After one summer league game, Jaycee Carroll looked like the rookie free-agent signing of the year. Playing against lottery picks, veterans and other players hungry to impress a team, the former Utah State star looked everything like a future NBA player.
But exactly how telling — or misleading, perhaps — were the 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists?
Sure, those numbers led the New Jersey Nets in all three categories, but would that kind of production last? Would Carroll continue to post impressive numbers in subsequent games and give eager Aggie fans something to thump their collective chest about?
The answer is no — and yes.
Carroll scored just five points on 1-of-6 shooting in his second outing with the Nets.
Game 3, however, was more like what USU fans have been so used to seeing. The guard from Evanston, Wyoming was asked to come off the bench against Oklahoma and responded with an impressive 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting while tossing out three assists and grabbing a pair of rebounds.
So, which Carroll is it and will it be? The high-scoring energizer bunny or the ineffective player that struggled against the Heat?
The answer, not surprisingly, might best be said with one key word attached to each game — exhibition. These games are almost impossible to figure out.
The coaches might not even care about winning — they’re mostly interested in seeing how players respond in certain situations. One player may be asked to play a role he is not used to. A coach may want to see how the 7-foot center taken in the lottery handles pressure rather than working on the normal playbook.
And an undrafted rookie guard from Utah State might be on the coach’s mind one day but not the next.
Whatever the case, this is Round One of Carroll’s open audition for NBA coaches. He chose New Jersey because he thought the roster had a potential opening for a combo guard like him. He also chose New Jersey because the Nets will play in two summer leagues — the one this week in Orlando and the Utah Jazz-hosted Rocky Mountain Revue. That increases his exposure and will extend his audition for several games.
By the time July is over, Carroll surely hopes, some NBA team will be impressed enough with his work ethic, his scoring ability and his maturity to offer him a roster spot.
Sure, Carroll could end up with a job in Europe — and who really could complain about making a bundle of money playing overseas for a few years?. He also might land with a D-League team such as the Utah Flash.
But unless he’s got a guaranteed NBA contract, a D-League job won’t pay a lot of bills in the long run.
That’s why these summer league games are so important to players like Carroll. With only a handful of undrafted players fortunate enough to secure a season-long paycheck.
And that’s why, if Carroll’s history has given us any clue to his future, the all-time leading scorer in Aggie history will fight to overcome the odds and defy the naysayers.
Carroll may not earn that NBA contract. Then again, he might.
New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank – if three games are any indication — appears willing to give Carroll a chance to show what he’s made of.
And that’s all Carroll wants.