Point guard maintains dream to go pro

By Priscilla Aguirre


Denzel Livingston didn’t get drafted by an NBA team but he did get to play for the Houston Rockets Summer League Team and is working out at their preseason camp.

Livingston, 22, said he still hopes to play pro ball but for now is concentrating on his workouts, hitting the weight room and practicing drills at the camp. Livingston also is taking online classes with the University of the Incarnate Word and has plans to graduate with a business degree in May.

The 6-4 star guard, who at one point his senior season was the nation’s leading scorer, hoped for a spot on any NBA roster and had pre-draft workouts with several teams, the Utah Jazz, Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs and the Rockets. Although he wasn’t selected, the Rockets asked the former Cardinal to join their summer league team.

“When my agent called and told me they were interested I immediately accepted,” Livingston said. “I don’t really show a lot of emotion but my teammates from UIW were happy for me and I was really excited to live out my dream. Overall, it was a good feeling and I was just ready to start playing.”

The NBA Summer League is a series of off-season competitions during which NBA teams come together to try out different summer rosters. The roster of players typically consists of rookies, unsigned free agents, and second-year players.

The Rockets joined 23 other teams to compete in the Las Vegas Summer League at Thomas & Mack Center Cox Pavilion on the University of Nevada-Las Vegas campus. The Spurs — led by summer head coach Becky Hammon — won the competition in a 93-90 victory over the Phoenix Suns. Hammon made history last season when Spurs Coach Greg Popovich named her as the first, full-time female assistant coach in the NBA.

For Livingston, the Summer League offered him another chance to show his stuff playing for his hometown team.

“It was a good experience and I couldn’t just score right away during the game,” Livingston said. “Everyone has a role to play and I just had to wait my turn. It was a challenge to transition from college ball to a summer league but I felt blessed to be there. I’ve never been in an environment like that and it just felt good to be back home.”

Growing up in Houston’s inner city, Livingston shot the ball around to distract him from other temptations. His three older brothers mentored him and made sure to keep him in school.

“I call where I grew up ‘the hood’ because of what I was around,” Livingston said. “I had friends who showed a lot of promise for a sport but gave it up for drugs or went to jail. My brothers taught me to stay out of the street gang and focus on my studies.”

Livingston graduated from Waltrip High School and helped lead the Rams to three playoff appearances. In his senior year, he led District 21-4A in scoring. Then 6-foot-3 inches and 137 pounds, many colleges believed he wasn’t ready for a Division I atmosphere.

“I needed a scholarship to go to school and no one was offering at the time,” Livingston said. “But Incarnate Word worked with me and saw something in me. Now I’m their first player on a basketball team to ever make it on a NBA summer league.”

In his senior year at Incarnate Word, Livingston averaged 21.75 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.6 steals a game while earning first-team All-Southland Conference honors. Livingston was among the top five scorers in the nation and ranked in the top 10 in steals per game. He set a season school record with 74 steals. He scored at least 30 points six times during the season and set school records for free throws made and attempted. He finished his career ranked in the top five in school history in 10 different statistical categories. He accumulated 1,716 points, 537 rebounds, 151 three-pointers, made 475 free throws, had 297 assists, 214 steals and 128 blocks.

In his final season of UIW, Livingston was named Dick Vitale’s Player of the Week and twice-named College Sports Madness Mid-Major Player of the Week. He also was named to the Division I All-District first team, Southland Conference first team, National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District first team, and was a finalist for the Lou Henson Award given to the top “Mid-Major” player of the year.

“It was a team effort through it all and I enjoyed my time playing for UIW,” Livingston said. “I learned a lot from my teammates and coaches. I plan to visit the campus soon to visit my friends, the coaches, and my old teammates.

“Through all of my accomplishments I just want to keep playing basketball and hopefully play for a NBA team one day. I have hopes to graduate soon and will work hard to make my dreams come true.”

“I hope to play professional somewhere, preferably in Houston. I just want to make an example that it doesn’t matter what school you go to as long as you don’t follow the wrong crowd. Life is short so giving up shouldn’t be an option. My advice to others is to just keep dreaming about life and follow your dream.”