The NBA Draft process is an arduous experience only a select amount of talented players endure. It’s something that’s typically highlighted by the notables: DeAndre Ayton, Mohamed Bamba, Trae Young. Then there are the guys your everyday basketball fans have never had of, such as Wes Clark and Frank Bartley.
Both Clark and Bartley are going through the same journey for the same goal together: making it to the NBA. The two are both borderline draft prospects, as they’re looking to do whatever they possibly can to gain the attention of a team and convince one to give them a chance at fulfilling their shared dream.
One part of the prospects’ journey included attending the second annual Professional Basketball Combine, which takes place in at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The event itself had NBA representatives of all kinds looking to examine sleeper prospects for this month’s draft. Despite much of the attention gravitating toward LiAngelo Ball, the brother of Los Angeles Lakers guard and last year’s second-overall draft pick Lonzo Ball, over 60 prospects left an impression, each trying to convince teams to use a second-round pick or at least a Summer League invite on them.
“At the camp, I think I did well and held my own,” said Bartley, on his performance at PBC.
“It was big time,” said Clark. “Just to get some more exposure. Getting an opportunity to show these coaches we can compete at a high level. It was great.”
The combine, in particular, is when Clark and Bartley met each other for the first time. Knowing the significance of the combine, with talent evaluators in the crowd, the duo didn’t disappoint in Florida, despite being in a new, high-pressure environment.
“It was my first time being in front of a bunch of NBA people,” said Bartley. “I mean, I was excited to be out there and playing in front of those guys and against the guys from bigger schools.”
Some of the participants from major schools included Deng Adel and Quentin Snider of Louisville, Ja’Sean Tate and Kam Williams of Ohio State and Lagerald Vick of Kansas. It was being around guys who play for every high-school athlete’s dream schools that motivated Bartley to show he is on their level.
“It motivated me,” said Bartley. “Just to be out there playing and competing against those guys that have the big name and [have] been at the big-name schools. I already have a chip on my shoulder, so I was just out there to show that I belong.”
Bartley didn’t quite get the exposure Clark received, especially this past season. In the first-round of the NCAA Tournament, Clark played the lead role in eliminating Arizona, a championship contender featuring projected-first-overall pick Ayton and star guard Allonzo Trier.
“It was just a wonderful time,” said Clark. “For me to get a chance, that was just the first time for me, coming from Missouri, that I can still play with them type of guys. Also, play at that level. For me to get that chance, in front of that many people, and on a stage like that, that opened my eyes to something I’ve never seen. I had to take advantage.”
Despite the differing levels of the spotlight, Clark and Bartley feel they’re on the same level as any other prospect in this year’s draft. Both feel they’ve proven their ability to compete with the headliners in the draft because, really, they’re all in similar positions.
“At the end of the day, I feel like I’m a pro just like those guys,” said Bartley. “I put in the same work they do, even though I played at a smaller school. The numbers don’t lie. I went there and played well and showcased my talent against those guys.”
One thing Bartley might have to change is his position, as he’s an undersized two-guard in today’s NBA climate. The 22-year-old is aware of the challenge he faces, with his measurements coming in at 6-foot-3, 180 pounds. There are a few undersized shooting guards in the league, such as Avery Bradley, CJ McCollum and Detroit Pistons guard Langston Galloway, Bartley’s friend since high school.
Bartley and Galloway attended Christian Life Academy and were two years apart. The two became friends from basketball, as Bartley would see Galloway show up to school at around 6 a.m. for workouts. Fast forward to now, and Galloway is living out his NBA dream.
Bartley sees his path as being similar to Galloway’s journey to the association; both were undersized shooting guards who were overlooked during the draft process. With Galloway having gone through what Bartley is going through now, the two have had discussions on a myriad of topics.
Clark doesn’t have an NBA player to contact for guidance on this new job he’s pursuing. Instead, he has Bartley, someone he’s fond of, even though the two have known each other for under a couple of months. It’s the shared mindset that has drawn the two prospects to one another.
“Ah man, it’s been phenomenal, man,” said Clark. “Just someone with that same eye, that same tiger eye. It’s second to none.”
“We got the same mindset,” said Bartley. “We know we underrated.”
The two are primarily in Dallas and occasionally work out at the Mavericks practice facility with Tyler Ralph. When it’s time for a workout outside of the area, they’re out and about around the country; they’ve just completed a Pro Day at “The Workout” led by the CP3 Academy in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. According to a source, “they’ll be hitting the team workouts,” starting Monday.