Passed over in draft, Meeks states case in NBA summer debut

The former UNC star scored 15 points to lead the Toronto Raptors to victory while former and current rivals Brice Johnson and Brandon Ingram staged a shootout in Vegas

Stephen R. Sylvanie—USA Today Sports
Brandon Ingram of the Los Angeles Lakers is defended by Los Angeles Clippers teammates Brice Johnson (10) and Sindarius Thornwell during Friday's NBA Summer League game in Las Vegas

A pair of 2016 first round draft choices took the North Carolina-Duke rivalry out west with an epic duel Friday. But it was a former Tar Heel big man who got passed over in this year’s draft that stole the show on the opening day of the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League tournament. Kennedy Meeks, who signed a partially guaranteed free agent contract with the Toronto Raptors, picked up where he left off in UNC’s recent national championship run by scoring 15 points in his professional debut. The 6-foot-10 center made seven of his 13 field goal attempts and pulled down nine rebounds in just 17 minutes of action to help the Raptors to a 96-93 victory against the New Orleans Pelicans. Duke’s Quinn Cook hit for 16 points, three assists and three steals in the game for New Orleans. “I think (the pro game) is a better fitting for me as a player than the college setup,” Meeks told “But I went undrafted, so I’ve got a lot to work on.” While Meeks is only just beginning his adjustment to the NBA, former UNC teammate Brice Johnson and Duke’s Brandon Ingram appear to be ready to blossom after trying rookie seasons. The former college rivals were the star attraction in their new rivalry between the NBA’s two Los Angeles teams. Ingram got the best of the individual matchup by scoring 26 points, to go along with three assists, three steals and two blocked shots for the Lakers. Johnson, however, ended up with the victory by scoring 23 points while leading the Clippers to a 96-93 overtime win. Johnson, who played in only three games last season because of a back injury, went 10 of 15 from the floor. He also pulled down seven rebounds while blocking three shots and recording a pair of steals. He was aided by two other former Tar Heels, veteran point guard Kendall Marshall and rookie free agent Isaiah Hicks. Marshall scored 11 points and handed out 11 assists. Hicks, who like fellow national champion Meeks went undrafted, added seven points and four rebounds in just 11 minutes of action.It was a good night all the way around for former Tar Heels, as recent first round pick Justin Jackson made a favorable impression in his first game with the Sacramento Kings by going 7 for 11 (2-4 from 3-point range) and scoring 18 points in his team’s 89-85 win against the Phoenix Suns. Fellow first rounder Harry Giles of Duke is also on the Kings’ summer roster, but did not play.Rounding out the contingent of state college players in Vegas on Friday was Wake Forest’s John Collins, who recorded eight points and 11 rebounds for the Atlanta Hawks in their 75-72 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Although UNC’s Nate Britt didn’t see action in the game for the Hawks, another former Deacon — Tyler Cavanaugh — did. Cavanaugh, who finished his college career at George Washington after transferring away from Wake, had two points and five rebounds in 10 minutes.Here are the cumulative stats for all state players participating in Las Vegas:Brandon Ingram, Duke (Lakers): 1 game, 26.0 ppg, 9-17 FG, 1-4 3PT, 7-8 FT, 3.0 apg, 3.0 spgBrice Johnson, UNC (Clippers): 1 G, 23.0 ppg, 10-15 FG, 3-3 FT, 7.0 rpg, 3.0 bpg, 2.0 spgJustin Jackson, UNC (Kings): 1 G, 18.0 ppg, 7-11 FG, 2-4 3PT, 2-3 FT, 2.0 rpgQuinn Cook, Duke (Pelicans): 1 G, 16.0 ppg, 7-13 FG, 2-2 3PT, 3.0 apg, 3.0 spgKennedy Meeks, UNC (Raptors): 1 G, 15.0 ppg, 7-13 FG, 1-1 FT, 9.0 rpgKendall Marshall, UNC (Clippers): 1 G, 11.0 ppg, 2-3 FG, 1-1 3PT, 6-7 FT, 2.0 rpg, 11.0 apgJohn Collins, Wake Forest (Hawks): 1 G, 8.0 ppg, 2-4 FG, 4-5 FT, 11.0 rpg, 2.0 spgIsaiah Hicks, UNC (Clippers): 1 G, 7.0 ppg, 2-5 FG, 3-4 FT, 4.0 rpg