March 16, 2010

On the go, hopefully to somewhere

— Today he's in Chicago, last week it was Orlando. When last winter began, Nik Caner-Medley was in the garden spots of the upper Midwest. Before it ended he was criss-crossing Spain and Europe.

He's a man on the move, a young professional looking for a job. If one road doesn't take him where he wants to go quickly enough, he'll find another.

Caner-Medley still believes he can play in the NBA. Brad Ames, his Chicago-based agent at Priority Sports, also thinks he can. Tuesday, Ames said there is interest in Caner-Medley but as of this moment, no commitments.

''I'll be playing next season,'' Caner-Medley said late last week from Orlando. ''I just don't know where.''

He had just played in a showcase game of free agents brought together by Priority Sports. Many, like Eddie Gill, 29, were older and had played, if only briefly, with several NBA teams. A few, like J.R. Reynolds, who played at Virginia while Caner-Medley was at Maryland, were younger at 24 and played last winter in Europe.

The showcase, with about 18 players, was planned to coincide with an NBA predraft camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports. Kind of a two-for-one deal for the dozens of NBA and European team reps.

''There were about 50 scouts in the stands,'' said Caner-Medley. ''I think it went well.''

He has to think that. No NBA team drafted him when he came out of Maryland two years ago. Now he auditions, much like the little-known or under-appreciated actor trying to land his first big role.

Getting a shot rejected on the court is part of the game. Nothing personal. Getting rejected when you're one of dozens trying to fill one vacancy on a team's bench is part of the business. Nothing personal.

Except to Caner-Medley it is personal. To succeed when others said he couldn't has always been his motivation. That carried him through his years at Deering High and Maryland.

''I just follow my gut. This is going to be a huge summer for me. I'm getting in tiptop condition and in the next month or so, a team may want to bring me in to minicamp.''

He broadened his game while playing for CB Gran Canaria in Spain's top league. At Maryland, he was the 6-foot-8 forward with the good hands and nice outside shot who could go inside when needed.

''In Europe I was playing in the paint, learning better how to use my body, getting by my defender, getting off the quick hook.''

Caner-Medley arrived after the season started and had to work his way into a rotation of players getting more time on the court. He averaged about 14 points a game while playing about 24 minutes. He earned the league's player of the week honors.

It wasn't a bad gig. He was paid almost double the salary he was getting with the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Development League.

League games were played generally once a week. On the road there were fewer miles to travel.

The Canary Islands may be one of Europe's playgrounds, but Caner-Medley said he worked on his game rather than his tan.

''We had practice twice a day. It was a nice island but I couldn't just go to the beach.''

His work ethic, on and off the court, rarely has been questioned. Ames says Caner-Medley's energy was one of the things noticed by scouts in Orlando. He played a physical game near the basket. He opened some eyes.

Ask Ames if there's a timetable. If, at 24, Caner-Medley's window of opportunity is closing.

''Nik's a ways away from that. He's entering the prime of his career.''

Caner-Medley flew to Chicago on Monday to work out with other players and wait. Back in Maine he's been invited to play in Saturday's Hoop It Up Summer Madness 3-on-3 basketball tournament at Scarborough High to benefit the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital at Maine Medical Center.

''I heard Jamaal (Caterina) and Walter (Phillips) were getting a team together,'' said Caner-Medley, who returned to Maine after the Spanish league ended its season. Caterina, Phillips and Caner-Medley played together at Deering. ''I'd love to play, it's for a good cause, but I can't risk getting hurt.''

He was asked to judge the dunking contest. Some may want an autograph from the man on the go.

Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at:

ssolloway@pressherald.com

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