NBA Draft

One Step Closer: 4 Area Athletes Break Through Into NBA G League

Rodney Pryor, who played high school basketball at Notre Dame in Niles, warms up with the Stockton Kings of the NBA G League. (Photo courtesy Stockton Kings)

Niles Notre Dame is in a position not many high schools in America can flaunt: they have three professional basketball players.

Matt Mooney is currently with the New York Knicks after starting the season with expansion NBA G League team Capitanes de Ciudad de México. The Knicks signed him to a 10-day contract and re-signed him to another 10-day contract Dec. 31.

So far Mooney has played 2 minutes in 1 game for the Knicks, but it comes two years after he made his debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers in January 2020. Mooney has played 21 minutes in the NBA and totaled 2 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 assist and 1 block in five games.

Mooney played 12 games (10 starts) this season in the G League for the Capitanes and was doing great with 182 points, 51 rebounds, 55 assists and 26 steals, before the Knicks brought him up.

In his NBA G League career, Mooney played 69 games (52 starts) with 906 points, 238 rebounds, 351 assists, 128 steals and 8 blocks.

Mooney isn’t the only one from Notre Dame trying to make an impact in the NBA and NBA G League. Former Notre Dame stars Rodney Pryor and Quinton Chievous are both in the NBA G League again this season. Stevenson alum Justin Smith, known for his powerful dunks and solid play for the Patriots, is also breaking into the NBA G League this season for the first time after wrapping up his college eligibility in 2021.

Here’s a look at current NBA G League players who got their start in the Journal-area:

Rodney Pryor

Niles Notre Dame alum Rodney Pryor has had a winding journey to sign with the Stockton Kings of the NBA G League Tuesday, Dec. 28. He was officially activated by the Kings Saturday, Jan. 1. The Kings are his third team of the year, but Pryor is no stranger to bouncing from club to club. He played for Capital City Go-Go to start the year after he was selected No. 24 overall in the first round of the annual NBA G League Draft in 2021. His stint lasted 2 games, where he scored 5 points and had 1 rebound in 24 minutes of action. Pryor later signed with the Windy City Bulls, his hometown team, Dec. 9, but was waived by the team Dec. 15. He remained a free agent for about two weeks before signing with Stockton.

The Kings opened the season Jan. 5 with a 103-80 victory over Birmingham, but Pryor only played 1 minute and missed the one shot he took. It was his 103rd career game.

Undrafted in 2017, he played for the Sioux Falls Skyforce, Raptors 905, Windy City Bulls and Salt Lake City Stars in varying amounts of games across four seasons. Adding in Capital City and Stockton, Pryor’s played for six teams in the developmental league. He’s played 103 games with 16 starts and accumulated 876 points, 399 rebounds, 174 assists, 72 steals and 35 blocks.

In high school he was on the “B” team at Evanston before transferring to Notre Dame his final two seasons. He played strong for the Dons before moving on to Kirkwood Community College. After one year, he transferred to Cloud County Community College, but missed two seasons with injuries. He was able to join Robert Morris University (PA) and proved to be a star with the team for two seasons. With one year of eligibility left, he went to Georgetown to wrap up his college career. Over his time with Robert Morris and Georgetown, he combined to play 96 games (84 starts), with 1,645 points, 555 rebounds, 151 assists, 108 steals and 58 blocks. He earned NEC Tournament MVP honors in 2015 and was All-NEC first team in 2016 and second team in 2015.

Quinton Chievous

The Niles Notre Dame alum recently turned 29 on New Year’s Eve, before going on a crazy journey the next few days when the calendar hit 2022. He was signed by the Salt Lake City Stars of the G League Jan. 2 and activated the next day, only to be removed from the team Jan. 4.

He played in the NBA G League since 2016-17, starting with the Iowa Wolves. The next season (2017-18) he split time between Santa Cruz Warriors and Iowa Wolves. Chievous played 23 games in 2018-19 for Capital City Go-Go. Chievous most recently played in 2019-20 with Erie BayHawks. Over his four NBA G League seasons he played 98 games (18 starts) and accumulated 677 points, 364 rebounds, 118 assists, 45 steals and 21 blocks, according to the G League website. Most of that came in his first season when he scored 417 points in his 48 games with Iowa Energy.

Chievous had a brief stop in Finland for 8 games during the 2017-18 season. He also played 28 games (27 starts) with Rayos de Hermosillo in the CIBACOPA league in Mexico in 2017-18.

He played college basketball with University of Tennessee from 2012-14, before transferring to Hampton to finish his college career from 2014-16. In total, he played 93 games in college with 50 starts and accumulated 891 points, 578 rebounds, 93 assists, 35 steals and 8 blocks. He earned All-MEAC first team honors with Hampton in 2016.

At Notre Dame, Chievous was named to the East Suburban Catholic Conference (ESCC) all-conference team in 2011, along with teammate Rodney Pryor and future NBA players Frank Kaminsky (Benet) and Tyker Ulis (Marian Catholic). Even St. Viator’s DJ Morris played professional basketball overseas from the 2011 ESCC all-conference team. Chievous was also named all-conference in 2010.

Justin Smith

The Buffalo Grove native and Stevenson alum graduated from Indiana University in spring 2020, before pursuing his master’s degree at University of Arkansas. Smith finished his four years of college basketball with 126 games played (101 starts), 1,202 points (821 at Indiana, 381 at Arkansas), 622 rebounds, 113 assists, 94 steals and 53 blocks. He finished making 490-of-945 shots in college (.519%). Smith officially joined the NBA G League in late December and was claimed off waivers by Raptors 905 on New Year’s Eve. Raptors 905 are the G League affiliate of the Toronto Raptors. He was officially activated by the team Saturday, Jan. 1. He joins three other teammates who have gone on to play pro basketball from the 2015 state champion Stevenson team.

Jalen Brunson is in his fourth season in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks, where he is having a breakout season this year. Brunson has played 235 NBA games in his career as of Jan. 5, with 85 starts. Brunson has scored 2,594 points so far in his career and has 669 rebounds, 861 assists, 125 steals and 11 blocks. Brunson got hot as of late, scoring in double-digits 19 straight games (Dec. 1-Jan. 5), including a 27-point performance on Christmas. He’s scored in double-digits 32 of the 37 games he played this season. Through nearly half the 2021-22 season, Brunson has 593 points (second on team behind Luka Dončić, 599), 135 rebounds, 204 assists, 31 steals and 2 blocks.

Connor Cashaw is in his third pro season, currently with Unger Steel Gunners Oberwart in the Austrian Basketball Superliga (Austrian Basketball Super League, established in 2019). Cashaw previously played for Surrey Scorchers (2020-21) and Sheffield Sharks (2019-20), both of the British Basketball League (BBL). In his college career, he played three years at Rice and one year at Creighton from 2015-19. In 130 college games he had 1,085 points, 601 rebounds, 224 assists, 117 steals and 11 blocks.

The other professional player from that Stevenson team is Ryuji Aoki, who is currently playing for Osaka Evessa in Japan’s B.League, the top level in the country. The B.League is part of the Japan Professional Basketball League. The B.League is split into two divisions (first and second). Osaka is part of the first division in the western conference.

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