Growing up in Philadelphia, Maalik Wayns found an idol in 76ers star Allen Iverson. Iverson, inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2016, helped shape the basketball future of many Philly youngsters. Included among them is Maalik Wayns, who met “The Answer” a lot earlier in his life than many may have projected.
“I actually played him 1-on-1 at a basketball camp when I was around 11 years old,” remembers Wayns. “He came to a basketball camp I was at, just so happened to be there and I played him 1-on-1. That always was kind of my guy I looked up to. Being from Philly, that’s my favorite player ever.”
NBA player and future NBA player battled, but one was just a kid. Surely the results would be skewed as the youngster would be allowed to win…Right? “Nah. He let me score one point but he didn’t let me beat him. Yeah, he didn’t take it easy on me. I don’t think he took it easy on anybody.”
On Thursday, August 9th, the Mavericks officially welcomed Maalik Wayns to the organization. Actually, back to the organization. Wayns appeared in six games for the Mavs in the 2015 Vegas Summer League, posting 10.2 points, 3.2 assists, and 2.2 rebounds in 19.3 minutes over six games.
Wayns is excited to be back. “I’m kind of familiar with the staff, things like that. I know those guys, the people they got and they’re great people. It’s a great organization, a first class organization. To get the opportunity or to even be a part of something with one of the best coaches in the NBA (Rick Carlisle), it’s a great learning experience and something I can take to my career and go forward. To be in that environment is a great opportunity for me.”
It turns out the Mavericks just beat the buzzer in signing Wayns, who was hours away from signing a deal overseas. “About a week back my agent called and told me (about the Mavericks). I was actually about to sign a deal in Russia but my agent called me maybe a couple hours before and told me about the opportunity with the Mavs. I feel at this time, me being the age I am and with the experience I have, I should take my shot and try to make something happen and see where it goes. I thought it was the right time to do that.”
Dallas was impressed enough by the experience, résumé, and 2017 summer display from Wayns to extend a training camp invite. The 26-year old played for the Wizards squad in Las Vegas, his fifth go-around in the NBA’s summer circuit. “It was good, it’s always good. Going out to Vegas, being in that environment, it’s a chance to showcase yourself in front of every (NBA) team and teams around the world. I thought it was a great opportunity and I thought I did pretty well with the opportunity I was given. I was ready when my number was called and that’s all I can control.”
Inheriting a love of all things 76ers from his father, Wayns experienced something that most only dream of. First off, playing in the NBA, but his debut in the Association came with none other than his hometown team.
An accomplished three year player at Villanova –less than an hour’s drive from Philly– Wayns was undrafted in 2012 but quickly boarded up with the Orlando Magic for his first venture in the Summer League. As evidenced by his situation and countless others, who you suit up for in the summer has little bearing on your home come regular season time.
As the regular season approached, it was the Sixers who came calling. Wayns wasted no time making his professional debut, appearing in the team’s first contest of the season.
“It was great, it was like a dream come true. Opening night, being on the 76ers roster it was like a kid’s dream come true. Especially being a guard like (Allen) Iverson and him being like the biggest icon we’ve ever had here. Looking up to him my whole life, being able to play for the Sixers was a dream.”
A taste of the action left Wayns grateful but unsatisfied. “It was great. It was definitely a humbling experience. It makes you hungry for more and want to accomplish more once you get a taste of it.”
He would receive that opportunity later that year with the Los Angeles Clippers. Finishing the year on the West coast, the team invited him back again for 2013-14. Again battling for a roster spot out of camp, he made the team once more.
“I think it was the same thing with the Sixers, having to make the team out of camp,” notes the 6 foot 1 point guard. “It was just me being me. Being a professional, being a junkyard dog, being someone who wanted to come in every day and grind, be on time, be accountable and just work hard. Do anything I could provide on the basketball court, I think that all played a part in me making both teams.”
Making a team out of training camp is no small feat. It’s part of the process for most basketball players and Wayns was now batting 1.000. “Finishing my first year with the Clippers, I got a handle being around veterans. I went to the playoffs at the end of the season so that next season going into training camp, I knew all those guys. I had been to the playoffs with them, a lot of practices with them and a lot of locker room situations, things like that. So I was real comfortable going into camp and that helped me a lot.”
After time in the G League with Rio Grande Valley and Delaware, Wayns decided to play overseas. Opportunity came calling and he was chomping at the bit to have an expanded role and “a more lucrative deal than I had coming in the NBA. I just took the opportunity. I wanted to play. Two years I was in the NBA floating around but I didn’t really get a chance to play. I wanted to go to Europe and get a chance, an opportunity to show I can play at a high level.”
A basketball lifer, the “AI”-admirer has made quite a career for himself. He’s only getting started, but his history indicates no surprise that he’s made it this far. Wayns was a member of the United States 2008 U-18 FIBA Americas squad and played alongside fellow future NBAers Kemba Walker, Mason Plumlee and JaMychal Green. Wayns impressed with 30 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds, five steals, and two blocks in four games.
“That was one of the best moments of my career. We had a lot of good guys on that team, I think Kemba was MVP (of the U.S. team), that just shows you the level of talent that was there. To compete against that type of talent at that age and represent your country, it’s a once in a lifetime experience and I’ll treasure it forever.”
All those roads have led to now and now is the Dallas Mavericks. Wayns enters camp with as good a shot as any to make the Mavs 2017-2018 roster. He’s been in this situation twice before, twice emerging from training camp with a spot on the opening night rosters.
“Being in two training camps before and being coached by Doc Rivers, Vinny Del Negro, and Doug Collins, I think I’m pretty prepared for NBA training camp and I know what to expect. I know how to handle myself and pick up myself and things like that, so I think it will definitely give me an advantage that way.”
Allen Iverson was “The Answer.” Maalik Wayns has made his mark in hometown Philly, Los Angeles and in multiple international territories. Now it’s time to fulfill his destiny in Dallas.