Wichita State senior Markis McDuffie was one of 64 college seniors invited to play three games in four days this week at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament in Virginia.
The showcase event draws NBA scouts ahead of individual workouts and the NBA Draft Combine in May. NBA greats like Rick Barry, Earl Monroe, John Stockton and Scottie Pippen have played in the event, while it has more recently given NBA All-Star Jimmy Butler an opportunity as well.
McDuffie is on the Portsmouth Partnership team with former Kansas and NBA player Brandon Rush serving as an assistant coach. McDuffie will play alongside notable scorers in Campbell’s Chris Clemons (30.1), Lipscomb’s Garrison Mathews (20.9), College of Charleston’s Jarrell Brantley (19.4) and Buffalo’s CJ Massinburg (18.2).
McDuffie’s team will play at 8 p.m. Thursday, then again Friday and Saturday depending on its results. All games will be streamed on NetcastSports.com.
“I get to go out and play with some of the best players in the country who are all trying to reach their goal and their dream just like me,” McDuffie told The Eagle. “I’m excited to showcase my talent in front of the NBA scouts and try to get into the combine. I just have to go out there and do what I do.”
McDuffie averaged a career-high 18.2 points this past season, the highest scoring average for a Shocker in 19 years, and played 1,235 minutes, the most in WSU history. His 84 three-pointers were second-best at WSU for a single season and his 196 free throws ranked third.
At 6-foot-8, McDuffie’s outside shooting presents an intriguing combination at the professional level. He earned a reputation around the American Athletic Conference as a tough shot-maker.
“When you’re in the moment and in that zone, it doesn’t seem crazy to you because that’s just what you do,” McDuffie said. “That’s just what I’m made of. If all of the focus is on you and the other team knows what you’re going to do and you’re still scoring on them, that makes you feel very confident in yourself.”
In the two weeks since WSU’s 22-15 season concluded with a trip to the National Invitation Tournament semifinals in New York, McDuffie has stayed in the practice gym. He sees himself as a wing player at the NBA level with potential to be a small-ball four.
McDuffie said he has reached out to WSU’s three NBA players — Fred VanVleet, Landry Shamet and Ron Baker — for advice on the process and the journey to the NBA. Shamet was a first-round draft pick, while VanVleet and Baker earned their way as undrafted free agents. They all can offer unique perspectives to McDuffie to prepare him for whatever may come.
He has yet to sign with an agent, but plans to do so soon. McDuffie knows he can do himself a favor this week by making a strong impression in Portsmouth. After the tournament, he will return to his hometown of Paterson, New Jersey to continue training.
“I want to show that I can shoot in all different situations,” McDuffie said. “Off the dribble, catch-and-shoot, spot up... really it’s all about confidence. When you’re trying to make it to the next level, you’ve got to believe you’re going to make that shot when you get the ball.”
McDuffie isn’t listed on many NBA Draft projections. At a wiry 218 pounds, McDuffie is undersized for an NBA forward. His ball handling is also viewed as a weakness by NBA scouts, an area that McDuffie knows he must improve.
But working in McDuffie’s favor is that he doesn’t turn 22 until September despite being a college senior. He’s confident he stands to benefit significantly from a NBA weight-training regimen.
“I know I have things I need to get better at, but I’m still going into this process with a chip on my shoulder,” McDuffie said. “You have to have that going against guys that are just as good as you or better. I want to prove I can play with these guys and prove I’m here for a long time, not a good time. I’m self-motivated. I know what I’m getting into and I know what my future can hold if I become the best player I can be.”