NBA predraft workouts lean toward the bland side, and usually there isn’t much that’s eye-opening, particularly during the portion media are permitted to watch. That wasn’t the case near the end of this morning’s session at Verizon Center, where Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld and point guard John Wall, among others, saw diminutive guard Randy Culpepper put on a dunking clinic.
At 6 feet, Culpepper isn’t an elite NBA prospect, but the fourth all-time scorer in UTEP history certainly can elevate with the best. Culpepper proved as much with two dunks, rising well above the rim and slamming the ball each time with the authority of a much larger player.
The second of those dunks even prompted a reaction from assistant coach Sam Cassell: “Get the hell out of here.”
“I have more up my sleeve, but as the workout kept going, I was a little fatigued,” Culpepper said of his dunking arsenal following a workout that included 6-6 shooting guards Alec Burks (Colorado) and Klay Thompson and 6-10 power forward JaJuan Johnson, the Big Ten player of the year from Purdue, as well as 5-10 guard Andrew Albicy (France) and 6-8 forward Tristan Thompson (Texas).
Most mock drafts don’t project Culpepper being selected, and the former Conference USA player of the year conceded his road to the NBA in all likelihood would be as an undrafted free agent. Compounding matters for Culpepper is that he played shooting guard in college, and in the NBA, scouts and general managers are looking at him at the point.
Culpepper said growing up he drew comparisons to Allen Iverson, who carved out a Hall of Fame-worthy career in the NBA despite being listed at 6-0. Culpepper also mentioned Mavericks guard JJ Barea, another 6-footer who is fearless driving to the basket.
“Everybody criticized me about my size, 5-11, six feet, whatever you want to say,” Culpepper said. “But my heart is so big, I’ll go out and play like I’m 6-6, 6-7, so size doesn’t matter if you ask me.”
Culpepper’s game has evolved to become more similar to that of Oklahoma City guard Nate Robinson, who is listed at 5-9. Robinson averaged double-figure scoring in four straight seasons with the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics.
In 2008-09, Robinson averaged a career-high 17.2 points per game primarily as a reserved for the Knicks. But Robinson is perhaps most recognized as the only three-time winner of the NBA’s dunk contest, including consecutive titles in 2009 and 2010.
“I was hoping I got invited to the collegiate [dunk contest], but I didn’t,” Culpepper said. “But if I do [get to the NBA dunk contest], I’ll try to take it through the legs or something.”