At 5-foot-11, Keifer Sykes is no stranger to being overlooked.
But despite the criticisms of his size and ability, it hasn’t stopped Sykes from striving to reach his goal. Or in his case, leaping.
“I’ll always be undersized; I’ll always be underrated,” Sykes said prior to the 2015 NBA Draft. “That’s followed me all of my life. And I’ve always done one thing and that’s produce.”
And his production has been turning heads for years.
As a four year player at the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, Sykes commanded the floor on both sides of the ball. Even with his tremendous athleticism and thundering dunks, his defense is what manages to turn heads.
“He can change the game defensively,” Sykes former head coach Brian Wardle said. “He can affect the game on both ends of the floor with explosive moves. He can definitely apply pressure and really be a gnat on the ball.”
And his defensive qualities are what drew him to a late pre-draft workout with the San Antonio Spurs. But when it came down to the Spurs 55th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, San Antonio selected former UMass forward and current Austin Spur, Cady Lalanne.
Soon after the draft Sykes would get another chance at his goal with the Cleveland Cavaliers summer league squad. In five games, Sykes averaged 9.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists, all while shooting 51 percent from the field and 82 percent from the free throw line.
Sykes wasn’t the most impressive player throughout summer league, but San Antonio made sure to keep him in their sights and offered him a training camp deal.
“I felt my time with the Cavs went really well,” Sykes said. “I decided to pick the Spurs because they have been interested in me since the pre-draft process. My ultimate goal is to play in the NBA one day, and they want to help me reach that goal. They plan to help me develop until that day comes.”
His day may not be coming soon, but the Austin Spurs have helped his game grow beyond his 45 inch vertical. Sykes is averaging 11.8 points and 4.9 assists in 11 games so far, helping lead the Spurs to a 9-2 record. In just a couple months, Sykes knows he made the right decision to join to the Spurs family.
“Austin and the Spurs organization is the place I need to be,” Sykes told Lorne Chan of Spurs.com. “I’ve only been part of the organization since October, but I’ve already learned so much. I’m picking up something new every day.”
In his development, Sykes has turned heads everywhere he’s been along the way. From making cheeseheads in Green Bay care about basketball, to stunning Chris Paul with a self-thrown alley-oop at a point guard camp, the soon to be 22-year-old Sykes plans on garnering the attention of some NBA general managers and make the final leap that so many other former Austin Spurs have before him.
“I’m here because I want to be known as a winner,” Sykes said. “That’s the ultimate goal.”