Sandro Mamukelashvili won’t need a lesson on how to play alongside a great guard if he winds up as teammates with LaMelo Ball or Donovan Mitchell.
The Seton Hall product said Friday he has worked out for Ball’s Hornets, Mitchell’s Jazz, the Pistons and the Thunder at this week’s NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. He also has about eight more workouts on tap, including July 1 with the Nets and July 8 with the Knicks.
“Most important is to showcase how [bad] you want it, how hard you work for it, your competitiveness and what type of teammate you are,” Mamukelashvili said. “I try to showcase how I can stretch the floor.”
The 6-foot-11 Mamukelashvili essentially had two very different college careers. Before he was the 2021 Co-Big East Player of the Year after leading the Pirates in points (17.5) and rebounds (7.5) and finishing second in assists (3.7) per game, he was a three-year running mate for First-Team All-American Myles Powell.
“Going into the league where you are playing with the best guards in the world, I feel like I got a little sneak peek of it before I get to the NBA,” Mamukelashvili said. “Because Myles is so good that you really had to figure out how to play with him and how to take the pressure off, how to be a good facilitator, how to set a good screen, how to help him get the ball where he needs to.”
But size and athleticism rule the NBA, making Mamukelashvili a possible second-round pick on July 29, while Powell averaged 17.8 points for the G-League’s Westchester Knicks as an undrafted rookie. Powell signed a two-way contract in April, but was cut before his first NBA appearance.
Even Mamukelashvili isn’t drawing the full buzz expected given his open-floor ball-handling and career 33.9 percent 3-point shooting. It’s given him a bit of a chip on his shoulder.
“I want to see myself [go] as high as I can,” Mamukelashvili said. “I think I’m going to be a pretty solid guy in the NBA and whoever gives me a chance will be pretty lucky.”
While Mamukelashvili feels a responsibility to continue the legacy of NBA players with roots in the small nation of Georgia — such as Goga Bitadze and Zaza Pachulia — the home-run comparison is a Lithuanian national. Former lottery pick and two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis, who facilitates the Pacers’ offense, is “a great example of how I want to play,” said Mamukelashvili.
“I grew up playing point guard in Europe,” he added. “They don’t care how tall you are. They are really big on skills and making you a basketball player and teaching everybody the same. I always studied Toni Kukoc’s game. He brought that stretchbigs mentality into the league.”
Mamukelashvili still considers the greater New York area to be home. He has family living in the area. So, the prospect of joining the Nets or Knicks is admittedly enticing.
“I can’t wait to come back,” he said of the upcoming pre-draft workouts. “I was born in New York, my first game was in New York. I watched the Knicks when I came [back] here first. But don’t get me wrong, I’d love to play for any team.”