Photo by Tyler Lamb / Sidelines Archives
Two former Blue Raiders will have a shot at their professional dreams. Forwards Reggie Upshaw and JaCorey Williams each signed NBA Summer League contracts following the 2017 NBA Draft on Thursday.
Upshaw signed with the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that appears to be a perfect fit for his versatility. The four-year senior averaged 14.5 points a game in his final season, third-most on the team. Upshaw also finished second on the team in rebounding as he grabbed 6.8 boards a game.
One of Upshaw’s best performances during the regular season came against the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers on New Year’s Day. While many of his teammates struggled to get going on offense, Upshaw made it look easy by torching the Blazers for a career-high 34 points on 11-16 shooting from the floor and four three-point makes.
Upshaw also came up big in the Blue Raiders’ first NCAA Tournament game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. After the Blue Raiders took a 17-point lead in the second half, Minnesota charged back and cut the lead all the way down to four with just under seven minutes remaining in the game.
Then Upshaw took over.
After Minnesota’s Eric Curry converted an and-1 layup to cut the lead to four, the Chattanooga, Tennessee, native went on an individual 7-0 run to push the lead back up to eight at its peak. This included a clutch, three-point make and a one-legged step-back jumper that reminded many fans of NBA great Dirk Nowitzki. This helped the Blue Raiders win a NCAA Tournament game over a Big Ten team for the second straight season as they defeated the Golden Gophers by a final score of 81-72.
With the Bucks fresh off of a solid season that included a playoff berth as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, Upshaw has a chance to make a team that has a talented group of young players with a bright future.
Meanwhile, Williams signed with the 2017 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, another team that should be a perfect match for the athletic 6-8 forward. The Birmingham, Alabama, native led the team in scoring during the 2016-17 season, averaging 17.3 points a game. Williams also came within two points of the single-season scoring record with 621 points.
Williams rebounded in impressive fashion after being challenged by head coach Kermit Davis early in the season. Williams led the team with a 7.3 rebounds-per-game average and posted 11 double-doubles.
One of his best moments came in his return to Birmingham when he sank his signature mid-range jump shot to defeat the UAB Blazers late in the season to clinch the Conference USA regular season title.
After his incredible season, Williams was selected for All-Conference USA First-Team and honored as conference Newcomer of the Year and conference Player of the Year. The senior forward’s career culminated with a solid 20-point showing in the team’s final game of the season against Butler.
Both players will represent their teams in the 2017 NBA Summer League, which is set to take place July 1-6 in Orlando, July 3-6 in Utah and July 7-17 in Las Vegas.
To contact Sports Editor Rusty Ellis, email email@example.com.