Rockets Finally Give High School, College Star Von Wafer a Chance

Ryan McNamaraContributor IJuly 7, 2009

NEW YORK - JANUARY 26:  Von Wafer #13 of the Houston Rockets looks on against the New York Knicks on January 26, 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

With fifty seconds left in the fourth quarter and down one point to the Boston Celtics, the Houston Rockets needed a basket in a pivotal mid-season game with the defending world champions. Point guard Aaron Brooks drove into the lane and kicked the ball out to an open Von Wafer in the corner.

He hit a dagger of a three pointer and ran down the court, ecstatic about his shot.  The Rockets never gave the lead back after that clutch play.

Von Wafer had finally realized that he could be a great player in the NBA and stay with a team. His journey started in high school and college, and when he was finally drafted, it all went downhill from there. He finally got his chance in 2008-09 on an injury-plagued Houston Rockets team.

Von Wafer attended Pineview High School for his first three years where he averaged 32 points, ten rebounds, and seven assists. Then he moved to Heritage Christian Academy for his senior year where he averaged 26 points, eight rebounds, four steals, and four blocks. With those numbers, Wafer seemed promising for a great college career.

Wafer even participated in the McDonald's All-American Game where only the best high school players go to display their talents to college recruiters. He also took part in the slam dunk contest with LeBron James and Shannon Brown.

He then attended Florida State University where he put up good numbers, including leading the team in scoring his sophomore year with 12.5 points per game. Wafer was a promising young man for the draft when he decided to forego his junior and senior years for the NBA. After his sophomore year, he looked forward to a successful NBA career.

Wafer was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers with the ninth pick of the second round of the 2005 NBA Draft. He proved many draft experts wrong because they thought he would not be drafted at all. After many struggles to fit in with the Lakers’ system, he was waived in October 2006.

Wafer then played in the NBA D League- a "Development" league where players can improve- with the Colorado 14ers, where he was one of the top players in the league.

The Los Angeles Clippers noticed his impact in the D-league and signed him to a ten day contract. Wafer was later waived after only playing one minute in his short career with the Clippers. After two more NBA teams, a trade and a release, the former high school and college star had fallen to the lowest point in his brief professional career.

Then something strange happened, something unlike anything else in Wafers troublesome career. He signed with the Houston Rockets after a strong preseason, and was then given the chance of a lifetime when Rockets’ star Tracy McGrady went down with an injury. He had the chance to play more than any other time in his career.

Wafer started several games or came off the bench for a solid 25-30 minutes per game. He impressed many when he scored 23 points against the Los Angeles Lakers in a game he started. For the first time in his career, Wafer found a place where he could thrive as a successful basketball player.

When Brooks passed Wafer the ball on that fateful night against the Celtics, he must have been thinking: this is what I have been waiting for my entire life. After all of his struggles with several different teams, he was finally in a position to prove himself as an NBA player.

As soon as he drained that basket, he had finally found a place where he could impact a team and compete for a championship without sitting on the bench.

Von Wafer is currently a free agent looking to re-sign with the Rockets after the most successful season of his career. He finished the season averaging ten points per game coming off the bench and recorded thirty-four double digit scoring efforts in the regular season and playoffs combined.

Before the season, Wafer was given a one percent chance of making the team by the Houston Rockets’ general manager. Look at him now: a key ingredient for a contending team. He waited his whole career for a chance to fit in a team's system, and he finally found a home with the Rockets. He will continue to improve his skills as a player and try to become a star in the NBA.