Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone
COLUMBUS — Jon Diebler took a break from his offseason basketball workouts by doing nothing other than playing some more basketball, and now he will resume the pursuit of his dream of playing in the NBA.
Diebler, an Upper Sandusky High School graduate, who has been spending his summer working out with former Ohio State teammates Evan Turner and David Lighty, competed along with and against them in the Ohio Celebrity Charity basketball game Saturday afternoon at St. John’s Arena. He is now in Portland, Ore., for three days prior to the start of NBA summer league competition in Las Vegas.
He is married to Kenton native Caitlin (Deardorff) Diebler.
“I’m just excited to go out there and try to make the team,” Diebler said after the game, in which he scored 11 points and won the halftime 3-point contest. “I’ve been working out beforehand trying to get ready to go, working out with guys like Evan and Dave. I’m excited. It will be a good opportunity.”
It was an opportunity Diebler did not get last season after he was taken in the second round with the 51st overall pick by the Trail Blazers. Because of the lockout, the NBA’s summer leagues were canceled last year.
Europe likely would have been his destination for his first professional season anyway, and Diebler performed well for Panionios in the Greek A1 League, leading the team in scoring at 10.8 points per game while connecting on 45 percent of his 3-point attempts. The team went 14-10 and reached the semifinals of the league’s playoffs, losing to powerhouse Olympiacos.
“It’s very exciting,” Diebler said. “My team in Greece was great for me. I think I really developed as a player, got a lot better playing for a great team with great competition over there. I really enjoyed it.”
Ohio high school basketball’s all-time leading scorer and the Big Ten’s all-time leading 3-point shooter, Diebler made 59.7 percent of his shots overall and hit free throws at a clip of 84.6 percent. He averaged 3.5 rebounds per game.
“We had a great team over there,” Diebler said. “We finished really well in the league and the Greek League is very good. They’ve had the Euroleague champion four out of the last six years, so the league is one of the best over there in Europe, so I think it definitely helped me out.”
Olympiacos went on to win the Euroleague championship this season.
In addition to building his basketball skills, Diebler said it also built his life skills as a newlywed living in a foreign country.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “To be able to go over there with my wife, it was our first year of being married, it really makes you grow up fast. It’s different living overseas. It was a great experience.”
He said he enjoyed living only 10 minutes from the beach and also liked the Greek cuisine.
Despite his European experience, the 6-6 shooting guard will face a major challenge in trying to make the Portland roster. At this point, the Trail Blazers have plenty of roster spots open with only nine of the maximum 15 players under contract, but several of those also are young players at the same position as Diebler.
Starting shooting guard Wesley Matthews will play two games in the summer league. Second-year player Elliot Williams will sit out while recovering from offseason surgery, while the roster also will feature rookie Will Barton, a second-round pick this season out of Memphis.
In addition, second-year player Nolan Smith, Portland’s top pick a year ago, still is trying to learn the point guard position. The Blazers spent their top pick this year on another point guard, Damian Lillard.
“There’s definitely things I need to work on,” Diebler said. “It’s kind of like what it was getting ready for the draft. As long as I can hold my own on defense and make shots, I think I’ll have a pretty good chance.”
Summer league practices begin Wednesday in Portland before the team heads to Las Vegas. The team will play five games in seven days, with Diebler getting his first chance to represent the Trail Blazers at 7:30 p.m. Sunday against New Orleans. The game will be shown live on NBA TV.
Other games are 5 p.m. July 17 against Houston, 3 p.m. July 19 against Atlanta, 3 p.m. July 20 against Denver and 1 p.m. July 21 against Miami. All will be shown on NBA TV, but the Houston and Denver games are on tape delay.
By LONNIE McMILLAN
Times news bureau