Withey heads Pelicans’ summer league team

Advocate file photo by RUSTY COSTANZA -- New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey dunks against the Phoenix Suns last season at the Smoothie King Center.
Advocate file photo by RUSTY COSTANZA -- New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey dunks against the Phoenix Suns last season at the Smoothie King Center.

Center Jeff Withey heads the New Orleans Pelicans’ team that will play in the Las Vegas summer league.

Withey, a 7-footer from Kansas who will be entering his second season with New Orleans, will be joined by Pelicans forward Luke Babbitt and James Southerland.

Withey, who played in last year’s summer league, said he looked forward to participating this summer in his effort to have a bigger role during the regular season. He has another incentive, however.

“I didn’t do too well in summer league last year,” Withey said. “This whole summer is about getting stronger.”

Some other names of interest on New Orleans’ entry are veteran forwards Josh Howard, Samardo Samuels and DeQuan Jones, Florida Gators power forward/center Patric Young and Bucknell shooting guard Cameron Ayers, son of Pelicans lead assistant coach Randy Ayers.

The team will have a minicamp July 7-10 at the Pelicans’ practice facility in Metairie. It will begin play July 11 in Las Vegas against the NBA Development League Select team and teams representing the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs.

Teams then will begin a single elimination tournament. All teams are guaranteed a minimum of five games.

Babbitt and Southerland have been working out with the Pelicans this summer. Babbitt, a 6-9 power forward known for his outside shooting, has been working on his ball-handling and play-making skills and defense against small forwards in an effort to increase his versatility.

“I’ve been working on everything,” he said. “But a big part of what I’ve been doing is getting my body stronger and more athletic so that I can go against quicker players.”

With the Pelicans ravaged by injuries, Southerland was called up from the Development League on April 10 with four games remaining in the regular season. He played in three, averaging 4.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 9.0 minutes per game. He scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting in his first game with the Pelicans, on April 11 at Oklahoma City.

Howard, 34, was a first-round draft pick of Dallas in 2003 and played seven seasons of his 10-year career with the Mavericks. He was an All-Star in 2007 when he averaged 18.9 points and was a good defensive player. However, he had three knee injuries, including torn ACLs in both knees, during a four-year period that ended his NBA career. He has tried to regain his career, and last season played with the Austin Toros.

Samuels played three seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers after being undrafted from Louisville in 2010. His best season was his rookie year, when he averaged 7.8 points and 4.3 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game. He played last season in Italy for Emporio Armani Milano.

Jones went undrafted in 2012 from Miami. He has played on summer league teams for the Orlando Magic in 2012 and the Sacramento Kings in 2013.

Ayers, who graduated from Bucknell, averaged in double figures each of his past three seasons. He averaged 12.4 points on 46.7 percent shooting as a junior. His senior year, he averaged 15.4 points but shot 41.2 percent. He has participated in the Pelicans player development program in past summers.