PORTLAND – Late Thursday afternoon, the Maine Red Claws announced they had hired Don-yell Marshall, a 15-year NBA veteran, as an assistant coach to David Leitao.

A couple of hours later, they began filling out the roster those two will coach.

And as expected, they went for big, athletic, tough-minded players in the NBA Development League draft – exactly what they want in Leitao’s system.

“This was a phenomenal draft for us,” said Jon Jennings, the president and general manager of the three-year-old Red Claws.

Start with first-round pick Chris Wright, selected third in the draft. Originally projected to go in the NBA draft, Wright is a 6-foot-8, 225-pound forward out of Dayton whose nickname is “Top Flight” because of his ability to soar above the rim.

Then go to the second round, where the Red Claws used their two picks to take 6-6 guard Durrell Summers of Michigan State and 7-1 center Mike Tisdale of Illinois. Both can stretch the defense with their perimeter shooting, but both come from programs that stress defense above all else.

“It won’t be anything new to them when we get together,” said Leitao, regarded as an exceptional teacher and defensive coach. “We’re starting to put together the pieces of guys who think the same way I do.”

Wright, 23, averaged 13.2 points and 8.4 rebounds for Dayton last year. Summers, who was projected by many to be a top-10 pick in the D-League draft, averaged 11.6 points and 4.2 rebounds. Tisdale, second in Illinois history with 176 career blocks, averaged 10.0 points and 6.4 rebounds.

Those three, along with returning guard Kenny Hayes (who, incidentally, is Wright’s cousin), form the nucleus of a team that will look to get after opponents and create points off defense.

“We wanted to focus on what the coaching staff wanted to come out of this draft with,” said Jennings. “And I think we were able to achieve all of our goals. We were able to get a shooter, in Summers. We were able to get an athletic guy like Chris Wright, with tremendous upside, and size with Tisdale.”

And, he added, the Red Claws drafted Darren Cooper, a four-year D-League veteran, in the fifth round.

Wright, contacted after the draft, couldn’t hide his excitement at the thought of learning the game from Leitao and Marshall.

“When you’re trying to move up in the world of basketball, those are good guys to help you on your way,” he said. “I can’t wait to get there.”

While Wright is a YouTube regular with his drives to the basket, he fits right in on the defensive end as well.

“He’s a guy who plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” said Leitao.

Wright said, “The only way to play basketball right is to play defense.

“If you give up a basket to your man, that’s almost as embarrassing as losing.”

He’s also looking forward to being reunited with Hayes. The two grew up in Dayton and “played one-on-one against each other every day,” said Wright. “We played every day in my backyard.”

Marshall, who was recruited by Leitao to play his college ball at UConn before moving on to his NBA career, is looking forward to working with the young players.

“I’ll bring my experience to them,” he said. “We realize these kids are trying to make it to the NBA. I’m here to let them know how much hard work it takes to get there.”

Josh Jones, from Husson University in Bangor, was selected by Rio Grande in the sixth round. He’s a player who impressed the Red Claws immensely in their tryout camp.

 

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH