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Ewing, Randolph playing for NBA roster spots

In the world of Duke men’s basketball, the focus is already on this year’s team which boasts a star-studded incoming recruiting class and figures to be close to, if not at the top of, the preseason national rankings. But even with the high hopes for the upcoming season, the Blue Devils will be without two key contributors from last season’s team, which won the ACC Tournament title and made its eighth-straight run to the NCAA Sweet 16.

On NBA Draft Night June 28, Duke’s Daniel Ewing waited hours before hearing his name called by the Los Angeles Clippers with the second pick of the second round. His former teammate Shavlik Randolph, who surprised many with his decision to leave Duke and turn pro, went undrafted but received an invitation to train with the Philadelphia 76ers this summer.

There was some speculation after the draft that Randolph, who still has yet to hire an agent, would ask Duke for reinstatement—a seldom-used loophole to allow undrafted college players who have not accepted money from teams or agents—to return to school.

Randolph, however, decided to continue pursuing his dream of playing in the NBA and his family announced a week after the draft that he had accepted an invitation to work out with the 76ers. The move seemed curious at first because Philadelphia is not fielding a summer-league team this year. But the Randolph family felt that the 76ers offered the best opportunity to catch on and sign an NBA deal.

“With the summer league, you play, and it’s done in a couple weeks,” Randolph’s father, Kenny, said. “But with [Philadelphia] Shav has the opportunity to work out for the whole summer and into training camp.”

At first thought of as a long shot to make the roster, Randolph said the workouts have been going very well.

“I can’t exactly comment on [my contract situation] right now, but I’ll just say that I really feel good about my situation here and I’m in a much better position than I thought I’d be,” Randolph said. “We’ll find out in a couple weeks.”

NBA free agent deals cannot be announced until July 22. In an interesting twist of fate, Randolph would return to Cameron Indoor Stadium, should he be invited to veterans training camp with the 76ers. Philadelphia trained at Duke last year and announced that it intends to do so once again this year.

Randolph said he would not find the situation to be awkward, though, and instead would see it as an opportunity to spend time with his former teammates.

“Those aren’t my business associates,” he said. “Those are my best friends.”

Nothing has been guaranteed so far for the former Blue Devil in his quest to play in the NBA, but things are looking bright at the moment.

“He’s out there chasing a dream,” Kenny Randolph said.

Meanwhile, Ewing spent time adjusting to the increased level of competition as a member of the Clippers’ squad in the Las Vegas Summer League July 6-15.

“It’s really a big relief and a blessing just to have this opportunity,” Ewing said on draft night. “It is a good situation to be in, especially with some familiar faces on the team that can help me with the transition from college to the NBA.”

The Clippers, who are coached by former Duke parent Mike Dunleavy Sr., have made a practice in recent years of drafting or acquiring players with Blue Devil ties. Before drafting Ewing their roster included former Duke standouts Elton Brand and Corey Maggette, as well as Shaun Livingston, who had signed a national letter of intent to play for Duke before deciding to enter the NBA draft straight from high school.

“I don’t know if there’s a conscious effort to draft Duke players,” said Gary Sacks, the assistant director of player personnel for the Clippers. “But you know with Duke players you’re getting hard-working, good people from a good program. They have great coaching, a high-level of play in the ACC, and at Duke they develop a winning attitude.”

Ewing struggled shooting the ball, averaging just eight points per game, but was among the summer league’s leaders in steals. The Clippers view Ewing as more of a shooting guard than a point guard but value his versatility. They have experimented by playing Ewing alongside Livingston, with Ewing playing off the ball on offense and guarding the opposing team’s ball-handler on the defensive end.

Having been picked in the second round, Ewing did not receive a guaranteed contract from the Clippers as those players selected in the first round are awarded. Sacks said he was drafted with “the intent to sign,” but also noted that anything could happen.

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