PORTLAND — If Courtney Pigram looks like he’s angry when he’s on the court for the Maine Red Claws, that’s because he probably is. Pigram, a 6-foot-1 guard just signed on Dec. 12 by the Red Claws, has always had to prove himself wherever he’s played.
And that fuels his competitive fires, which already burn hot.
“The chip (on my shoulder) goes back a long time, I’d say back to high school,” said Pigram, who scored 2,043 points in his career at Eastern Tennessee. “Going into my high school years I lost my father and no one really gave me a chance. I had to work year after year just to get on the varsity.
“Then college, I had to work just to get there. My mom told me nobody was going to give me anything. So I just had to keep working at it.”
It’s obviously paid off. After three games with the Red Claws, Pigram is leading the NBA Development League in scoring, averaging 27 points a game. He also averages 5.3 assists. He’s hit 50 percent of his 3-point attempts (12 of 24) and is 5-for-6 at the foul line.
Not bad for someone who was cut by the Idaho Stampede after they drafted him in the fifth round this year.
“We’re very fortunate,” said Jon Jennings, the president and general manager of the Red Claws. “The thing we love most about Courtney is his competitiveness and his fire. From the first day he was here, from the first practice, he came in with a certain moxie that I love and that coaches love.”
And that’s because Pigram feels he has to prove himself again. He went undrafted by the NBA after his college career, and ended up in Spain. From there, he went to China, where he played for Heilongjiang Zhaozhou Feng Shen and averaged 10.8 points in 18 games. He signed into the D-League and was selected by Idaho.
But the Red Claws had their eyes on him.
“If you’ve got a guy who led his team to the NCAA tournament and scored over 2,000 points, that’s going to raise your eyebrows,” said Dave Leitao, coach of the Red Claws. “We talked about him. He got picked up. When he was released, we talked about him again.”
Pigram is a scoring guard, which is different from a shooting guard. Not only can he shoot the jumper, but he goes to the basket as hard as anyone on the team. He is also playing the point, a position he admits he is still learning.
“I just try to bring high energy, high intensity, to the team,” he said. “I try to stand out. And not just scoring. Scoring to me comes easy. I’ve been a scorer all my life. I try to stand out and try to push other guys in different ways to help the team.”
NOTES: No word yet on when, or if, any of the five Red Claws in NBA training camps will return. Chris Wright is in Golden State’s camp, Kenny Hayes in Cleveland, Durrell Summers in Charlotte and Antonio Anderson and Mike Tisdale in Philadelphia. Any player waived by an NBA team must clear waivers, which last 48 hours, before coming back to the D-League.
With the NBA opening on Christmas Day, roster moves are expected to be made soon. The Red Claws are preparing for this weekend’s games with the 10 players currently on their roster.
Jennings said that, whenever the players return, they will come back with great experiences. “It’s absolutely invaluable,” he said. “I went down and watched a (Charlotte) practice. And the intensity at the NBA level is incredible. Sometimes, at our level, the guys don’t understand what it takes to stay at the NBA level. They may have the skills and the talent, but maybe not the determination.”
The Red Claws retain the D-League rights to all five of those players, unless they’re signed for the season by an NBA club . …
Friday is the Red Claws second annual WinterKids Hat and Mitten Drive. Fans are encouraged to bring new or slightly-used mittens, hats, scarfs or gloves to be donated to WinterKids.
Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]