DALLAS – Since earning 2017 Big Sky Conference Player of the Year honors at Eastern Washington, Jacob Wiley is one well-traveled young man.
A Newport High product, Wiley, 23, has since played in Brooklyn for the Nets, for their NBA G-League affiliate in nearby Long Island, in Germany and is now with the Dallas Mavericks’ Summer League team, where he’s part of a squad including Kostas Antetokounmpo, younger brother of Milwaukee big man Giannis “The Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo; Luka Doncic, the third pick in this year’s NBA Draft; and Dennis Smith Jr., the Mavericks’ top draft pick last summer.
“We have a lot of talent, a lot of young talent. It’s just a pleasure getting to play with these guys. You know they’re going to go on and do great things,” Wiley said. “We have one of the more talented teams in summer league. We’re going to be really competitive.”
Wiley played four games in the 2017 Vegas Summer League for Brooklyn, a more veteran team compared to the 2018 Mavs. Another difference is he now possesses international experience after playing for MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg of the Basketball Bundesliga, Germany’s top pro league, this spring.
“Germany was fantastic. They’re really friendly,” Wiley said. “We had a lot of Americans on our team, so the transition wasn’t hard. The town I was in, Ludwigsburg, a small town, the fans were really supportive. They helped us with anything we needed, and I played for an American coach. It really wasn’t that much different from playing in the States.”
It only seems apt that he’s joined an organization which has the most famous German in NBA history – Dirk Nowitzki – who helped lead Dallas to the 2011 NBA title, as its franchise cornerstone. The Mavs also have another German in Maxi Kleber, who grew up idolizing Nowitzki.
“My coach in Germany actually coached Maxi,” Wiley said. “I have not met Maxi yet. I got to say hi to Dirk when I was here for minicamp. Both of those guys, they’re legends over there.”
Wiley, who played five NBA games last season, hasn’t been in Dallas long, but he’s already caught the eye of Mavs summer league coach Jamahl Mosley.
“Jacob is very solid. He does a lot of things well,” Mosley said. “In training camp (before summer league), he did an amazing job showing so many facets of his game. He was a great rebounder, shot the ball better than people thought he would. And then there were little intangibles – screen setting, talking on defense, his ability to work with guys right away.”
Those intangibles and attention to detail have always been part of Wiley’s mental makeup.
“I take great pride in trying to do things the right way, being a team player and playing hard. That’s what got me here,” Wiley said. “One thing I learned from one year in the NBA is you got to be a team player, you got to be on time, you got to be a professional.”
Anyone who knows his story is well-versed with the winding road he’s taken just to reach this point. But after talking to this affable big man for a few minutes, the smile on his face properly illustrates how grateful he is for the journey and the opportunities the game he loves has provided along the way.
“I just appreciate where I’m at more because I’ve been out of the game. A lot of times in my life, I never thought this would be possible, so when I get an opportunity to be here in Dallas and play in the NBA Summer League, I just feel very grateful because I know that with my journey a lot of people think this shouldn’t be possible,” Wiley said.
With the Nets last season, he played just 7 minutes. Despite seeing limited NBA game action, he still learned plenty.
“I think the biggest takeaway is that I had a lot to work on,” Wiley said. “The players are bigger, stronger, faster. For all rookies, that’s the biggest adjustment, the pace of the game. At the end of the day, it’s still basketball, but it’s much faster. It took me a few months to settle down. I got to be on the bench for a ton of games and just got to see what it takes to play in the NBA.”
Whether he’s in the NBA, G-League, summer league or abroad, he realizes all roads eventually lead home, to Spokane, his happy place.
“I call Spokane home now. The people there, they took me in, they helped me along and helped me believe in myself,” Wiley said. “There’s a special place in my heart for Spokane, and I think Spokane has a place in its heart for me. Whenever I go home, I get a lot of love. I’m in the community running camps with the kids. I play open gym with guys like John Stockton and his sons. It’s a basketball community. I’m very grateful to be out there.”
Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.
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