Former Bears poised to make NBA debuts

Johnathan Motley, the 2016-17 Karl Malone award winner for best power forward in college basketball. Photo credit: Lariat File Art

Ben Everett | Sports Writer

A new crop of former Baylor Men’s basketball players have joined the NBA ranks, forward Johnathan Motley, guard Royce O’Neale and center Ekpe Udoh.

Motley, the 2016-17 Karl Malone award winner for best power forward in college basketball, signed a Two-Way contract with the Dallas Mavericks shortly after the NBA Draft.

Two-Way contracts, a new entity in the NBA this season, allow teams to sign two more players than usual, but they can only spend up to 45 days with the team. The rest of the time, Motley will be playing for the Mavericks G-League affiliate, the Texas Legends.

Motley, once considered a first-round talent, failed to make it onto the draft board, some believe due to a torn meniscus he suffered in a 70-50 NCAA Tournament loss to South Carolina.

Motley says not getting drafted was a tough thing to swallow, but he is thankful he will get a shot in the NBA.

“It was tough,” Motley told “But you’ve got to take everything for what it is, and just find a way to bounce back. I’m thankful the Mavs signed me. I feel wanted here.”

Motley made a strong impression on the Dallas organization after playing on both the Orlando and Las Vegas Summer League teams.

In the Orlando Summer League championship game, Motley posted 18 points and 10 rebounds while also draining the game winning-jumper for the Mavericks in overtime.

Motley drew oohs and aahs from the crowd with a half court shot to beat the buzzer in a game against the Sacramento Kings in the Las Vegas Summer League. He posted 15 points in that game.

Motley said he recognizes that he has to get better at the small things before he can be trusted to score at the NBA level.

“You’ve got to start off where you get in,” Motley told “It’s a league full of scorers. Yeah, I shouldered a lot of the scoring role at Baylor, but sometimes it’s a little different in the NBA. You’ve got to get adjusted to the game. The coaches got to have confidence in you, the staff has to have confidence in you, and that can take years of producing. If I produce over the years, maybe I can become a scorer like I was in college.”

Udoh, the No. 6 overall pick in the NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors in 2010, is returning to the league following a stint overseas. The 6-foot-10 Udoh played five seasons in the NBA for three different teams and started 57 games, but never established himself as a solid player.

Udoh signed a 2-year, $6.5 million deal with the Utah Jazz to backup All-NBA center Rudy Gobert.

Udoh says he looks forward to his return and has a new level of confidence that he can resurrect his NBA career.

“I’m more aggressive offensively and I think that’s the key, is my belief in myself, knowing that I can play at any level,” Udoh told Deseret News. “I look forward to this challenge. Five years in the NBA didn’t go how I wanted it to, but now I’m back and I’m ready. I can’t wait to get out there.”

O’Neale, a 6-foot-5 swingman who played with the Bears from 2013-15 after transferring from Denver University, played professionally in Germany and Spain for two years after going undrafted in 2015.

O’Neale will join Udoh on the Jazz after signing his first NBA contract, a 3-year, $3.8 million deal.

Udoh says he is looking forward to playing with O’Neale in Utah and hopes to help him improve his game.

“He’s a tough-nosed kid, ready to work, and I’m excited that we’ve got two Baylor Bears on the same team,” Udoh told Deseret News. “I know he’s going to be ready. It’s a great opportunity for him. Now we’ve just got to continue to get better. That’s really the key in the NBA.”

The trio joins Taurean Prince of the Atlanta Hawks and Quincy Acy of the Brooklyn Nets as former Baylor stars currently in the NBA.