Cliff Alexander thought he was on the path to NBA stardom in 2014.
The third-ranked prospect in ESPN’s 2014 recruiting class and a McDonald’s All-American, Alexander committed to Kansas and coach Bill Self’s top-10 ranked recruiting class.
Early 2015 NBA mock drafts had him as a top-10 pick. Many expected him to follow in the footsteps of former Jayhawks Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, and Kelly Oubre Jr., who all turned pro after one season in college.
But there was no storybook ending for Alexander, a 6-foot-8 center.
After averaging 7.1 points and 5.3 rebounds in 28 games, he was suspended by Kansas because of eligibility questions. The move came after his mother filed for a loan from a financial company that specialized in lending money to potential top draft picks.
Alexander is playing in the Summer League this week, this time for the Clippers.
“It’s up and down right now,” he said. “I’m 23 right now. It’s a long journey; I’ve been playing professional going on five years right now. I came out when I was 19 years old. I’m just trying to find my way back up [to the NBA] again and go from there.”
As for what he hopes to accomplish this summer, he said: “Just being more professional, on time, and taking care of the little things. You have to come out here to play basketball and do the right things. My goal is to get signed.”
He knows there are no guarantees with the Clippers. The team drafted Florida State center Mfiondu Kabengele with the 27th pick in June.
Brian Adams, the Clippers’ Summer League coach, has been impressed with Alexander.
“His spirit has been great. He’s understanding of what our organization wants to accomplish during summer league,” Adams said. “We don’t have too many post plays, right now, but he’s been rebounding and doing the little things. He’s a big body hogging up the paint.”
On the court, Alexander has been one of the most vocal players for the Clippers. He’s calling out screens for Jerome Robinson and Terance Mann. He’s taking accountability for his lapses on defense.
In 15 minutes in a game against the Lakers, Alexander scored 11 points and added four rebounds, a steal and a block. Against the Washington Wizards, he had four points and five rebounds in nine minutes.
“He’s showing Jerome [Robinson] and Fi [Kabengele] their welcome to the NBA. This is a guy fighting for a roster spot and he can do damage to you in practice,” Adams said.
While still a longshot to make the roster, Alexander would welcome playing with new Clippers Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
“That would be crazy,” he said. “I played with Dame [Damian Lillard] and CJ [McCollum] a few years ago. I wouldn’t mind learning from Kawhi, PG and Pat [Beverley]. Just being a sponge and sucking everything in.”
This time around, Alexander is taking it one day at a time and hopes it will pay off with an NBA contract.
“Just staying professional and doing what they ask you to do,” he said.