Read Bob Ford's column in today's Inquirer!
PHILADELPHIA - Tuesday was a dream-come-true day for Mark Zoller, as the recent Penn grad got an opportunity to work out with the NBA team he grew up idolizing, the Philadelphia 76ers.
Zoller spent an hour working out with three other players in the first of two sessions the Sixers ran Tuesdayin their practice facility at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM); he ran drills with ACC Player of the Year Jared Dudley (Boston College), three-time WAC Player of the Year Nick Fazekas (Nevada), and 7-foot Russian Artem Zabelin.
Among those whoattended the workout were Penn head coach Glen Miller and Zoller’s former coach with the Quakers, Fran Dunphy.
“It was kind of tough trying to get to sleep Monday night,” Zoller -- soaked through his Sixers practice jersey and shorts -- admitted to a swarm of local media following his workout. “I was a little anxious, but I think I was more excited than anxious. I just couldn’t get to sleep; my legs wouldn’t stop moving. It was pre-game jitters, I guess you could say.”
“It’s like a dream come true,” said Zoller, who grew up in the area and attended St. Joseph’s Prep before arriving at Penn. “Growing up in Philly, playing, getting the opportunity to play NBA basketball or having the opportunity to try out for this team is just a dream come true, born and raised in Philly.”
“I think I just need to continue with my hard work ethic. Just play hard, don’t take any possessions off, make good shots, don’t make stupid mistakes. Be a presence out there.”
Zoller is one of two Penn players making the rounds through NBA workouts this summer, along with Ibrahim Jaaber who is now basing his training out of Las Vegas.
“I’ve been in constant contact with Ibby,” he said. “We’re kind of going through the same situation now. It helps to have someone you can lean on and talk to about what you’re going through and what you’re doing. It is kind of a different experience.”
Zoller -- who graduated from Penn last month with a degree in communications -- indicated he has workouts slated with the Washington Wizards and Memphis Grizzlies.
“I’ve been in contact with a few NBA teams, and they want me to come and try and work out for them. We’ll just take it for what it’s worth and see how it rolls,” he said. “It would definitely be a goal to tag on to a summer-league team and take it from there.”
That said, if the NBA does not come calling, Zoller is ready to take his game abroad.
“I’m headed to a camp in Italy at the end of the month, so that is another option,” he said. “I’m just riding this wave, I guess, and seeing where it takes me. At this point, it’s just play hard and see where it takes me.”
Philadelphia 76ers President Billy King was honest in his assessment of Zoller, who is admittedly a long-shot to get drafted.
“One thing we always like to try to do is bring in local guys, because after seeing them over and over during the season you tend to overlook them. So we like to give them a chance,” he said. “I think Mark has a chance to play overseas, and we tell the guys to not look at that as a negative thing because we scout those guys just as much as we scout the colleges.”