Zanna among players working toward NBA goal in summer leagues
Former Pitt standout Talib Zanna, one of several area basketball players who participated in two recent NBA summer leagues, played five games with the Philadelphia 76ers.
That meant sharing playing time with 2013 first-round draft pick Nerlens Noel.
“It was a great experience,” said Zanna, who joined Philadelphia after not being selected in the June draft. “My dream is playing in the NBA. I plan to keep fighting until I make it.”
Other local players with similar NBA dreams also played summer league ball, including Pitt's Lamar Patterson, Milwaukee's second-round pick who was traded to Atlanta; former Pitt forward Gilbert Brown; former Schenley standout and Iowa State star DeAndre Kane; former Penn State guard Tim Frazier; former Schenley and St. John's standout D.J. Kennedy; and former West Virginia star Kevin Jones.
Pitt center Steven Adams, Oklahoma City's 2013 first-round pick, played in the Orlando summer league and faced Zanna after the pair started for the Panthers a year earlier.
“It's not going to happen overnight,” said Zanna, who returned to his home in Maryland following summer league play. “Right now, I don't know what my next step is going to be.”
Averaging just over nine minutes at center, Zanna averaged 2.2 points and 1.6 rebounds in the Orlando summer league.
Noel, recovering from a knee injury that caused him to miss his rookie season, received a much longer look from Philadelphia's coaching staff.
“Noel isn't a traditional offensive post-up player, he's more transition and follow-ups,” said agent Jarinn Akana, who represents Zanna. “Since that was Noel's role, it was kind of hard to play him and Talib together.”
Zanna said he could have displayed his scoring ability more if he had played power forward — his natural position — but Akana said the switch to center permitted Zanna to showcase other areas of his game.
“It was a good opportunity for him to play the pro game and figure out the differences from college,” Akana said. “A lot of free agent guys, undrafted guys, want to come in and score but they miss the boat. Teams have those type of guys already. That's where Talib fits in. He does some things that translate to the NBA: rebound, run the floor and play defense.”
NBA training camps open Oct. 1. Zanna said Philadelphia didn't invite him to training camp, so he will explore other NBA options, as well as playing in the Development League or playing professionally overseas.
“I'm going with the flow and whatever happens, happens,” Zanna said. “Just preparing for the next opportunity.”
Patterson, who teamed with Zanna during Pitt's first season in the ACC, averaged 25 minutes in six games with Atlanta at the Las Vegas summer league. It was an excellent showcase opportunity for Patterson, who averaged 6.0 points, 1.2 assists and 1.5 steals — especially after the Hawks signed free agent Kent Bazemore to a two-year, $4 million contract and executed a sign-and-trade for veteran Thabo Sefolosha. Like Patterson, Bazemore and Sefolosha can swing between guard and forward.