Former coach Orchard rates Saint Devendorf

BY SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 15/05/2010
Saints guard Eric Devendorf
ROBERT KITCHIN/The Dominion Post
EXCITEMENT MACHINE: American guard Eric Devendorf has averaged over 30 points per game since joining the Wellington Saints and is bringing excitement to the National Basketball League.

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Just how good is Wellington Saints import Eric Devendorf?

He's the best player to grace the capital's courts in 20 years, according to legendary former Saints coach Terry Orchard, who guided Wellington to back-to-back championships in the 1980s.

Orchard was blown away by Devendorf's performance in the Saints' 103-91 defeat of the Hawks on Thursday night, as he racked up 36 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals.

"I have been bored with the standard of NBL over the years," Orchard said.

"But this guy, on his own right now, is doing enough that people should want to pay the entry fee and go and have a look."

The Saints haven't lost since acquiring the former Syracuse University star, who had been cut from the Waikato Pistons and has subsequently signed for the Melbourne Tigers.

"The things I see in him, 90 per cent of the people that went to that gym wouldn't even know to look for," Orchard said.

"Just in terms of how he positions himself. He is outstanding."

Devendorf, a shooting guard who can also run the point, is averaging 31.8 points per game since joining the Saints despite being a heavily marked man.

"He can finish with his left hand, and his passing, it's not just a pass, it's a pass that's right on the dime," Orchard said.

"That's just what I call unconscious competence of guys who are very skilled and have the ability to play at the highest level."

Indeed Devendorf, 23, believes he would have been picked up in the National Basketball Association draft if it hadn't been for a 2008 episode in which he was suspended from Syracuse for allegedly striking a female student in a traffic incident.

"If he was black, he would be an absolute sensation," Orchard said. "We would see him differently. I'm not coming at it from a racist point of view but he's an unassuming white guy and he doesn't have an athletic figure.

"But he's quick and he's got a real turn of foot."

It is understood an NBA scout plans to watch Devendorf play against the league-leading Pistons later this season.

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