Photo by Ian Feldmann
Flashy suits, hopeful faces and anticipation of achieving a life dream fill the arena each year as NBA hopefuls wait to hear their names called by NBA commissioner Adam Silver in the NBA draft.
But, that was not the case for former UMBC star Jairus Lyles. Rather, Lyles decided to stay home on the night of the draft and work on his game.
It is that commitment to improvement that has put Lyles in the position that he is in today. Lyles has always been a gifted shooter, earning a three-star prospect rating when he graduated from high school. But, it took Lyles four years to transform himself into an all-around basketball player.
Throughout the 2017-2018 season, coach Ryan Odom routinely raved about Lyles’ growth as a player, particularly on defense. Lyles was able to set a career high in steals, and alongside fellow guard KJ Maura, they created the pesky defense that drove opponents crazy during the season, and allowed UMBC basketball to transform itself to a threat in the America East Conference.
But, as the 60 names called during the NBA draft found their way to the video board atop the stage in Brooklyn, New York a nervous feeling began to spread through the hopeful UMBC fans. As the Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets, and Toronto Raptors all surpassed Jairus for their second round picks, Lyles’s future in the NBA looked bleak.
But, a few days after the draft, UMBC fans would rejoice as Lyles was invited by the Utah Jazz to play for their summer league team. After two decent games off of the bench in Utah, Lyles would travel with the team to Las Vegas for the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League. In his first game in Vegas, Lyles would score 11 points, displaying some of the scoring prowess that he demonstrated for two and a half years at UMBC.
Thanks in part to his dominant performance in that game, Lyles hit the jackpot, though it was a slightly different prize than most visitors of Sin City come to expect. The Jazz awarded Lyles for his performance with an NBA contract, making him the first UMBC basketball alumni to sign an NBA deal.
Per team policy, the Jazz did not release the details of the contract. But according to sources Lyles signed an Exhibit 10 contract. An Exhibit 10 contract is a deal that allows a player to participate in training camp with an NBA team. With this contract, players can earn up to $50,000 as a bonus for making it to a G-League team after training camp. After that, if the player stays in the G-League for 60-days, they become eligible for another bonus of up to $50,000. Teams can also change Exhibit 10 deals into two-way contracts if they find a players performance to be exceptional.
A two-way contract dictates a players salary based on what league they play in. For example, if Lyles were to play with the Jazz during the season, he would make more money than if he were playing for their G-League affiliate. During the 2017-2018 season, players with two-way contracts make $74,000 a year in the G-League, and $204,000 if they make the NBA roster for at least 45 days.
As an undersized Point-Guard, Lyles has already accomplished many things, but he will have to continue his uphill journey to become an NBA player. But the future is now in his hands.