The Portland Trail Blazers’ June 12 pre-draft workout featured forward Caleb Swanigan, who, then, had no idea he would be spending a lot more time at the Tualatin practice facility as a member of the team. It was the fifth such workout the Trail Blazers held as they evaluated young talent ahead of draft night. Of course, not all who participated would join the roster, but that doesn’t mean the connection made was unimportant. For eventually undrafted guard Antonius Cleveland, it was a foot in the door.
Very good physical profile for a wing. … Long and explosive. … Attacks the basket and finishes at the rim. … Gets terrific elevation on his mid-range pull-ups. … Has improved as a three-point shooter.
That is what the Trail Blazers’ media packet said of Cleveland’s strengths the day he arrived for his workout. The team did not call him in to be a warm body; they wanted a real closer look. Despite not selecting him in the draft, they liked what they saw enough to sign him to their Las Vegas Summer League squad shortly after—a move Cleveland said eventually springboarded him into a training camp deal with the Golden State Warriors, per Isaiah De los Santos of Rip City Project:
“Portland gave me the opportunity to come to Summer League, so I’m thankful for that, ’cause without that, who’s to say I would have a training camp deal.”
Cleveland, 23, played four years of college ball at Southeast Missouri State, a university that has yielded just one NBA player in its history—Rich Eichhorst, who played a grand total of 10 minutes for the St. Louis Hawks in 1962. “With this league, having the chance to get drafted, from the school I came from, my situation, it was just kind of big itself.” Cleveland told De los Santos.
Cleveland’s plan is to take advantage of the new two-way contracts and earn a deal with the Santa Cruz Warriors, playing call-ups for Golden State as needed. That possibility would still be closer to dream than reality if not for his time with the Trail Blazers. These little transactions that fade into the background of the big picture are more than idle brushstrokes for the hopefuls. He has work to do before securing a spot, but he is in position to achieve his goals.
To read more about Cleveland in De los Santos’ full story, follow this link.