As a basketball fan, I have always had a love for the lessen known, obscure and/or underappreciated. At school, when most kids were wearing Penny Hardaway, Shaquille O’Neal or Michael Jordan jerseys, I was wearing Bobby Hurley, Derek Harper and Dino Radja.
This is my open tribute to the lesser known players in today’s game, this is Spotted On the Pine.
Name: Diante Garrett
Team: Phoenix Suns
Jersey Number: 10
Rookie Year: 2012-13
College: Iowa State
My inaugural edition of Spotted On the Pine will focus on one of my personal favorite lesser known players of the 2012-13 season, Diante Garrett of the Phoenix Suns.
The son of former NBA player and 1970 All-Rookie team member, Dick Garrett, Diante Garrett was born November 3, 1988 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Diante played four seasons at Iowa State from 2007-2011. Early in his college career, Diante would be roommates with future Suns teammate Wesley Johnson, before Johnson transferred to Syracuse to become an All-American and fourth overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.
During his time with the Cyclones, Diante averaged over 30 minutes a game and had career averages of 10.7 PPG and 4.1 APG, with a standout senior season averaging 17.3 PPG and 6.1 APG while making the “All Big-12 Second Team”.
Despite being one of the top point guards in his conference and reaching as high as “Number 2” on the Best Available Draft Board of Jay Bilas on Draft Night in 2011, Diante watched himself go undrafted while the team who drafted his father, the Los Angeles Lakers, drafted Chukwudiebere Maduabum with the 56th overall pick. As highlighted by a post-draft article from Zach Gourley of Iowa State Daily, Maduabum is remembered as the player that even the draft experts were almost entirely unfamiliar with.
While gaining interest from Phoenix, Miami and Washington following the draft, Diante went overseas to play the 2011-12 season with a few games in Croatia for KK Zagreb and in France for JSF Nanterre. While his stay overseas was brief, Diante found himself back on the radar for the Suns and received an invite to be part of their 2012 Summer League team, as they began to rebuild in the post-Steve Nash era.
After an impressive turn in the Vegas Summer League, Diante won one of the final Suns spots in training camp and was now on an NBA roster. While Phoenix had Goran Dragic, Sebastian Telfair and first-round draft pick Kendall Marshall on the depth chart ahead of Garrett, he was seen to have great upside as well as the ability to play as an undersized two-guard a la JJ Barea or Nate Robinson. Diante would still make his debut early in the season with 2 points, 2 assists and 1 steal on 100% shooting in five minutes during Phoenix’s home loss to Miami on November 5, 2012.
Garrett would become a victim of the depth of his position and be left inactive for a series of games. In January 2013, Garrett would start making visits to the team’s D-League affiliate, the Bakersfield Jam and flourish when given playing time. Spending the bulk of January with the Jam, Diante averaged 15.1 points, 7.4 assists and 1.7 steals in seven games.
While still not receiving much playing time, Garrett would have arguably his best NBA games to date in March. On March 6, 2013 during a home game against Toronto, Garrett had a career high 17 minutes and produced five points, four assists and four steals. One week later, against Houston, Garrett would get his career scoring high to date scoring nine points in eight minutes against the Houston Rockets.
After the April 5, 2013 home loss to Golden State (part of the Suns season worst 10-game losing streak), Garrett would be sent to the D-League again, as the Suns were nowhere near the postseason and Bakersfield was making a rush to the D-League playoffs.
Showing up for the April 6th game, Diante had one of his most impressive basketball performances to date scoring 32 points while also adding 7 rebounds, 5 assists and a steal. The Suns would call him back up for that Sunday’s home game against New Orleans, but did not capitalize on his huge game, leaving him on the bench.
Diante would have two more good games for Bakersfield in playoff losses to the Spurs affiliate, the Austin Toros. Diante received 15 minutes in the Suns final game of the season in Denver against the Nuggets before heading home to Milwaukee for the summer.
While Garrett did not get much burn for the Suns this season, he had a much more productive run than many players put in better situations than he has been placed in. I got the opportunity to talk to Diante a couple times this year, even having him autograph the jersey I bought of him in the arena team shop. With signs of promise and being a cool guy toward me, I hope to see Diante become a more recognizable name in the NBA.
Photo by: Beth Hall