Playing basketball at Indiana University has its advantages. Just ask Dallas Mavericks rookie Yogi Ferrell.
The main benefit for Ferrell is that IU happens to be the alma mater of Mavs owner Mark Cuban. That was key when the team was scouting three prospects to fill its ailing point guard position in late January.
But first, coach Rick Carlisle and general manager Donnie Nelson had to convince Cuban that signing Ferrell was a desperate but important move to better the franchise.
Sure, the Indiana guy gets the tie.
Mark Cuban when discussing Yogi Ferrell with Rick Carlisle and Donnie Nelson
“We had a guy [in Pierre Jackson] that was two days into a 10-day [contract] that had just pulled his hamstring and he wasn’t going to be able to play the remainder of his 10-day, and we needed a guy,” Carlisle said. “Pierre Jackson had started the previous game, and so we had to let him go.”
Thus, the search was on for another point guard. The Mavs found Ferrell languishing with the Long Island Nets in the NBA D-League and longing for another shot in the NBA following his failed attempt with the Brooklyn Nets.
Then came the sales pitch to Cuban, a booster of IU athletics.
“I wasn’t sure what Mark’s level of willingness to cut a guy with eight days left and sign another was going to be,” Carlisle said. “But with Yogi being an Indiana guy, we thought we might have a chance. Donnie and I talked about it, and Donnie brought it to [Cuban] and he’s like, ‘Sure, the Indiana guy gets the tie.’ ”
Ferrell, of course, didn’t disappoint. He was so locked in to making a successful transition that he was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month for February.
That earned Ferrell a two-year contract with the Mavs, who open a four-game road trip Monday night at 6:30 against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre.
The main thing is just playing with confidence.
Mavs rookie Yogi Ferrell
“The main thing is just playing with confidence,” Ferrell said. “You can’t worry about a turnover, a missed shot — it’s just all about the next play and just playing your game.
“The few games that I had with Brooklyn I felt like really prepared me for this, as far as what teams want when I go out there and just how they want me to produce.”
The team’s point guard situation was in shambles when Ferrell was signed. Injuries had shelved Deron Williams and J.J. Barea, Devin Harris was playing too many minutes, and Seth Curry — more suited as a shooting guard — was forced to run the point.
“We needed a guy who could play 20 minutes a game who was a serviceable NBA prospect who could kind of hold the fort,” Carlisle said. “Right off the bat we laid out how it works on our team with point guards and what’s expected.
“I believe it was something that was different than [Ferrell] had done before both in college and at other camps and tryout situations.”
But Carlisle figured the plan for Ferrell’s insertion into the starting lineup could work.
“Look, he’s out there with [Dirk] Nowitzki and [Harrison] Barnes, who are two really high-level players in this league,” Carlisle said. “He’s out there with other good players, too, so he took the opportunity and jumped on it.”
Ferrell has averaged 12.7 points and 4.7 assists in 19 games (16 starts) with Dallas. The Mavs see such a bright future for Ferrell that they waived Williams last month.
“It’s been a good story; the guy has helped us a lot,” Carlisle said. “A lot of people are looking at the fact that he’s scored the ball unexpectedly well.
“But again, playing with — you got Nowitzki at [center] and Barnes at [power forward], you’ve got two real weapons out there, and the way teams play them it opens up a lot of space. But Yogi’s done equal damage as a defender — he’s really been good on both sides.”
Ferrell also has been really good at taking advantage of his IU roots.