LAS VEGAS – Josh Perkins and Robert Franks come from different parts of the country, attended different colleges and essentially have taken different paths in their basketball careers.
Perkins was born in Denver and spent three seasons starring for Regis Jesuit High School in nearby Aurora, Colorado, before leaving to spend his senior season at national powerhouse Huntington Prep in West Virginia, where he emerged as one of the nation’s most sought-after point guards. His landing spot in college would be Gonzaga, where he became the school’s all-time assists leader with 712.
After earning three varsity letters at Evergreen High School in Vancouver, Washington, where he was named an Associated Press All-State honorable mention as a junior and senior, Franks ended up at Washington State and became one of the school’s most prolific offensive threats during his four-year career.
Now, they’re at the NBA Summer League after going undrafted last month, playing as teammates with the Charlotte Hornets.
And they both have a chip on their shoulders.
“Going undrafted, yeah, there’s definitely more fuel to the fire,” said Franks, who led the Pac-12 and ranked 24th in the nation with 21.6 points per game as a senior. “I’m on a mission just to stick in this league.”
Franks, who signed a two-way contract with the Hornets as an undrafted free agent, will likely start next season with Charlotte’s G League affiliate, the Greensboro Swarm. Franks can join the Hornets’ roster for up to 45 days over the course of the regular season, enabling him to gain the needed NBA experience for him to stay put.
Perkins visited nine different NBA teams for workouts – including the Pistons, Lakers, Hornets and Pacers – before signing an Exhibit 10 contract that allows him to join the team on a nonguaranteed basis. The former Zags standout can earn a bonus up to $50,000 if he is released but stays with Charlotte’s G League team for at least 60 days. Exhibit 10 players also can be offered a two-way contract.
Each NBA team can sign two players to two-way contracts.
Hornets summer league coach Ronald Nored said he’s been impressed with both players since the team started practicing two weeks ago, both on and off the court. With so many players vying for playing time, minutes can be limited, but Nored said they’ve handled themselves professionally, biding their time.
“The week of practice was really good, and I thought they played pretty hungry as well; they’re learning too,” Nored said. “There’s this process of learning how to play at this level, coming from college and trying to do the best they can do in our system, which I think they’ve both done consistently.”
Perkins has been mentored for this opportunity by former NBA star Chauncey Billups, who is also from Colorado and been a friend for many years. Now that he’s had a couple of weeks with an NBA team, Perkins said the combination of Billups’ mentorship and tutelage passed down from Gonzaga coach Mark Few has helped him mentally.
“Things aren’t always going to go your way, the change of pace, playing with guys you really haven’t played with, supporting the team through thick and thin,” said Perkins, who is averaging 10 points and 3.5 assists after playing in two of the team’s three games. “Coach Few blessed me with being able to run an offense. He grew my people skills with my teammates, embracing them as people, as my brothers.
“A lot of people aren’t in my position, so this is a blessing. I’m playing in summer league to get some minutes and there’s a lot of people who want that, so I can’t complain about anything. Your number (isn’t) always called, but when it’s called you gotta be ready. You gotta make the most of the opportunities, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Perkins’ maturity and basketball IQ has impressed the Hornets’ coaching staff early on.
“He knows how to play,” Nored said. “Watching him all week in practice, he was one of our best passers, best readers of the game, picking up the system, understanding the different concepts we’re trying to put in. They’re clearly doing a good job at Gonzaga and Josh has proven that.”
In the two weeks he’s been with the Hornets’ organization, Franks said he’s already seen improvement with his mental approach at the professional level.
“The court is more spread out, so the rotations have to be quick and fast,” said Franks, who is averaging 4.0 points and nine minutes in two games for the Hornets. “I am very capable of making quick reads and I think that’s something that I have seen in my game grow.
“But just being able to play at this level and execute. Being able to be out here with professionals is great.”
W.G. Ramirez is a freelance reporter in Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter at @WillieGRamirez
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