Phoenix Suns dip into their past, work out Larry Nance’s son plus two Arizona products
PHOENIX — For six and a half seasons in the 1980s, Larry Nance wore Phoenix Suns orange and purple.
For a couple of hours Friday, his namesake donned the same colors.
Larry Nance Jr., a senior forward out of Wyoming, worked out for the Suns, the team that made his father the 20th overall pick in the 1981 NBA Draft.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling,” he said. “As we were warming up in the hallways, they had some old Suns record-holders (listed on the wall), and it was pretty cool to see my dad’s name under field goal percentage and rebounding for history.”
The elder Nance ranks fourth in both categories, while still holding the all-time mark for blocked shots.
The younger Nance, meanwhile, hopes to add the family name to the list of NBA father-son combinations.
Nance is a projected second-round pick in the June 25 NBA Draft, as were the other five prospects to work out for the Suns on Friday: forward Nedim Buza from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Temple senior guard Will Cummings, Arizona senior guard T.J. McConnell, NBA D-Leaguer Jarvis Threatt and UC Santa Barbara senior Alan Williams.
It was the second of two Suns’ pre-draft workouts to close out the week.
The 6-foot-8, 235-pound Nance led Wyoming in points (16.1), rebounds (7.2) and blocks (1.2) last season while adding 2.5 assists and 1.2 steals in nearly 35 minutes a game, numbers that placed him on the All-Mountain West First Team and All-Defensive Team.
The Suns were his fourth workout destination after previous stops in San Antonio, Philadelphia and Boston.
“Obviously, I’m a 4 first, but I’m hoping that teams see that, hey, maybe in the future we can move him to 3,” he said. “So I’ve been working on perimeter skills and mainly my jump shot, though; that’s what’s really come around.”
Nance didn’t attempt many 3s — he made 14 in 42 attempts last season — keeping his offensive game closer the basket.
“Some of the vertical explosiveness (like his father), Larry Jr. can really leap,” general manager Ryan McDonough said. “He can finish around the rim. He can catch lobs and dunk, so that was impressive today.”
Nance was two years old when his father retired after 13 seasons in 1995, but highlights are easily found thanks to NBA TV and YouTube.
“It’s pretty cool to be in our house and see the Slam Dunk trophy sitting there, the three-time All-Star awards and his jersey is up in the trophy case,” he said. “I’ve got nothing but good things to say about being his son.”
For UC Santa Barbara’s Williams, the workout was a homecoming.
Born and raised in Phoenix, Williams grew up watching the Suns and attended several games, though the building was then called America West Arena.
“Chills,” he said when asked about putting on a Suns uniform, “because you grow up watching these guys and they’re your hometown (team). Just to be able to have an opportunity to work out in front of them and possibly try to develop a relationship and maybe get picked up by them or see what kind of feedback from the team you grew up watching is something that’s very special. It’s something that I definitely don’t take for granted, and I take all of it in.”
Williams, listed at 6-foot-8 and 265 pounds, was part of two state championship teams at Phoenix North High School, and despite being named the state’s player of the year his senior season, he was not highly recruited.
A starter all four years in college, Williams showed a rebounding proficiency from day one, and in each of the past two years, he has led the nation with 11.5 and 11.8 boards a game, respectively.
“He just has a knack for how to use his body,” McDonough said. “He’s a guy who does his work early, and what I mean by that is before the shot is going up or as it’s going up, he’s already boxing out and holding his guy off to get offensive rebounds and putbacks.”
Williams, a three-time First Team All-Big West selection, is confident his rebounding ability will translate to the NBA.
“My abilities to go out and get rebounds outside of my zone and outside of my area is huge,” he said. “And also to take on the challenge of taking a defensive rebounder — a great defensive rebounder — out of their own game by putting a body on them and boxing them is out and kind of limiting what they can do is something that I’ll be able to do at the next level, like I did in college.”
Williams had worked out for four other teams before the Suns.
Meanwhile, McConnell had seven prior stops.
His visit with the Suns included a record-tying 28 3/4 line touches in the conditioning run post-workout.
“That three-minute run is no joke,” he said. “I honestly just tried to run as fast as I could the whole time, and I think for the last 10 (trips) I blacked out, so I don’t remember any of it.”
McConnell, who received a last-minute invite to the combine, was a double-digit scorer in three of his four college seasons, including 10.4 a game plus a Pac-12 leading 6.3 assists this past season.
“On the court, I’m just trying to show people that I can shoot the ball,” he said, before heading to the airport to fly to the Bay Area for a workout with Golden State on Saturday. “I didn’t really have to do that at UA. I was so worried about getting other people the ball. I know teams, if I make a team, will go under (the screen) and leave me open, so I have to keep defenses honest and knock down open shots. I’m working really hard to do that.”