The Portsmouth Invitational Tournament came to an end on Saturday night and James Palmer Jr.’s Norfolk Sports Club finished in third place with a 2-1 record.
The PIT is the annual pre-draft event that brings 64 of the top seniors from around college basketball to Portsmouth to compete with and against each other in front of NBA and international scouts.
Palmer had an up-and-down few days in Portsmouth, flashing the things that made him special at Nebraska but also showing the same weaknesses that held him back in Lincoln. For the tournament, Palmer averaged 18.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.3 turnovers and 2.0 assists in 29.7 minutes per game. He also shot 37.5 percent from the field, 25 percent from 3 and 72 percent from the free-throw line.
Palmer was one of 12 players named to the PIT All-Tournament Team. He was joined by Norfolk Sports Club teammate Josh Reaves from Penn State.
Norfolk opened the tournament with an 87-77 win over Roger Brown’s on Wednesday. Palmer finished with 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting (0-of-3 from 3) and 4-of-6 from the foul line with three boards, two assists, three turnovers and one steal in 25 minutes. He had a rough first half (five points on 2-of-7 shooting with two turnovers), got cooking for a stretch in the second half, then cooled off again down the stretch.
Norfolk was rewarded for the win with a day off on Thursday. They got back at it on Friday but dropped their second game to Sales Systems LTD in overtime, 99-94. Despite the loss, Palmer had his best game, totaling 28 points on 9-of-17 from the field, 1-of-3 from 3 and 9-of-12 from the free-throw line, three rebounds, two assists, two turnovers and two steals in 32 minutes. Palmer didn’t get any help in the extra period, however, as Norfolk got doubled up 10-5 and Palmer scored all five of Norfolk’s by himself.
Palmer’s 28 points was the second-highest total of the tournament behind only Iowa State forward Marial Shayok’s 37-point outing in a 100-87 win for Portsmouth Sports Club on Thursday.
Palmer struggled mightily as a scorer in the third-place game on Saturday, but even so Norfolk pulled out a 92-87 win against Shayok’s Portsmouth Sports Club. He finished with 11 points on 5-of-15 from the field, 1-of-2 from deep and 4-of-7 from the line, six assists, four rebounds, three steals, two turnovers and a block. Though he couldn’t get a shot to fall, he did start looking for his teammates a bit more it seems, matching his assist total from the first two games combined.
Though Palmer put up plenty of points in Portsmouth, he didn’t do so very efficiently. He was 16-of-40 inside the arc, which is right about where he was during the regular season — a putrid 40 percent. He never got the jumper going either — shooting just 2-of-8 from 3 in three games — which is one of his biggest flaws as a potential draft prospect.
Now, the pre-draft process continues. This year, the NBA has established the NBA G League Elite camp, a pre-combine camp set for May 12-14 for draft hopefuls and the top prospect from the 2018-19 G League season. The NBA Draft Combine will follow May 15-19. In the past, five spots at the combine have been reserved for players who participated in the PIT, but that is no longer the case, though the G League Elite camp offers another opportunity.
Palmer isn’t the only Husker who will be waiting to receive an invitation to the combine. Isaiah Roby has until May 29 — 10 days after the combine — to withdraw from the draft in order to maintain his college eligibility. The 2019 NBA Draft is set for June 20.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.