A successful college basketball career does not equal an easy path to the pros.
There are options for players who are not projected to be drafted high: They can withdraw their name from the draft and stay in school, or if they go undrafted they can play internationally or join the NBA G League.
Maverick Rowan has taken an even different path, one taken by only a few.
Originally from the Pittsburgh area, the 6-foot-7 Rowan — who worked out for the Sixers on Wednesday — attended Lincoln Park High School in Midland, Pa., before moving with his family to Florida to finish high school. After playing two years at North Carolina State, he decided to go pro after his sophomore season.
Countless college basketball stars do not hear their name called on draft night, and that probably would have been the case with Rowan. With little interest from NBA teams, he withdrew from the 2017 draft. That is where his journey veers from the norm.
Instead of returning to school — and the basketball team — Rowan left North Carolina. He spent a couple of months in Serbia on an international contract before returning stateside and joining the Lakeland Magic, the Orlando Magic’s G League affiliate. He averaged 5.3 points in 13.3 minutes per game and hit 35.1 percent of his three-point tries (39 of 111) in 37 games.
“I just think it was the best opportunity for me personally to learn the professional game and expand my game for the next level,” Rowan said Wednesday after a predraft workout with the Sixers.
Because he pulled out of last year’s draft as an underclassman, Rowan is eligible for the 2018 draft even with his G League experience. This time, there is no withdrawing for Rowan.
With four second-round picks in the June 21 draft, it’s important the Sixers do their homework on some of the less-touted players. Elton Brand, former Sixer and current general manager of the franchise’s G League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats, is making sure no stone goes unturned.
“We’ve seen [Rowan] within the G League during the season, we went to a workout in Miami and saw him again, so we have great intel on him,” Brand said following the workout. “Leaving NC State, he was on the radar. Coming in today, we wanted to see how he could shoot, and how he could move.”
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Rowan’s three-point shot was a strength for him in college: He led the team in threes during his freshman season and knocked down 53 of them in 25 games the next year.
It’s easy to look at the G League as a sea of forgotten talent. But there are many who look at the NBA’s farm system as a pool of unpolished gems. That is what Rowan is hoping someone sees.
“You have to do something that separates you from the other guys,” he said. “As long as you do something that distinguishes you, then you’ll be all right. Have that one thing that you’re good at and keep working at it and teams will find you.”
The Sixers, who have put a premium on player development with their G League affiliate, could be the team that picks up Rowan and polishes him.
It doesn’t mean Rowan will get NBA minutes. He will most likely begin 2018 on a G League roster or spend most of the season on assignment in the minor-league system even if he is drafted in the second round. But a nod from a team at the draft would validate his work and the path he chose.
Even if he goes undrafted though, Rowan’s professional career is not over. He’s confident the G League is a place that can produce stars.
“I don’t think anybody should be worried about playing in the G League and being overshadowed,” he said. “It’s a great league for guys to experience the NBA game, it just is.”