As NBA teams continue working out prospects in anticipation of next month's draft, the Celtics decided to draw from the local talent pool this week, bringing in three players with close ties to Massachusetts.
On Thursday, UMass forward Maxie Esho was one of six players at the Celtics' practice facility in Waltham. A native of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, the 6'8" Esho went to prep school at Lee Academy in Maine before committing to the Minutemen, where he was a key player in each of his four years.
UMass went to the NIT in each of his first two seasons and returned to the NCAA Tournament in 2014 after a 16-year absence, but missed the postseason after a disappointing 2014-15 in which the Minutemen went 17-15. Esho averaged a career-high 11.3 points and 6.4 rebounds as a senior, shooting 50 percent from the floor with two double doubles.
His Celtics ties go back to his high school years, when his AAU team co-starred with Kevin Garnett in an Adidas commercial, "Boston Is a Brotherhood," following the Celtics' NBA championship win:
Esho remembered the experience in comments to Celtics.com:
We walked out in the street. Out of nowhere a crowd of people just started following. It wasn’t a script, nobody knew about it, and we were just passing out T-shirts. You could feel the love that the Boston fans have for their team here.
On Friday, it was the turn for Boston native Gerard Coleman and Northeastern star Scott Eatherton to pay a visit.
Coleman, a 6'4" shooting guard, grew up in Mattapan and at 24 is a fringe NBA prospect after a rocky college career. He originally went to Providence before transferring across the country to Gonzaga, where he played the 2013-14 season and averaged 6 points on 49.4 percent shooting. He eventually finished his career at NAIA Georgetown College in Kentucky.
Director of player personnel Austin Ainge explained that Coleman got his opportunity through Leo Papile, a former member of the Celtics' front office who coached both Coleman and Phil Pressey at the AAU level, and took note of his body ink.
We had a guy drop out, so we said, 'Hey, let’s call Gerard in.' We like to help local guys out when we can, and I think he might be the first guy we’ve had in for a draft workout with a Boston Bruins tattoo. It was good to have him in.
The 6'8" Eatherton, a native of Hershey, Pennsylvania, recently graduated from Northeastern, where he played the last two years after transferring from Saint Francis. As a senior he averaged 14.7 points on 59.2 percent shooting, 6.4 boards and 2.1 blocks, all team highs, and led the Huskies to their first NCAA Tournament since 1991, where they put up a good fight in a four-point loss to Notre Dame. Eatherton had 18 points and 8 rebounds in that game.