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UConn's Ryan Boatright Confident (As Always) As Nets Camp Set To Begin

Former Huskies guard Ryan Boatright hopes to land spot with Nets

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Make no mistake: The Brooklyn Nets are going to have a fight on their hands.

Ryan Boatright has no intention of making roster decisions easy for them.

"I've always had that chip," Boatright said Monday during media day at the team's practice complex. "Being undrafted just fueled my fire, just made me that much more determined to prove everybody wrong. That chip, it ain't never going anywhere. I'll always have that chip."

Boatright, after four memorable years at UConn, was not taken in the NBA draft. The Nets signed him after the draft to a two-year, partially guaranteed contract. After a productive stretch in the summer league, he has made it this far, going to training camp with 19 others. Camp starts this week at Duke University.

"Awesome man, it's a dream come true," said Boatright, who wore No. 6 in Nets black and white as he passed through a series of photo shoots and interviews. "It's not the path I would have chosen for myself, but it's the path that God chose for me. I wake up every day, say my prayers and go to work."

Boatright will have an uphill fight. The Nets have 12 players with guaranteed contracts, and at guard, though they let go of Deron Williams, their starting point guard last season, they have Jarrett Jack, Shane Larkin, Markel Brown and Donald Sloan. Larkin and Jack could play together a lot. Coach Lionel Hollins has said he would like to find a third point guard and it could come down to Boatright and Sloan, a well-traveled, four-year veteran.

"I feel like I can be that kind of bulldog guard that can change a game," said Sloan, who is 6 feet 3, 210 pounds.

Boatright, 5-11, 175, stays in touch with old UConn teammates. He thought of them the other day when the latest NBA 2K video game came out. "Like every year, we'd always have a 2K Day," he said. "I'm definitely not going to miss that first practice day. Let K.O. know that. I talk to Rodney [Purvis]; Sam [Cassell Jr.] is one of my best friends. Amida [Brimah] and Kentan [Facey], each one from time to time. That's UConn pride, man. You do four years up there, you bleed blue. I can't wait to see them play this year. I'll catch every game if I can."

At UConn, Boatright was known for durability and his defensive pressure, especially during the Huskies' run to the championship in 2014. He averaged 14 points, 3.8 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 128 career games. As he watched guard after guard go in the draft, he fumed.

"It's political. That's something I learned," he said. "The guys that went ahead of me, I destroyed — multiple years. It's political. But I feel like I'm here. I'm in the best situation possible. I feel like it was actually better that I went undrafted, because I landed here in Brooklyn with the situation we have. I'm blessed, and I'm excited."

When he got to the summer league, Boatright made a splash, averaging 14.1 points in nine games, scoring more than 20 twice and hitting a game-winner at the buzzer against the Bulls in Las Vegas.

"I just felt like I was here," he said. "This is what I do. I felt like I was in a UConn jersey again, especially hitting the game-winner."

However Hollins, 61, a gruff former point guard, let it be known that jobs are not won in summer league.

"We already knew we were bringing [Boatright] to camp, so what he did in the summer league wasn't going to determine whether he stuck in the fall anyway," Hollins said. "It's what he does in training camp and in the exhibition season. He's aggressive. He can score the ball. He can really shoot the ball. He can get in the paint — he doesn't do it as much as he probably should. And he's got to learn that there's a lot of big people in this league."

Said Boatright: "Coach Hollins comes in, watches the pickup games, gives me some pointers from time to time, about what he wants from me. If you know Coach Hollins, he doesn't give you too much. He's a tough guy. I look at it like playing under [Jim] Calhoun again."

Playing for Calhoun and Kevin Ollie, an undrafted guard who lasted 13 years in the NBA, left Boatright with his eyes open.

"Every single talk we had from my freshman year to my senior year has been 100 percent true," Boatright said, "that you can only control what you can control. ... Things don't go your way all the time, so it's being that guy that's got to work for everything, as opposed to having stuff given to you."

The Nets' first exhibition game is Oct. 5 against Turkey's Fenerbahce Ulker, followed by one against the Pistons and two each against the Celtics and Sixers. Brooklyn does not have a D-League affiliate.

"Playing in the Big East and the American, there are huge guys in those conferences," Boatright said. "Just going to UConn , your teammates are huge. So with the competitive drive that I have, that spirit that I have, I feel like I fit right in. The speed was right there for me. I always play fast, I think I play fast but more under control a lot more now. I've just got to create a little more space to get that shot off, and that floater's got to be a little higher than normal. I just have to be me. I'm here for a reason, by being me. I've never been nobody else. Be me, work hard, bring what I bring to the table — toughness, heart, passion, defense. Do that every day and be a professional, and I'll have a chance."

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