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Sixers second-round pick Charles Bassey willing to show he has a shot

Bassey's shotmaking during his workout impressed the Sixers.

Western Kentucky center Charles Bassey dunks during the second half against Louisiana Tech in the quarterfinals of the NIT, Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Frisco, Texas.
Western Kentucky center Charles Bassey dunks during the second half against Louisiana Tech in the quarterfinals of the NIT, Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Frisco, Texas.Read moreTony Gutierrez / AP

If anybody sees highlights of 76ers second-round pick Charles Bassey from his time at Western Kentucky, they will see plenty of emphatic jams and blocked shots by the 6-foot-11, 239-pound center.

Bassey, who was selected 53rd, wants everybody to know that there is a perimeter dimension to his game that he feels is underrated.

Apparently, his sizzling shooting during a pre-draft workout with the Sixers didn’t hurt his cause.

“I was making shots and my threes were going in,” Bassey said during a Saturday Zoom interview with the media about his workout with the Sixers.

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Even though the shooting component isn’t his biggest strength, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey felt Bassey has shown more than enough to warrant the draft selection.

“The bigs we bring in, we want to make sure they are switchable and can shoot,” Morey said following Thursday’s draft. “Charles has versatility there.”

This past season, Bassey averaged 17.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 3.1 blocked shots for the Hilltoppers, who earned a berth in the NIT, where they lost in the second round.

He was willing to shoot from three-point distance, if not always totally accurate. Bassey connected on 18 of 59 threes, (30.5%). Then again, that was 13 more three-point attempts than Sixers first-round guard Jaden Springer, who attempted 46 at Tennessee. (Bassey averaged 2.1 attempted threes a game and Springer averaged 1.8).

As much as the Sixers may have been impressed by his shooting, Bassey will earn his minutes as a low post center, who can score from inside and block shots.

Originally from Lagos, Nigeria, Bassey was named the Conference USA Player of the Year and defensive player of the year this past season.

If the Sixers don’t re-sign unrestricted free agent Dwight Howard, there will be a real need for a backup to Joel Embiid.

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Bassey and Embiid have a connection in that both are trained by Drew Hanlen. In 2018, before entering Western Kentucky, Bassey recalls playing against Embiid in a five-on-five scrimmage.

“We were going at it and he was teaching me the game,” Bassey said of Embiid. “It was my first time going against an NBA guy, a guy who was really good, and I learned a lot from him and that is when I knew I had to take steps forward [to take] the next steps to the NBA.”

Even though he has played three college seasons, Bassey won’t turn 21 until October. It’s possible that Bassey would have considered turning pro earlier, but his sophomore season ended after 10 games because of a broken tibia.

“It was a tough injury,” Bassey said. “... I never doubted myself and my work ethic and I knew I was going to come back better than ever.”

He was proved correct.

His signature game as a junior came on Dec. 19 in a 73-71 win at Alabama, a team that eventually advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16. Bassey had 27 points and 12 rebounds. He shot 11-for-14 from the field and 5-of-8 from the foul line. He didn’t attempt a three, but he was so dominant inside, there was no need.

His offensive game still needs much refinement. What should help his scoring is how well he runs the floor, leading to transition opportunities, but Bassey will have to work on low post moves.

Bassey said he is looking forward to getting to work while playing for the Sixers’ summer league team. The Sixers will play five games in Las Vegas, beginning Aug. 9 against the Dallas Mavericks.

“The shot-making, that is what I convinced the team,” Bassey said. “You are going to see it in summer league ...”