Former Dayton Flyers forward Kendall Pollard has been in the gym almost every day since graduating from the University of Dayton. He lifts weights. He shoots. He works on cardio. He tries to stay in game rhythm.
Pollard plans to play professional basketball somewhere next season. He’ll travel halfway across the world, like his former teammate Scoochie Smith, whom Pollard said leaves Thursday to play in Australia, if that’s what it takes. However, Pollard hopes to stay closer to home.
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That’s what his tryout Sunday is all about. Pollard was one of 40 players invited to the G League Player Invitational in Chicago, his hometown. The G League is the NBA developmental league. It used to be called the D League until Gatorade sponsored it. Scouts and coaches from across the NBA will watch the invitees play three games.
“I had plans on getting invited to a summer league team, but that didn’t happen,” Pollard said Monday. “I just kept hope alive, and my agent kept telling me he would try to get me into that.”
Pollard signed with John Noonan, of Octagon Basketball, in June. Agents first start reaching out to players toward the end of the season. Pollard finished his college career in March with 1,171 points. He ranks 35th in school history.
“We try to stay focused and accomplish our goals first,” Pollard said. “At the end of the season, that’s when I started responding, just reaching back out to guys and telling them if I was interested or not. I signed with my agency late because I was undecided on who I wanted to go with.”
Pollard watched two of his teammates, Smith and Charles Cooke, earn invitations to the Portsmouth Invitational in April. That’s a top showcase for college seniors. Pollard was disappointed to not get a chance.
“The explanation I got when I didn’t get invited to Portsmouth was a fair one, I guess,” Pollard said. “They said it’s hard to take three players from one team. When I looked at the rosters, there weren’t three players from one team. Scoochie and Charles deserved it.”
Pollard did get one workout with a NBA team. In June, the day before the draft, he worked out with the Chicago Bulls. He met Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and was surprised Reinsdorf already knew about him. Pollard happened to be wearing a White Sox hat. Reinsdorf also owns the White Sox.
“He said if you keep wearing that hat, good things will happen,” Pollard said.
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During the workout, Pollard talked to Dayton native and Notre Dame basketball alum John Paxson, the Bulls’ executive vice president of basketball operations, and asked him why he didn’t go to UD like his brother Jim.
“He said he didn’t want to fill the shoes of his brother,” Pollard said.
Pollard grew up rooting for the Bulls, and although he knew he didn’t have much of a chance of getting drafted by them, he appreciated the opportunity.
“If I could have picked one team (to work out for), that would have been the team,” Pollard said. “It was a dream come true.”
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Since his workout with the Bulls, Pollard has been playing in the Nike Chicago League, waiting for his chance. He said he might have gone to the same Australian league as Smith, but the team that was interested in him signed a player from a smaller school because he was cheaper.
Pollard expects to get an offer at some point. Until then, he will focus on the G League tryout.
“Hopefully, I’ll get a training camp invite or a two-way contract,” Pollard said. “I have to weigh my options. If the option’s overseas and it’s not too far from the G League financially, then I’d choose to stay here. If it’s significantly different, obviously I’d go overseas. There are opportunities everywhere. I just want to go with the one that best fits me and have fun and be put into a good situation in a good city.”
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