Last season while working up previews of all of the players that the Atlanta Hawks were working out in anticipation for the 2010 Draft I came upon a stumbling block. It was a player with a strange name that depending on where you looked was listed as either a point guard or small forward. He was also the only player that was publicly working out twice for the Hawks. Atlanta ended up selecting Pape Sy in the second round of the draft and he took a much different path from the typical European player selected by the Hawks.
Sy was little more than an afterthought for a while as it was expected that he would return to France to play. The Hawks were able to get a close up look at Sy during its rookie camp and as a part of its Summer League Team that participated in Las Vegas.
Here is what I had to say about Sy's summer league campaign:
Sy was the one guy that I came away from Summer League not seeing enough of. He only appeared in two games because of a sore Achilies. He looked shaky in the first half of the opener against Memphis struggling with the ball pressure that the Grizzlies applied. However, he seemed to rebound in the second half when the Hawks made a run and showed an ability of getting into the lane and getting to the free throw line. He only hit 1-3 field goal attempts but got to the free throw line 9 times. He appears to be as long as advertised and I think he will have to get stronger but could project into a nice defensive player at the wing position. I want to see more of him.
His performance wasn't earth shattering but it did leave me wanting to see more. I was impressed with his knack for getting into the lane and while he struggled to finish, he showed a good knack of getting to the free throw line.
Sy made an impression on the Atlanta front office and the Hawks announced his signing on September 15. By the time training camp started, Sy had developed a back injury that would sideline him for a significant portion of the early part of the season. Once finally healthy, Atlanta assigned Sy to the Utah Flash of the NBA D-League.
Pape Sy played in 23 games for the Utah Flash averaging 8.0 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. He shot 42 percent from the field and 74 percent from the free throw line. Right after Sy was assigned to the Flash, Utah's regular starting point guard Kevin Kruger went down with an ankle injury. This opened up more playing time for Sy as he joined the starting lineup at shooting guard while also backing up the point guard position. Sy showed some versatility but seemed much more comfortable playing off the ball.
His perimeter game never really came around as he hit on just 15 percent (3-20) of his three-point shots in the D-League. He did show the same quick first step and the ability to get in the lane and draw fouls.
Atlanta recalled Pape Sy on March 2 shortly after the trade that sent Mike Bibby, Mo Evans, and Jordan Crawford to Washington for Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong. The timing might have seemed a little odd for Sy to be recalled at that point but Hinrich had a sore calf and Atlanta was short of healthy bodies in the backcourt.
Pape Sy wouldn't make his Atlanta Hawks debut until an April 8 loss to the Indiana Pacers. Sy ended up playing in three regular season games and four more in the playoffs. He enters next season with with a $788,872 contract that is not guaranteed. He seems like a good bet to be with the Hawks at least to the point where contracts become fully guaranteed.
We still haven't seen enough of Sy to fully know whether or not he can be a rotational player for the Hawks. He is 23 years old and seemingly is fighting an uphill battle. Still it is hard not to pull for a guy like Sy who paid out of his own pocket for the trip to that first workout with the Hawks. I watched him work out with Nick Van Exel several times before games this season and he had a positive relationship with his coaches in Utah with the Flash and comes off as a hard worker. He will need that solid work ethic if he is going to stick on an NBA roster.
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