WALTHAM, Mass. – They came, looking for a shot.
And if those trying out for the Maine Red Claws basketball team needed a reminder of their dreams, the walls surrounding them were covered with NBA Championship banners.
A group of 35 invited players showed up at the Boston Celtics Training Center to impress the Celtics and the new Red Claws coaching staff.
Under the Celtics’ new agreements with the Red Claws, the Boston front office will pick the players for the NBA D-League team.
Maine’s team will be comprised of some players from last year, some affiliated with the Celtics, others picked in the D-League’s November draft and possibly some players trying out Saturday.
“I’m really pleased with the talent level,” Red Claws Coach Mike Taylor said. “I think we’ll get what we want out of this. There’s definitely some prospects that could end up on the roster.”
Taylor ran the tryouts along with Tunde Adekola and J.P. Clark. They will be Taylor’s assistant coaches, pending league approval of their hiring.
Among the players trying out was 6-foot guard Raheem Singleton, who graduated from the University of Maine last spring. Singleton, of Boston, played two seasons for the Black Bears, averaging eight points and 3.5 rebounds a game.
Singleton, 23, was a child-development major and works at a home for troubled youth. But his dream remains basketball.
“I work out at about 5 a.m. before work,” he said. “After work, I go workout again and play.”
Singleton attended European team tryout camps this past summer, held in Las Vegas. That did not work out. Now he’s looking at the D-League
“It’s a tough process,” Singleton said. “You have to keep an open mind and never give up on what you’re trying to achieve and what your goals are.
“It will pay off eventually.”
Singleton is not a big scorer. His forte is defense and he tried to emphasize that during the tryout scrimmages.
“Everyone wants to shoot the ball,” Singleton said. “But defense is all about effort.”
His effort paid off as Singleton was one of 14 players chosen for the “showcase” scrimmage to end the tryout.
In the showcase, Singleton continued to play in-your-face defense, while also driving to the basket. He put in a nice reverse layup, and then drew fouls on other drives.
Up to five players trying out on Saturday can be protected by the Red Claws. They will be invited to training camp in November. Taylor, who was huddling with Celtics front-office people after the tryout, did not know when those players will be chosen.
Some players came a long way for the tryout, like 6-4 Reggie Willhite who flew in from his home in California. Willhite, an All-Ivy League player from Yale, was attending his second of three tryouts with D-League teams.
“You got to make a name for yourself in a such a short amount of time,” Willhite said. “You try not to get lost in the crowd without trying to do too much.”
NOTES: The Red Claws assistants come from a varied background. Adekola, a native of Nigeria, has been an assistant coach with Taylor in Europe. He played for St. Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt. He has coached in high school, college and professionally.
Clark, of St. Augustine, Fla., played at Flagler College in his hometown. He later was an assistant coach at Flagler and, for the past two years, at the University of Central Florida.
Staff writer Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: