By MARK F. GRAY, Special to the AFRO

​From the last seat at the end of the Washington Wizards bench Tiwian Kendley waited patiently for the call that never came as the New York Knicks visited Chinatown for a preseason game at Capital One Arena.  At the end of the Wizards overtime loss the former Morgan State guard’s stat line read “DNP (Did Not Play) Coach’s Decision” which is normally the dreaded sign for an undrafted rookie trying to make an NBA roster.

​However, for Kendley it was nothing more than the latest challenge on an improbable basketball journey where he is knocking on the door to his dream of playing in the NBA.  Kendley knows there will be few opportunities to impress Wizards coach Scott Brooks because preseason minutes are scarce on a team that has one of the best backcourts – Bradley Beal and John Wall – in the Association and got deeper by trading for Austin Rivers.

Former Morgan State guard Tiwian Kendley is a Washington Wizards prospect in their NBA training camp and will be assigned to the DC Go-Go of the G-League if he doesn’t make their roster. (Courtesy Photo)

​“Its just another challenge,” Kendley told the {AFRO} on Wizards media day.  “I’ve been facing challenges all of my life and this is nothing different.  You’ve got to put your head down, grind and get after it.”

​Opportunities have often been tough for Kendley but when they present themselves he has been able to take advantage.  He played only two years at Morgan after starting his college career at Lamar Community College in Colorado where he scored 1,000 points in two seasons.  Despite showing his proficiency at scoring, major college programs were reluctant to give him a scholarship.

​However, he became a diamond in the rough for Morgan State.  Kendley entered as an unknown talent to everyone other than coach Todd Bozeman and left as a decorated superstar. Bozeman recruited him heavily out of Eleanor Roosevelt High School and kept an eye on him during his junior college years. Though he couldn’t lead them to a MEAC championship, Kendley made a name for himself on the HBCU stage which gave him the platform that catapulted him to this opportunity.

​“Coach Bozeman taught me more than basketball,” Kendley said.  “The lessons I learned at Morgan helped me become a better man and a better person.”

​In 44 games at Morgan, Kendley was one of most prolific scorers in the history of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.  He averaged 23.5 points and 4.7 rebounds scoring in double figures every time he stepped on the floor with the Bears. Kendley also earned the distinction of reaching the 1,000 point mark sooner than any other player in the  history of Morgan’s program.

In his first game of the Las Vegas summer league he threw down a monstrous tomahawk dunk that became one of ESPN’s Top 10 highlights as a virtual cult following was born. The Wizards took notice and he was invited to their NBA camp so now in practice he has a chance to prove against Beal, Wall and Rivers that he can play with the best players in the world.

“That was the first time I’d ever put on an NBA uniform, so I just had to adapt to what coaches were teaching us,” Kendley said.  “Once I made those adjustments the game just came to me and I got better.”

All will not be lost for Kendley if he doesn’t make the Wizards roster this year.  He has already been guaranteed a roster spot with the DC Go-Go, the Wizards affiliate of the NBA G-League.  Technically, he is a minor league player who has been brought to major league camp hoping to raise more eyebrows in Washington and around the Association.

The jury is out on whether Kendley will ever play meaningful minutes in an NBA game.  He wouldn’t have this chance, however, if he hadn’t shined on Morgan’s HBCU court.