who elevates, glides and everything in between while displaying a high basketball IQ. He tested as the fastest player in the field in the 3/4-court sprint and lane agility drills. James also earned rave reviews for his attitude in all tournament settings.
James struggled from the perimeter and his Reggie Miller-esque frame could use some bulk, but you can’t teach some of his athletic gifts. James also functioned as a point guard for extended periods and looked comfortable running the offense.
With wings being all the rage in today’s NBA, the prevailing thought is that James has a realistic chance to hear his name called on draft night.
AROUND THE PIT
-- Campbell’s Chris Clemons, the nation’s leading scorer, was named MVP after leading the tournament in scoring (18.3 ppg). Though he only shot 35.8 percent field, Campbell’s team won the tournament and there’s no denying his Nate Robinson-like hops and scoring ability.
-- Xavier’s Zach Hankins has a backstory similar to 2017 PIT standout Derrick White, who rode a strong showing all the way to being selected by the Spurs with the 29th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Hankins spent three seasons at Division II Ferris State before playing his final season at Xavier. The 6-11 Hankins averaged 15.3 points and 7.7 rebounds for the tourney.
-- To no one’s surprise, Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins led the PIT in assists (10.3 apg). The Bulldogs’ all-time leader in that category is solid in nearly every area and makes winning plays, whether it be a shot, a pass or a defensive sequence. Players with his profile have been known to carve out NBA careers.
-- Florida State’s Terance Mann (4.7 ppg) has never produced eye-popping numbers playing in Leonard Hamilton’s 11-man rotations. He’s still widely regarded as a player who can impact the game in a number of different areas and has the requisite size (6-7) and athleticism to run with NBA players.
-- Buffalo’s Nick Perkins came in as one of the more unheralded players in the field and left as the third-leading scorer (18.0 ppg) and fifth-leading rebounder (8.0 rpg). Perkins came off the bench at Buffalo, but still led the team in rebounding (7.4 rpg) and was second in scoring (14.7 ppg). He definitely turned some heads with his solid combination of strength, skill and touch from the perimeter.