Gatens to Phoenix Suns' summer league

BY MATT CABEL | JULY 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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Iowa basketball's Matt Gatens graduated. He won't play in Carver-Hawkeye Arena again, and he's done training under head coach Fran McCaffery.

But Gatens has been hard at work since his graduation, preparing himself for the possibility of making an NBA team.

His name was not called in the draft on June 28, but the next door still opened up for him. Gatens received a call quickly after the draft from the Phoenix Suns inviting him to participate in their summer league, which will begin July 15.

"I'm really excited about it; I'm happy for the opportunity," Gatens said. "I want to give them a reason to keep me around, give them a reason to invite me to camps and fight for a spot on the team."

Gatens traveled to Los Angeles after he graduated in May and trained with newly appointed agent B.J. Armstrong, a Hawkeye alum who had success playing for the Bulls in the 90s. After the three weeks of working out, Gatens returned home and was invited to visit with seven different NBA teams — including Phoenix, where he traveled twice.

Gatens said Armstrong has been beneficial in the transition as well.

"[Armstrong] has been a lot of help," Gatens said. "He's a good guy to bounce questions off of because he's been through this process … He's got a lot of connections in the NBA. He's been a real good person to have on my side."

Gatens spent his time at Iowa finding success as the team's designated 3-point shooter, but the team as a whole didn't fare so well. The Hawkeyes endured three-straight losing seasons, two under former coach Todd Lickliter and one in current head coach Fran McCaffery's début season. Gatens, who brought talent and leadership skills to the team, didn't get the spotlight he had received before college because of Iowa's underwhelming team performance.

He improved his statistics and shooting percentages each year, however. The Hawkeye culminated with a senior season that included three wins over top-25 teams and back-to-back 30-plus point performances. He showed a will to win throughout the season, working hard to bring life back into Carver Hawkeye Arena and bringing prominence back to the Iowa program he'd been enamored with for so long.

"He's a shooter," Gatens' former teammate Aaron White said. "If he goes in and shoots the ball well in the summer and [the Suns] see how hard he works and how good of a teammate is, I wouldn't be shocked if he makes it."

His Iowa coaches are also behind him with their full support.

"Now you have a young man who went through four years of college, had to endure losing, had to really battle and build character through all those experiences," Iowa basketball assistant coach Andrew Francis said. "… I think teams really value guys with high integrity who have great work ethic. Obviously, this is a profession, so you have to come in and work every day. When you're dealing with Matt, that's what you get, bottom line. You're getting a guy who's going to be prepared to work every day. People may think that's easy to come by, but it's not, so hopefully [the Suns] see that and want that to be part of their locker room."

His teammates are proud of him and cheer him on as well.

"We're all proud of him; we're all behind him," White said. "We all know how good of a locker room guy he is. He'd be a great asset for the Phoenix Suns, and I hope he makes the team."

With July 15 looming, Gatens remains confident and excited about his opportunity.

"There's a lot that could happen between now and then," Gatens said. "It depends on what guys they bring back, what guys they sign. They only had one draft pick, so it's not like they're bringing in a ton of guys… I'm looking forward to the opportunity. I'm going to give it my all and prove to them that they should keep me around."

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