LAS VEGAS – Larry Drew II will tell you it’s not time to store his basketball sneakers on the shelf.
The point guard played in 12 regular-season games with the 76ers during the 2014-15 season and is determined to get back to the NBA. That’s why, at 27, he is on the Sixers’ summer league team.
“I put too much into this game to quit and give up,” Drew said.
That’s why he stayed in a 103-102 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in an NBA Summer League game Wednesday night, despite spraining a ligament in his right middle finger. That’s why he’s expected to play in Friday’s 8:30 p.m. consolation finale against the Chicago Bulls at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“I got to do what I got to do,” Drew said.
And what he’s been doing has been impressive.
The 6-foot-2 Drew ranked fourth in the summer league with 6.0 assists per game heading into Thursday’s action. He is also averaging 9.5 points and 2.0 steals and shooting 46.2 percent on three-pointers.
Drew’s highlight of the summer league was a step-back jumper with 7.6 seconds left that gave the Sixers a 95-93 victory over the Warriors on Saturday. The California native also averaged 6.0 points and league-second-best 5.0 assists in two games at last week’s Utah Jazz Summer League.
But as impressive as he’s been here, Drew has endured a tough journey, and he has even contemplated giving up the game.
Drew, a 2008 High School McDonald’s All-American and son of Cleveland Cavaliers associate head coach Larry Drew, has had to deal with adversity since his junior season at North Carolina. In mid-January 2011, Drew was replaced in the starting lineup by then-freshman Kendall Marshall (a former Sixer). On Feb. 2, he left UNC, and enrolled at UCLA a month later.
After sitting out the 2011-12 season, Drew garnered all-Pac-12 honors as a Bruins senior. He even broke Philly native Pooh Richardson’s school record for assists in a season.
However, Drew went undrafted in 2013, and has spent most of his career overseas and in the D-League, now known as the G League.
Aside from his being in the Miami Heat’s training camp in 2013 and 2014, his only actual NBA experience came with the Sixers. Drew had two consecutive 10-day contracts with the team during the 2014-15 season. He averaged 3.8 points, 3.8 assists, 1.2 rebounds, and 18.3 minutes in 12 games, with one start.
One of his better games came on the road against the Detroit Pistons on Jan. 17, 2015. He finished with six points, a career-high nine assists, and one steal.
The Sixers chose not to re-sign Drew for the rest of the season after his second 10-day contract expired. He returned to the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the D-League. He played for AS Monaco Basket in France and later for the Skyforce in 2015-16. This past season, Drew started out with BC Neptunas in Lithuania before finishing the year back with the Skyforce.
“You can ask anybody in the NBA, especially guys who are playing [and] that have been playing, you ask about me, they can tell you that I have the talent to play at the level,” Drew said. “That’s why it’s been such a humbling experience for me, because at this stage, it’s just about staying ready, being ready for your opportunity.”
That’s why he’s thankful to the Sixers for giving him another opportunity to showcase his skills in summer league. His first two stints were with the Heat in 2013 and 2014. Then he played for the New Orleans Pelicans in 2015.
Despite the exposure, he still hasn’t found an NBA home. In the past, the knock was his inability to shot from the outside. But Drew has improved that during his stints overseas.
He hopes that this summer’s stint with the Sixers could lead to an NBA contract.
“It’s been tough,” Drew said of his journey. “But like I say, you just got to trust in yourself. You have to trust in God. You have to trust in your own path, and if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.
“If not, I will find something else to do.”