Sacre, Hamilton, Roberts look to get drafted
WESTWEGO — Robert Sacre moved from Baton Rouge to Canada as a child, but he still carries a bit of home with him.
On his left shoulder sits the first of what eventually became many tattoos, a fleur-de-lis with “Sacre” above and “LaFleur” below. The top is a nod to his mother, Leslie, who played basketball at LSU before raising him in Vancouver, British Columbia. The bottom is a tribute to his father, Greg LaFleur, the former LSU and NFL tight end who later served as Southern’s athletics director.
“You know I had to represent a little bit up in the northwest,” Sacre said of the tattoo. “You can’t just be dark and gloomy and grungy like they do it up there.”
So when Sacre got the call inviting him to a pre-NBA draft workout with the Hornets — his 15th this summer — he put his loved ones on a plane to bayou country.
“We’ll just enjoy the draft in Louisiana,” he said.
Sacre was one of three players with local ties who practiced with the Hornets on Wednesday. The team held its final two pre-draft workouts with a total of 11 players, including LSU forward Justin Hamilton and Grambling State guard Quincy Roberts.
The workout was a chance for a last-minute boost before Thursday’s draft, a welcome opportunity for Sacre, Hamilton and Roberts.
None of the three are surefire draft picks, but Sacre has the most solid résumé to lean on.
The 7-foot, 260-pounder spent five years at Gonzaga (including a redshirt because of injury), averaging better than 25 minutes and 10 points in each of his last three seasons. He was named West Coast Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 and was a two-time All-WCC first teamer.
Hamilton and Roberts, on the other hand, have less experience to point to. Both chose to enter the draft early after transferring and enjoying solid seasons as redshirt juniors, but neither comes in with the hype of more established college stars.
Hamilton began his career at Iowa State but transferred to LSU in search of a bigger role. He found it, averaging 12.9 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game for the Tigers and earning second-team All-Southeastern Conference honors.
With a degree in hand and a wedding on the way, Hamilton decided the time was right to take a shot at the next level. He worked out for 15 teams, trying to prove he’s adaptable and flashing footwork gained from his days as a snowboarder and skateboarder.
“Just showing my versatility, my change in body type and my athleticism, just showing I can shoot the ball really well,” the 7-foot, 260-pound Hamilton said.
Both big men left an impression on Hornets general manager Dell Demps, who said they’re in the running for the team’s second-round pick (No. 46 overall). Adding height is among the many needs New Orleans is hoping to address this offseason.
“I watched Sacre play his whole career, and it’s amazing how much he has improved since he got to Gonzaga to where he is right now. That’s a credit to him,” Demps said. “Hamilton, watching him at LSU, and I actually saw him at a couple of the draft workouts — everywhere I’ve seen him play, he has played well. They’re both definitely candidates for us.”
Roberts’ mission is simple: outwork everyone.
Six pre-draft workouts gave him a chance to go up against projected first-rounders, and he came away feeling like he can hang with the best.
His one season at Grambling did little to refute that. After a coaching change saw his role at St. Johns diminish from freshman sixth man to little-used reserve, he joined the Tigers and began an all-out assault on Southwestern Athletic Conference defenders.
Roberts didn’t play until the ninth game of the season, and he started with a bang, scoring 28 points against TCU. He was the brightest spot on a GSU squad that went 4-24, posting the nation’s fourth highest scoring average with 22.7 points per game.
Though the Tigers struggled and were far from the spotlight, Roberts said the chance to prove himself was invaluable, and it helped vault his name into enough draft discussion to bring him out a year early.
So far, the feedback has been positive.
“I hope they don’t tell everybody the same thing,” Roberts said. “I try to keep a positive attitude and keep working. They all say, ‘You’ve done well, you worked hard, you were energized, made good shots and talked a lot.’ I’ll find out tomorrow.”
While all three would be thrilled just to hear their names called Thursday, coming to the Hornets would be especially exciting.
Not just because they’re familiar with Louisiana, but because the franchise is quickly catching a reputation as a team on the rise by virtue of having draft picks No. 1 (likely Kentucky’s Anthony Davis), 10 and 46.
“The sky is the limit for this team,” Sacre said. “I think there’s a new energy, a new vibe throughout the city and this team. I’m excited, and I want to be a part of this.”