SoCal hoops highlighted at Professional Basketball Combine


The Professional Basketball Combine (PBC), founded by Valencia basketball alumnus Jake Kelfer, concluded its two-day stint at the Mamba Sports Academy in Thousand Oaks on Wednesday.

Kelfer had a clear vision when he created the PBC in 2017, giving professional basketball hopefuls an opportunity to showcase their talents in front of NBA scouts, overseas scouts and G League personnel.

Now in his third year running the PBC, Kelfer is pleased with the growth the secondary combine has shown in such a short amount of time.

“It grows every year and we’re grateful for the growth and opportunity. At the end of the day it comes down to, are we providing the players with a platform to increase their chance of making the NBA or signing a big deal overseas or getting to the next step in their basketball journey,” Kelfer said. “It’s going to keep growing. People know about it, people talk about it, and it works.”

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Wednesday’s group consisted of 12 players from across the country, split into two separate groups of six. The players took part in drills, fitness testing and scrimmages.

The morning workouts started with a 15-minute stretch, followed by a max jump rebounding drill and a 3-point shooting drill where players were coming off of screens on the perimeter.

It was followed by a 3-on-3 scrimmage, as the attendees did their best to impress a handful of professional scouts watching from the sidelines.

One of those players, Ty Cockfield of Arkansas State, was ecstatic for the opportunity to participate at the PBC. His enthusiasm was noticeable on the court as he cheered on his fellow players and brought a high-level of energy.

“It’s a blessing, this is something that every kid here dreamed about growing up,” Cockfield said. “We want to work hard and get in one of these combines, this is great for us. They created the PBC for us and it’s a great opportunity.”

Paul White, a senior from the University of Oregon, echoed Cockfield’s sentiment.

White and his fellow participants are hoping that the PBC will provide them an opportunity to turn some heads and get an invite to an NBA Summer League team. If a player makes a Summer League squad, he then has a chance to attend an NBA training camp with the hopes of making the final roster before the start of the regular season.

“I think what they got going on here at PBC is something special. It’s a bunch of guys that are in the same boat, that are in the same conversation looking for an opportunity or door to walk through,” White said. “If one of us makes it, it feels like we all can make it. So if one of us does well here, who is to say that the next man can’t do well?”

One former NBA player on hand to scout the combine was Anthony Parker. The nine-year NBA veteran is the General Manager of the Lakeland Magic, the Orlando Magic G League affiliate.

Parker was selected in the 1997 NBA Draft, but couldn’t break through after three seasons in the league and eventually went overseas to play in Israel and Italy.

He became one of Europe’s top players, winning the EuroLeague MVP twice and found himself back in the NBA in 2006 where he played an additional six years.

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Parker’s unorthodox route to the NBA is a path that some of the PBC participants could find themselves taking.

“The tendency to look to your left and right and want to compare your situation to what another guy is doing or the success another guy has on draft night, but you just have to keep going because you never know how it’ll turn out,” Parker said. “My story is a perfect example of that.”

While the players worked hard on the court, they also took some time to enjoy the Los Angeles scenery.

“I’ve been able to soak up a lot of the vibes down here, it’s beautiful,” White said. “It’s like paradise, it’s a beautiful place to be.”

“This was a beautiful experience, especially the Mamba Sports Academy,” Cockfield said. “Just a great opportunity and I’m blessed to be here.”

Kelfer is hoping that bringing the PBC to Los Angeles, after being held at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida the past two years, will attract more eyes to the hoops hotbed in Southern California.

The Valencia grad acknowledged that baseball and football produce the most professional athletes from the Santa Clarita Valley, but believes that the PBC could bring more attention to the local hoopers.

“When I played I was fortunate to play with Lonnie Jackson, who is one of the best players to ever come through the Santa Clarita Valley,” Kelfer said. “Baseball and football we produce. A lot of my friends are in the league, Keston Hiura just got promoted. In terms of basketball, it depends on where people are coming from. Ultimately we just have to keep playing well and performing in the playoffs with whatever teams we have.”

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