Why Saddiq Bey’s Villanova reputation is boosting him during Detroit Pistons training camp

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
 
| Detroit Free Press

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Villanova players carry a reputation in the NBA. Look at the Wildcats’ alums across the league — notably Kyle Lowry, Mikal Bridges, Jalen Brunson and Donte Divincenzo — and you’ll notice they’re strong defenders who stretch the floor offensively. 

Those qualities are present in Saddiq Bey, drafted 19th overall by the Detroit Pistons in November’s draft. He was regarded as one of the strongest defenders in college basketball last season and shot 45.1% from 3 on 5.6 attempts per game.

Bey credits Villanova coach Jay Wright for his approach to the game, as Wright’s teams, historically, have been some of the best in the NCAA from a defensive standpoint. 

“He helps you be the most complete player you can be” Bey said Monday. “He helps you in every facet of your game. He doesn’t try to label you, he tries to help you in every skillset. Teaches you how to play hard and together and for each other.”

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Pistons coach Dwane Casey is familiar with Villanova players. He said he coached three of them in Toronto, including Lowry. 

Now, two days into training camp, Bey is standing out. While Casey has preached he’ll be patient with Detroit’s rookies, he also acknowledged Bey is holding his own defensively. It could be his ticket to cracking the rotation this season

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“With all rookies, the one thing you better do is play defense,” Casey said. “You gotta be able to defend to get on the floor. That’s something he’s been doing, he’s been solid. I don’t expect rookies to come in and set the world on fire, making shots and doing a lot of things offensively for us, there’s so many reads you have to make and adjustments you have in the game for the length and speed. But one thing you can do is play hard defensively, get back in transition, talk, all those things.”

Blake Griffin offered greater praise for Bey. Both Griffin and Bey are represented by Excel Sports Management, and that enabled them to connect after the draft. Griffin invited Bey to workout with him in Los Angeles, and is impressed with his game.

“Saddiq has one of the most complete games that I’ve seen, especially from a rookie,” Griffin said last week. “I know he’s a little bit older, but still, a very complete game. One of my favorite things about him is his hunger for getting better and for the game of basketball. That’s all the kid wants to talk about, it’s all he cares about. He just wants to get better. He asked the right type of questions. I’m glad I got to spend some time with him, just because it’s very encouraging to know there’s like-minded guys on the team.”

Their workout was about building camaraderie ahead of training camp, and Bey is carrying that positive experience with him into camp. 

“We just worked on everything,” Bey said. “Wasn’t anything too specific, but just playing with each other, getting a feel for each other and just working on our craft at the highest level. I think it was a great experience.” 

Positionally, the Pistons are still evaluating where Bey fits best. He’s 6 feet 8 and has the size and skillset to be a traditional 3-and-D wing. The coaching staff isn’t labeling him. The roster is stacked at forward, with Griffin and Jerami Grant likely being the starters. Josh Jackson, Sekou Doumbouya and Dzanan Musa are also competing for minutes at the forward positions. Bey has played multiple positions through the first two days of camp. 

Bey’s rookie status combined with a shortened ramp up to the regular season means it might take time to earn consistent playing time.

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“When he makes a mistake, it’s an honest mistake and he learns from it, he self-corrects himself as well as anyone we have,” Casey said. “The sky’s the limit for this young man. One word I’m preaching with all of the rookies is patience and make sure everyone understands. Two or three years from now, those kids are going to be something special in this league. Again, I don’t want to put pressure on him right now, let him do it at the right, proper pace.” 

Deividas Sirvydis update

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WATCH: Detroit Pistons’ training camp highlights, Day 2

Highlights from Day 2 of Detroit Pistons training camp at their practice facility in Detroit, Dec. 7, 2020.

After a season overseas, Deividas Sirvydis — Detroit’s 2019 second-round pick — agreed to a three-year contract with the Pistons last week. 

Casey said Sirvydis has yet to report to training camp due to a visa issue, and must complete the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols before he can officially join the team. Sirvydis played professionally in Lithuania and Jerusalem last season.

“I think he’s supposed to be here Wednesday, but he still has to go through the COVID protocols,” Casey said. “It’s going to be a while before he has a chance to get out on the floor just because of the Visa issues and getting in the country, that kind of thing. I’m excited to see him, see what he can do, see where he is as a player.” 

Once Sirvydis arrives, the goal for him will be for him to get bigger and stronger. On the Pistons’ training camp roster, he’s listed at 6-8 and 190 pounds, less than every player on the roster except for guards Saben Lee and Delon Wright. 

“He’s coming in the league as a shooter,” Casey said. “Number one thing he has to do is get bigger and stronger as a player.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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