The Miami Heat summer league roster is exactly 24 players deep, but a single free agent stands out from the rest of his nearly two dozen peers.
Two years ago, Myck Kabongo was a higher-rated prospect coming out of high school than Otto Porter, Ben McLemore and Michael Carter-Williams. Today, the former University of Texas guard is struggling to earn a roster spot with the Heat after going undrafted in June.
The past 24 months haven't exactly gone according to plan for Kabongo. The 6'1" point guard struggled during his freshman year with the Longhorns, shooting just 39.1 percent from the floor.
A season later, Kabongo's stock took a massive hit after he was forced to sit out the first 23 games of the 2012-13 campaign due to inappropriate contact with a trainer who works for agent Rich Paul. Kabongo put up fairly decent numbers when he did finally get to play (14.6 PPG, 5.5 APG, 5.0 RPG), but his 3.4 turnovers per game last season is a bit disconcerting.
Talent evaluators across the NBA thought so as well, and a player who was once expected to take the Big 12 by storm turned pro only to fail to hear his name called on draft night. Perhaps Kabongo should have stayed at Texas for his junior year in order to improve his draft status. But by that same token, perhaps the NCAA shouldn't have taken two-thirds of the most important season of Kabongo's life because of an honest mistake.
"I just feel like everyone's journey is different," said Kabongo, when asked about his NCAA sanctions by Surya Fernandez of Hot Hot Hoops. "I think it's a blessing in disguise."
Off-court issues aside, Kabongo is one of the few pure point guards in the 2013 draft class. Based on his athleticism and willingness to play defense alone, Kabongo should have little trouble latching on with an NBA team by the time training camp rolls around. Kabongo is the perfect low-risk, high-reward gamble for a Heat team whose only two proven options at the point are Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole.
In an interview with the Miami Herald, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said that Kabongo "has big upside," and the team thought enough of the 20-year-old point guard to invite him to both the Orlando and Vegas Summer League.
Also working in Kabongo's favor is the fact that he and LeBron James share the same agent: the aforementioned Rich Paul. Kabongo said that he has known the two-time champion since high school, and the pair have remained friends ever since.
Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld was stunned that Kabongo wasn't drafted in June, and said that "[i]n a few years, we might look back on that and laugh." Given Kabongo's talent and desire to improve every time that he steps out onto the court, it may only take a few months for the former Longhorn to prove the doubters wrong.