Raphiael Putney — now there’s a name you might not have heard before. The former UMass role player appeared in 19 games for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers last season before jetting off to Malaysia instead of trying to find a place with an NBA team in Summer League. The unconventional decision turned out to be a great move, however, as Putney excelled overseas. “I just found myself as a player,” he said. “I got my confidence high.”
That confidence has been on display all season, as Putney has become a team leader for the Vipers.
Rio Grande Valley head coach Matt Brase made that clear at the NBA D-League Showcase, saying, “He’s been a great leader for us this year. He’s one of our three returning players. He’s set the tone.”
The lanky stretch-4 has also made that clear with his play, as he’s been averaging a double-double, putting up 20.6 points and 10.1 rebounds a night. Additionally, he’s second in the league in blocks, sending away 2.9 shots a game. In case that wasn’t impressive enough, Putney has also been showing off a deadly three-point stroke, knocking down 39.9 percent of his 7.5 three-point attempts per night.
Still, even though Putney has been on fire this season, it’s not easy to become a household name. Everyone needs some exposure, which is where the Showcase comes in. The Showcase is an important event for all players, but especially those like Putney, who have been thriving, but still aren’t getting the recognition they might deserve.
Putney certainly took advantage in his Showcase debut, dropping 38 points and 18 rebounds in an electrifying performance that included six three-pointers and a coast-to-coast dunk. So how does one feel after performing like that with numerous scouts in attendance?
“It was an amazing feeling man. I got the opportunity this year with a new coach and new coaching staff. Last year I was inactive for this part of the season. Just coming out this year, I’m blessed. … I just feel like I deserve this. I’ve been working all heart this whole entire season.”
From UMass to Malaysia to the Rio Grande Valley, Putney has had an incredible basketball journey. And it all started with an open tryout: the Vipers’ annual local tryout two years ago in Houston.
“I had a tryout and I showed my butt off,” he said. “They gave me a chance to show my talent for the NBA D-League my first season. I played half the season, and it was a good feeling just knowing I’m a tryout player.”
As for getting to the next level, his coach thinks he’s ready, saying, “I think he can be a Call-Up right now. I think he can definitely help a team, when you have a guy with that size who can shoot the ball like that.”
Now it’s up to Putney to prove to NBA teams that his coach is right.