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Rookie grabs attention

Adam Morrison was supposed to be the star attraction of the Los Angeles Lakers’ entry in the NBA Summer League. But he wasn’t the only guy wearing purple who caught the fans’ eyes Friday.

Ben McCauley, a 6-foot-8-inch rookie free-agent forward from North Carolina State, turned heads by scoring 24 points and grabbing 15 rebounds in the Lakers’ 85-84 victory over the Toronto Raptors at Cox Pavilion.

Ben who?

“I was playing (center) in college, and all I did was go block to block,” said McCauley, who played four seasons for the Wolfpack. “Nobody knew I had the skills to do these other things.”

Chucky Brown did. The Lakers’ summer league coach and former N.C. State player had seen McCauley play in the summer in Raleigh, N.C., and thought he could thrive in the Lakers’ triangle offense.

“He’s a smart player who can pass and shoot,” Brown said of McCauley, who averaged 12.4 points and 7.8 rebounds as a senior. “He’s perfect for the triangle.”

McCauley said he hopes to continue to impress people in Las Vegas — if not the Lakers, then another team.

“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “I’m trying to take advantage of it as much as I can. I just hope I can keep it going.”

Morrison had 24 points in 33 minutes, a positive first step in his attempt to eventually gain a spot in the Lakers’ rotation.

“It felt good to be out there that long,” said Morrison, who played off-guard and shot 9-for-17. “I thought I could have made some more shots, but overall I’m pleased.”

MILLS OUT — Portland second-round draftee Patrick Mills will miss the summer league after breaking his right foot in practice Thursday. The point guard out of Saint Mary’s broke his fifth metatarsal.

“You never want to see a player get injured, but it’s especially heart-wrenching to see a young man go down on his first day of camp,” Trail Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard told The Associated Press.

STEP UP — Brent Gunning, a student manager at UNLV from 1992 to 1994 under coach Rollie Massimino, is now the Houston Rockets’ director of player development. Gunning, 36, spent 14 years at Villanova on the staff of former UNLV assistant Jay Wright.

“My goal was always to work in the NBA,” Gunning said. “It was hard to leave Villanova, especially when they made it to the Final Four this year. But the Rockets are a great organization, and I’m learning so much.”

CASSPI SIGNS — First-round draft pick Omri Casspi (No. 23 overall) signed a three-year deal with Sacramento and had six points in 23 minutes in an 86-77 loss to Detroit.

Casspi, who grew up in Israel and played for Maccabi Tel Aviv, hopes to become the first Israeli-born player to play in the NBA. His contract is worth $3.7 million.

ST. JUDE’S FUNDRAISER — The summer league is raising money for St. Jude Hospital for Children in Memphis, Tenn. A dinner Thursday raised $7,000, and a golf tournament is planned for Tuesday at DragonRidge Country Club.

Fans also can donate to “Hoops for St. Jude” in the Cox Pavilion concourse.

Last year, $26,000 was raised for St. Jude’s, a research hospital that specializes in pediatric cancer and other catastrophic childhood diseases.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@ reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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