That was quite the Sports Bog Spectacular College Hoops Poll Summer League game yesterday, with reps from Va. Tech, Georgetown, GW and Maryland all on one court at the same time. Nik Caner-Medley, playing for the Kings, didn't get much of a run; his stats through two games are unremarkable. But he's forever one of ours, so I chatted with him for a few minutes after the game, about his career and about his thoughts on the Maryland years.
As you'll recall, he hurt his left foot last summer and basically couldn't play for half a year. He spent the time rehabbing in Bethesda--working with a personal trainer and a bit with Calbert Cheaney--and going to school in College Park. Finally, near the end of the Euro season he signed with a team called the Artland Dragons of the wonderfully named city QuakenbrÃ¼ck, which is straight out of the Marx Brothers. The Dragons' memorable slogan right now appears to be "Vielen Dank for Eure Drachenstarche Understutzung!" which translates roughly to "Many Thanks For Your Extremely Long Words and Copious Consonants!" And since this is a blog, here are their cheerleaders.
Anyhow, NCM's agent lined up a roster spot for him late in the season so he could get back in game shape, and he was there for the Dragons' memorable run to the German League finals against Brose Baskets, averaging about 9 points and 5 rebounds and apparently going by the name "Niklas." Last summer he was with the Pistons in Summer League, and this year he got this chance with the Kings, although he realizes that the team he's with right now is nearly irrelevant.
"Practices have been going well, but this is a showcase for the whole league, it's not just for the team you're playing with, and also there are a lot of European scouts here," he said. "I liked it over there [in Germany], obviously going to the finals. I keep all my options open. I just want to continue to play ball. Wherever I can play and get the most money, that's probably where I'll go."
He hasn't finished his degree yet but said he still plans to whenever he has a spare moment, saying he owes that much to Maryland and to his parents. He said that he hopes to be done with school within the next year or so, but that right now basketball is his priority.
I also asked him about the Maryland years. Remember, Caner-Medley came in with the Garrison-McCray-Gilchrist class, the post-championship class that had so many expectations and so many hiccups and that seemed to have lost many of their fans along the way. I wondered whether he reflects about his time as a Terp.
"Yeah, I look back on it," he said. "It was a lot of good times, a lot of bad times. Obviously my first couple years we had a lot of success. My last couple years, when I look back on it, really analyze it, the last couple years we had, there was a lot of things that changed in college basketball. We had years where we were .500 in the ACC and didn't make the tournament. I don't think that there's anything to be ashamed of for the group of guys that was there. We did some great things. Obviously the way that it ended up, with losing McCray my senior year, those are things that you can't control as a player, you've just got to kind of roll with it. But I think overall it was a good career and I have good thoughts about it."
I also asked about the fans. I have no way of taking the pulse of the average Maryland fan, but there was certainly some bitterness bubbling up among at least some message board posters by the end of those four years.
"I mean, that's the way fans are," Caner-Medley said. "I think there were a lot of people who supported us and a lot of people who appreciated what we did, and a lot of people that understood the situation. We won 19 or 20 games my last two years and didn't make the tournament. Four or five years ago that was unheard of; now all of a sudden you've got all these mid-major teams getting into the tournament, and teams from bigger leagues getting cut short. And therefore people who don't really look at that consider the season a failure, but we put a lot of work into it and sacrificed a lot and it made a lot of us better people in terms of character.
"We had to deal with a lot of stuff when we were there, with the fans and also people just around the community that had a lot of negative things to say. But those types of things in your career, and as you build towards being an adult, that type of stuff helps you. I don't have any regrets about the four years at all."
Finally, I asked him briefly about the state of Maryland's program, and about the concerns some fans were raising before the late-season ACC hot streak last year.
"Well, you know, it's hard to make everybody happy," he said. "I think there were a lot of fans who were very supportive, and then obviously people who have the highest expectations. And I know everybody in that program has the highest expectations, too, and I think they have a great chance to win a championship. They have a great group of young guys and obviously a hall of fame coach. It has nothing to do with the coach. Like I said, it's a tough league. They had a great year last year.
"People have amnesia a lot and only think about what's happened in the most recent [past], but it's been a very successful program. That's why I went there, and we won an ACC championship when I was there, went to a Sweet 16. I think there's a lot of fans around the country who would love to have their schools have that kind of success.
"But when you go to a couple Final Fours and win a championship, people's expectations re-form and re-shape. And I know when I was there, we wanted those expectations. So I'm sure that Coach and the players on that team right now want the expectation of winning a championship, because they're out there working for it. I think it's a great thing to have those types of expectations, at the end of the day."
So that's that. Chris McCray, by the way, played nine minutes in the Bucks' Summer League opener, scoring two points. Laron Profit is playing for the Pistons, averaging 6.5 ppg. D.J. Strawberry scored seven points on 3-of-8 shooting in his debut.