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  • BASKETBALL

    Singler off and running with NBADL's Stampede

    Former Oregon star strives to raise his NBA stock in D-League for Idaho
  • Although it's conventionally called the D-League, it may as well stand for "dream-making league" when it comes to Medford's E.J. Singler.
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    • E.J. SINGLER
      WHO: A 6-foot-6 forward for the Portland Trail Blazers' NBA Developmental League team in Idaho.
      • WHAT: Singler is averaging 10.3 points and two rebounds per game for the undefeated Idaho ...
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      E.J. SINGLER
      WHO: A 6-foot-6 forward for the Portland Trail Blazers' NBA Developmental League team in Idaho.

      • WHAT: Singler is averaging 10.3 points and two rebounds per game for the undefeated Idaho Stampede in 20 minutes per game.
      • up next: Today, 4 p.m. Pacific, Idaho at Springfield.
  • Although it's conventionally called the D-League, it may as well stand for "dream-making league" when it comes to Medford's E.J. Singler.
    After wrapping up a stellar run at the University of Oregon and going undrafted by the NBA, Singler weighed his options and, following training camp with the Portland Trail Blazers, has now hitched his wagon to the NBA's Developmental League.
    The 6-foot-6, 215-pound Singler was one of three Portland players assigned to the NBADL's Idaho Stampede and, three games in, he's encouraged by what he's seeing in himself and his team.
    "It's been going really well," said Singler, whose team opens a five-game road trip to the east coast tonight in Springfield, Mass. "We have a good team with really talented players."
    The Stampede, under the direction of head coach Mike Peck of Findlay Prep fame, leads the West Division at 3-0 entering tonight's game against the Springfield Armor (0-3), an affiliate of the NBA's Brooklyn Nets. On Saturday, Idaho faces the Maine Red Claws (3-0), who are affiliated with the Boston Celtics.
    Singler is one of the first Stampede players off the bench and is averaging 10.3 points and two rebounds thus far, but those numbers are deceiving. He had 13 points and three rebounds in 25 minutes during the season opener and 18 points and three rebounds in 27 minutes of Game 3. A deep cut sustained over his left eye in the second game left Singler to play only nine scoreless minutes.
    "I caught an elbow going to the basket and needed 10 stitches to close the cut over my eye because it was bleeding so much," said Singler, who has converted 10 of 18 shots (56 percent) and is 3-for-7 from 3-point range for Idaho.
    What he didn't know at the time is that, under NBADL rules, a player isn't allowed to return to a game in that circumstance if they don't shoot the ensuing free throws.
    "I would've shot the (free throws) with one hand covering my left eye with a towel if I would've known I couldn't come back in," Singler said with a laugh.
    That willingness to do whatever it takes has been a mainstay for Singler, from his days at South Medford High and Oregon. He's hoping that, along with some other attributes, will be enough to catch an NBA team's eye while he competes for Idaho.
    "The goal, hopefully, is playing really well in the D-League and having one of the 30 (NBA) teams see me and want to call me up for a 10-day contract or even more," said Singler. "That's definitely the dream and what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to figure out what those (NBA) teams are looking for and try to display that during my games and hopefully someone will notice."
    The NBADL updates a top-30 Prospect Watch list on a weekly basis, with a handful of players already traveling between the NBA and NBADL this season. According to NBADL stats, nearly 30 percent of players in the today's NBA have D-League experience from one of its 17 teams. Regardless of affiliation, as Singler has with the Trail Blazers, NBA teams are free to pull up any NBADL player they choose.
    "There's nothing really binding," said Singler, who came to Idaho with Portland camp invitees Dee Bost (Mississippi State) and Richard Howell (North Carolina State). "Any team that wants you can have you."
    The grapevine rumor mill suggests there's a rampant amount of D-League players in it just for themselves but Singler said he hasn't seen any of that, especially with his Idaho teammates.
    "Our team really isn't like that," he said. "We've been really playing well together, playing well as a team, and I think that's what's given us our three wins so far. We have a lot of talented guys and no one's really selfish with the ball because we all want to win."
    Former Baylor standout Pierre Jackson leads the Stampede with 27 points and nearly five assists and four rebounds per game, followed by Howell (21.7 ppg, 3.0 assists, 12.3 rebounds), Bost (16.3 ppg, 7.7 assists, 4.7 rebounds), Dallas Lauderdale (12.0 ppg, 5.7 rebounds) and Singler.
    The initial plan after not being selected in the NBA draft was for Singler to head overseas and play, but roster limits have cut into opportunities and the economy overseas has created a dip in what those players can get paid. Given that, as well as Portland's interest in bringing him to training camp after a couple impressive workouts, Singler said the NBADL offered the best opportunity for growth and exposure.
    "It's kind of a process and a strategy I'm taking," he said.
    When he accepted Portland's invitation to training camp, Singler said he did so already knowing that landing a spot on the NBA team was going to be a long shot.
    "I knew going in I had no chance of making it and some of the guys that were with me had no chance either," he said. "Obviously Portland really liked me and that's why they wanted me to come to their training camp but they had 15 guys on the roster already set so there was no way for me of making the team even if I did play well in training camp."
    "But what they did was sent the three of us down to the D-League," added Singler, "and they're looking at us and all our games and watching how we play. They have a lot of say on how it goes down at this level and they've all been really great."
    In truth, Singler said being able to be around the Trail Blazers' players and staff really made an impact in the fall.
    "I think I've taken a big jump in how I play," he said. "The NBA and the D-League are completely different games than high school and college. You kinda have to shut up and learn again how to play, that's how different it is. Having that experience up at Portland was unbelievable for me just as a learning experience and playing with a lot of talented guys each and every day and being able to learn from veterans who have been in the league for 10-plus years and really polished coaches."
    "I learned a lot up there in Portland," said Singler, "and that kinda has translated here and I've been able to apply it here in games. All these experiences have been really good for me."
    Then again, all this comes before Singler hits the road for almost the entire month of December. The Stampede headed to the east coast on Thursday and was slated to return to Boise, Idaho, for one day before heading out on another west coast road trip.
    "That's going to be a tough road trip but the way we're playing right now, we've created a good mojo and we're looking forward to the road trips," he said. "And that's the D-League for you. I knew coming in what to expect."
    Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry
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