LAS VEGAS - Every July, the basketball world floods Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League. Over the course of 10 days, 24 teams duke it out, and thousands of fans cram in the the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion to get a peek at the next wave of NBA superstars.
Rosters are filled with first round draft picks, former college stars and journeymen alike get a chance to showcase their skills, and this summer, that includes three former Arizona State Sun Devils: Eric Jacobsen (Cleveland Cavaliers), Shaquielle McKissic (Utah Jazz) and Jordan Bachynski (Portland Trail Blazers).
Bachynski, who is participating in his third summer league, has seen the most playing time this summer after earning All-NBA D-League Third Team and All-Defensive team honors while playing for the Westchester Knicks this past season.
He also played in the Orlando Summer League for the Detroit Pistons. Between the two leagues, he averaged 10 points (60.8 percent shooting) and six rebounds in 14 minutes per game.
"I've always had a good reputation as a defensive player, so I wanted to prove to everyone that I could be a scoring big, which I feel I am," Bachynski said. "It was great that I was able to show the team that I was an offensive player and for them to realize that and start to utilize me, it was a really great feeling."
Las Vegas is also the second league this summer for McKissic, who played for the Jazz in the four-team Utah Summer League as well. McKissic, who played last season overseas in Italy and South Korea, averaged 5.2 points in just over 13 minutes per game.
Jacobsen, who just graduated, saw nine minutes per game and averaged 3.4 points and two rebounds per game, but his team went the furthest in the tournament portion of play, making it all the way to the semifinals.
"I play limited minutes and so whatever I feel like off the bench the team needs, I'm going to play hard every day, play defense and all that stuff," Jacobsen said. "(I'll) stay in my role and not try to get too far out of it."
Summer league basketball is a strange mix of actual, cohesive basketball and a really talented (sometimes lesser so) version of a pickup game. Guys compete for minutes, shots and attention from other NBA teams while also attempting to play as a unit for their current squad.
"It's all about taking advantage of opportunities presented to you," Bachynski said. "You can't control a lot of things like playing time, and that frustrates a lot of guys, so their heads aren't in it, but you just got to remain mentally strong and persevere and do what the team needs you to do.
Jacobsen has called this experience "eye-opening," but he was pleasantly surprised by the camaraderie on his team.
"I thought it was going to be like every man for himself," he said. "But actually, we've all become pretty good friends, and I think I'll continue to talk to a lot of these guys after."
He and Bachynski almost played on the same team in Las Vegas, according to Jacobsen, but when that fell through, he found an opportunity with Cleveland.
Whereas this was Jacobsen's first summer of pro ball, McKissic said his second go-around in Las Vegas was much easier than his first.
"Once you play a year in Italy, and leave on those type of numbers, you don't really have anything to fear at that point," McKissic said.
In June, McKissic signed with Usak Sportif in Turkey, but he still played with the Jazz with the hopes of signing a contract in the NBA.
However, although he said he and the Jazz "have been talking," he couldn't "pass up on that kind of money" that Usak Sportif offered him. McKissic wouldn't disclose the details of the contract.
"It's always fun, a lot of money," McKissic said. "To have my family out there, to be doing something that I love to do, especially coming from the past that I've had, everyday I wake up, it's just a blessing."
Jacobsen, McKissic and Bachynski represent the last three graduating classes at Arizona State, but McKissic was the only player to lead ASU in scoring in during any point of his career.
"Just looking back in hindsight, I'm just really proud of those guys that actually get to this level because a lot of guys that we played with aren't here." McKissic said. "It's the one that you least expect keep the level heads to actually do something like this."
All three said they kept in touch while in town together, but the hectic nature of the summer didn't allow for too much downtime.
"It's really busy, and when you're not playing, you want to be resting," Bachynski said. "Me and EJ just met and talked and chilled for a little bit, but it's always good when you get to see your teammates again and old friends you haven't seen in awhile."
As of the conclusion of the Las Vegas Summer League, only McKissic has a definite place to play. Jacobsen's future is a little cloudier seeing as this is his first year in pro basketball, but the Chandler-native added that he feels like the "sky is the limit."
It is also safe to assume Bachynski will find a landing spot after his all-star season in the D-League.
"With this profession, you just got to take it day-by-day," Bachynski said. "You never know what's going to happen. You never know if a team won't be able to get a certain guy, so you never know where you are on their list. You just got to have faith that it's all going to work out, and just take it day-by-day."