The last six weeks of Markis McDuffie’s life have seen him travel to 10 cities to work out for 11 NBA teams ahead of Thursday’s NBA Draft in New York City.
Just across the Hudson River, McDuffie will be watching the televised broadcast of the draft with his family and friends in his home in Paterson, New Jersey.
Since he played his final game for Wichita State on April 2, McDuffie said his life has been a whirlwind. He signed with an agent. He won a championship at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. He’s racked up the frequent flier miles.
Regardless of whether his name is called on Thursday night, McDuffie is just ready to find out so he can move to the next phase of his basketball career: finding out where his new home will be.
“I’ve got nerves going into Thursday just because you don’t know what’s going to happen or where you might end up,” McDuffie told the Eagle. “Whatever happens happens and no matter what, we’re going to be celebrating because I’ve been through a great process and I’ve done something that not a lot of people get a chance to do. That’s a good thing and we’re going to celebrate that.”
McDuffie, a 6-foot-8 forward with a three-point stroke, has hopes of being selected sometime in the second round of Thursday’s draft. The majority of NBA draft projections do not have McDuffie being selected.
But going undrafted does not necessarily end a player’s chances of reaching the NBA. McDuffie can look to former teammates Fred VanVleet, who recently won an NBA championship with the Toronto Raptors, and Ron Baker, who played for the New York Knicks and Washington Wizards, as inspiration.
McDuffie said he has spoken to both of them, as well as Landry Shamet, who was drafted No. 26 overall in last summer’s NBA Draft and just concluded his rookie season in the NBA playing for the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Clippers.
“I just had a conversation with Landry the other day and he told me there’s going to be a lot of ups and downs, so I have to take advantage of my opportunity,” McDuffie said. “Ron has been telling me to stay the course and stay focused on my goals and then Fred has been telling me to just bet on yourself.
“All of those guys have helped me through this process and given me the motivation to be that next guy out of Wichita State to do something special in the NBA.”
McDuffie has the advantage of being familiar with 11 of the NBA’s 30 teams. That could be helpful if McDuffie goes undrafted, as those teams might be interested in offering him a non-guaranteed contract to prove himself in the NBA Summer League in July in Las Vegas.
McDuffie said he felt like he proved he was an NBA player through his workouts for teams such as the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets, Houston Rockets, Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, and Portland Trail Blazers.
“The feedback has been great and I feel like they’ve been impressed with me every workout,” McDuffie said. “A lot of teams said they really love my personality and who I am off the court. On the court, they were really impressed with how I shot the ball. I’ve been shooting it a lot better and more consistent lately.”
At a wiry 210 pounds, McDuffie knows he has to get stronger. He’s also been working on improving his ball handling and his explosiveness off the dribble.
McDuffie said his game has already seen improvements since graduating from WSU in May and being able to focus solely on basketball.
“Basketball is my job now and to be able to grind from morning to night all day without any distractions in my life has been amazing,” McDuffie said. “I’m getting so much better being able to focus just on basketball. That’s why I feel like I’m shooting it so much better because I’ve been able to put the time in to work on it every single day.”
What McDuffie has going for him is that he’s a shooter in a 6-8 frame with positional versatility on both ends. He also doesn’t turn 22 until September, a rarity for a four-year collegiate player, so he has more time to correct his flaws.
McDuffie hopes his senior year at Wichita State will answer any other questions. He averaged 18.2 points, the most in the Gregg Marshall era at WSU, and made countless difficult jumpers as a marked man on a young and inexperienced WSU team that McDuffie helped lead to the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament and a 14-4 close to the season.
“I felt like I showed everyone in the NBA world what I was capable of this last year at Wichita State,” McDuffie said. “They’ve watched those games and know what I can do. I thought the biggest thing I showed was my leadership and being that No. 1 option, that go-to guy, that guy we trust and everyone believes in.
“I’m ready for the NBA and I just hope I get a chance because I’m ready to jump in a rotation and help some team win games from the jump. I’ve had four years of college experience and I loved my time at WSU, now I’m ready to go the NBA and start winning.”