Matt Janning is on a basketball odyssey.
Janning was invited to practice with the Minnesota Timberwolves last summer but ultimately spent last year playing overseas, first in Italy with Montepaschi Siena of the Serie A Dilettanti league before joining Lokomotiva Zagreb, a Croatian club. In turn, Janning recently signed a contract to play for a club in Turkey, if he doesn’t land a spot in the NBA.
Today, playing with the Minnesota’s Summer League roster in Las Vegas, though, that landing spot is Janning’s hope and goal. He’s been down this proverbial road before. The Wolves are the seventh Summer League team he’s played with since graduating from Northeastern University in 2010. Janning has also appeared in the D-League, playing with the Maine Red Claws and Rio Valley Grand Vipers.
I caught up with Janning after the Wolves’ meeting with the Washington Wizards in the second, Summer League game and asked how the D-League helped him develop as a player.
Janning was quick to credit the guidance he received in the D-League in becoming the player he is and still hopes to be. “I was fortunate enough to have been taught by good coaches,” he said.
“Chris Finch [Former head coach of the R.V. Grand Vipers, now an assistant with the Houston Rockets] was someone I liked playing for because he ran a strict system. He was tough, but told players what they needed to hear; do your job on each play, work hard, and be active on both ends of the floor. As a player, the D-League is a place to work on the intricacies of your game, the skills that will ultimately help get us to the NBA.”
Janning entered the Wolves second Summer League game in the first quarter, and quickly found himself open at the top of the key– Janning hit the shot and backed down the court and prepared to defend on the other end of the floor. It was a subtle display of his dedication to the game and to improving himself, and that same attitude is what Janning tries to share with the younger players on the Summer League roster.
“Stay with it,” is the advice Janning gives. “Sam Mitchell talks all the time about how it took him six years to make it into the NBA. Wherever your journey takes you, it’s important to stay confident, whether it be playing in the D-League, or in Europe. You can make a good living playing basketball overseas, so it’s important to enjoy what you do and be confident about it.”
It’s an uphill climb for a majority of players here in Las Vegas, especially those who hope to find a roster spot. And every minute of experience is valuable for those considered to be ‘fringe’ players. Beteween everything he’s learned overseas as well as in the D-League and the lessons he has to share, perhaps this will be the summer Janning finds his way onto the NBA’s brightest stage.