Durrell Summers turned what could’ve been a negative situation — a knee injury that required surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation process last year — into something positive. He used the time off from basketball that the surgery required productively, taking classes at Michigan State to work on finishing his degree, working out with current MSU players, talking with former coach Tom Izzo and helping former teammate Travis Walton with his youth camps.
“I’ve been real close to the program (since leaving MSU),” Summers said. “I did my rehab there, took classes there to finish my degree and coach Izzo and I have a great relationship.”
Not being able to play basketball while recovering from the injury made Summers more reflective about the opportunities he has because of the game.
“It helped me grow up and realize that playing this game is a privilege,” said Summers, noting that he used that time to work with kids and help them get better. “I was able to help out at camps and work with kids and really enjoyed it. It’s rewarding and fun seeing kids take things you teach them and get better and improve.”
Summers, who was selected by the Santa Cruz Warriors in the D-League draft this month and then traded to the Idaho Stampede, is currently in training camp in Idaho getting ready for his second professional season.
“It’s going real well so far, this is a fun process,” Summers said. “There are a lot of talented guys here, a lot of guys who are hungry to get better and this is a good situation to be in.”
Summers played for the Maine Red Claws last season, averaging 10.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per game while shooting 45 percent from the field. He also played briefly in training camp with the Charlotte Bobcats. The opportunity the D-League affords for players who want to play in the NBA is a big reason Summers wanted to return to the league this season rather than pursuing potentially more lucrative opportunities overseas.
“I feel like the D-League is the best option to try to get to the next level,” Summers said, noting that the team’s assistant coach, NBA veteran Scott Williams, is just one of the many resources available for Idaho players and in the league in general who understand what it takes to get to the NBA. “We have a great coaching staff, they have a lot of knowledge and they preach conditioning.”
Since Summers left Michigan State, he said he has become a more complete all-around player, something he hopes to show NBA teams this season with Idaho.
“My game has changed completely,” Summers said. “At Michigan State, I was more of a spot-up shooter and one of the knocks against me was always my defense. I’ve worked a lot on being able to create shots for myself and others and being more of a fierce defender. I’m more vocal on the court now. I just try to do whatever it takes to win.”
Working out with and being around MSU’s team this year, Summers believes the Spartans will be a great team once they find their identity.
“So much of their identity last year was Day Day (Draymond Green),” Sumers said. “They definitely have to define who that new leader is, but I think this team’s identity will be toughness. They have tough players and they have guys with a lot of different talents and skills.”
As for Summers this season, he’s focused on both showing that he’s fully healthy and that he’s willing to do whatever the Stampede need to be successful.
“For the team, I just want us to get better each game,” he said. “And of course I want to play well, but more important, just play efficiently in all areas of the game.”
As another Detroit native in a long line who has now gone on to play professionally, Summers also hopes his pro career puts him in a position to help his hometown down the road.
“It means a lot to me (to be a part of the Detroit basketball tradition),” Summers said. “I work hard every day so that I can be one of the guys from Detroit who has been successful, but more importantly, I want to be able to give back and help young kids there now realize their dreams.”