St. John’s star Julian Champagnie relishes NBA shot with 76ers

LAS VEGAS — While everyone in town was sleeping or returning from a big night out, Julian Champagnie was taking pictures.

After playing games for three straight days and arriving in Las Vegas Thursday night, the former St. John’s star made arrangements to enter the UNLV practice gym at 5:30 a.m. local time. .

“When people tell you to shoot the basketball and you don’t make a 3, that’s a problem,” the Brooklyn native told the Post. “It’s a personal matter. I don’t like misses. I have to feel like I’m doing something. I can’t just miss shots and do nothing about it.

That work ethic is what transformed Champagnie from an under-recruited prospect to one of college basketball’s top wing scorers and now a pro on a two-way contract with the 76ers. Champagnie wasn’t happy with his offensive performance in the Salt Lake City Summer League, which ended Thursday. Known for his perimeter jumping, he failed to hit a 3-pointer in 10 attempts, although he averaged five rebounds in the three games.

The past few months have been a whirlwind for the 6-foot-8 Champagnie. He worked for 14 teams before the NBA draft and was not drafted, but agreed to a two-way contract with the 76ers almost immediately after the draft. It’s the same path his twin brother, Justin, took a year ago. Justin then appeared in 36 games for the Raptors last season, averaging 21.1 points and 8.8 rebounds in the G-League.

Julian Champagnie rolls over Santi Aldama in a recent Summer League game.

Getting a two-way deal was 21-year-old Champagnie’s goal in the 2022 draft. He understood that as a projected second-round selection, there was a chance he wouldn’t hear his name called. There were a few teams he told his agent about — the Cavaliers were considering signing him at No. 56 — and Philadelphia was a franchise they were all raised on.

“If I had gotten a summer league contract, I probably would have panicked more. I had a round trip, I have no complaints,” Chamnpagnie said on the eve of his first game of summer championship in Las Vegas, Saturday against the Raptors “I have nothing to fear. I had an opportunity that I wanted.

“There are a lot of guys going off undrafted, two-way, even G-League deals and getting where they want to go. In the end, it comes down to work.

He’s leaned on Justin, as well as some of his older Summer League teammates, such as Isaiah Joe and former Big East nemesis Paul Reed, over the past week. It’s a new experience for Champagnie. The biggest challenge is adapting to a new role. For the first time in his career, he does not start. He walks in and out of games, competes against better athletes, and games are played at a faster pace than in college. He does his best to adapt.

After going scoreless in his first game in Salt Lake City, Champagnie felt he had stepped forward in the next two games. He grabbed 10 rebounds in Game 2. He had two of his five shots in Game 3 and had two assists. Being consistent, with energy and effort, in Las Vegas is his priority.

“That will be my goal in the next two games: don’t come out flat, come out with energy,” Champagnie said. “Whether you’re in there for 10 minutes, two minutes, you start, don’t start, do something. If it’s a bounce, go bounce. If it’s slipping and playing defense, go play defense.

Saturday was supposed to be a big day for the Champagnie family, the first time the twins faced each other in a game. But Justin, who is nursing a hand injury, is not expected to play for the Raptors. The showdown will instead have to wait, perhaps until a real NBA game at some point in the near future.

“Hopefully,” Champagnie said, “I’ll see him this year.”