From The Pit: A Report From Vipers’ Training Camp

  • By Michael Miller, Day 1, 2024

PITTSBURGH - “Box out, elbows out!”, Jerry Miller bellows to his progeny, Treyvon Miller, as he finishes a rebounding drill. It’s the final day of Pittsburgh Vipers’ training camp, and the newly anointed franchise player is getting worked on the boards by power forward and mentor Marcus Wright. Nevertheless, it’s been quite a positive camp for Treyvon, who is exhibiting a newfound confidence with his role with the team.

“We’re extremely pleased with how hard Treyvon has worked this offseason”, said Vipers Team President, Michael Miller. “If the changes he has made now carry onto the court, he has a strong chance to be averaging 20 and 10 by the end of this season.”

Indeed, Treyvon has looked dominating at times during scrimmages, showing solid improvement in both his defense and rebounding. Some of Treyvon’s more visible changes include his improved free throw mechanics, as his overall form is smoother and more compact compared to seasons past.

As he had hit only 50% of his free throw attempts thus far in his career, the lack of free throw shooting ability is a black mark on Treyvon’s ability to be a complete post player. Despite missing his free throws, Treyvon still averaged 16.6 points per game last season, so improving his free throw percentage should cause his points per game to increase over time. At least that is what President Miller projects moving forward.

Miller was not the only impressive young player in camp, as wings Andrew Brimhall and Justin Delgado impressed Vipers coaching staff and scouts. Brimhall, a 6’10 defensive wing transplanted from Boston, showed strong improvement in his defensive positioning and on ball defense.

Delgado, meanwhile, impressed with his energy and effort on offense. A fringe rotation player who arrived from Oklahoma City via a swap of future second round picks, Delgado also gained some muscle and may be able to pick up a few minutes at the 4 position this season.

Stretched out on the bench, taking in the post battle playing out in the court in front of him, Eric Greely seems to be feeling good about where he is as he enters his rookie season. “I’ve heard his nickname in the locker room is ‘Eazy-E’,” said Miller. “But I don’t think that that name applies to him when he is active on the court.”

Greely was a defensive savant for Stanford last year when leading to the CJBL Final Four, and he has displayed that attitude in Pittsburgh thus far. His most surprising skill has been his blocking, as Greely has made it very hard for SG/SF Demetric Vaughn to get any kind of shot off during the Vipers final scrimmage. Of course, part of that might be the natural decline that appears to be occurring to Vaughn.

JBL scouts believe Father Time is closing in, and Vaughn may only have 18-20 minutes a night in him. Nevertheless, when he was not guarded by Greely, Vaughn’s shot and release looked good, especially from long distance. Pittsburgh management is also pleased with how Vaughn has taken Greely under his wing in the locker room. While Eazy-E has elite skills and measurables, the Vipers would not mind if Vaughn’s professionalism and ability to create on offense rubbed off on Eazy-E during Vaughn’s farewell tour.

Marcus Wright and Tyler Davis also seemed to be a step slow when scrimmaging against some of the younger Vipers during intra-squad scrimmages. Wright improved on his passing and pressure defense, but also seemed winded at times despite great effort.

Davis was beat routinely by PG Tyreke Key off the dribble, but was also able to play good defense using his hard will and guile. “Davis may not be as athletic as he was when the starting point guard for the Scorpions,” reasoned President Miller, “but in our slow-tempo offense, his brain and playmaking will be a key fit and feature for the Vipers.”

One player who will not need a rocking chair is PF/C JaMarcus Norwood. “They paid me to come here and break people on the other side,” said Norwood outside the team locker-room and between puffs of his Marlboro. “I don’t need any of that fitness bulls*** or happy doodie s***”. Not hard to see why the Vipers brought Norwood in to be their enforcer and team mascot in certain respects. It will be interesting to see if he can impose fear in some opposing players.

PG Devin Sistare and C Tomas Bullard also looked quite good in scrimmages and may be up for increased minutes as the season goes on. “Minutes will be earned here, and although I am optimistic we will be competitive, I am also realistic,” said President Miller. “This is a rag-tag group with a lot of heart, the talent will come in future years.”

Pittsburgh cares more about creating a culture this season than wins. If training camp is any indication, then this season promises to be a solid first step in that direction.