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UMBC hero Jairus Lyles holding his own for Utah Jazz Summer League team

Jairus Lyles

Utah Jazz guard Jairus Lyles (18) lays the ball up as San Antonio Spurs center Amida Brimah, right, defends during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Monday, July 2, 2018, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

The hero of perhaps the greatest Cinderella story in NCAA Tournament history has found his way to the NBA Summer League.

Jairus Lyles, who first earned his place in Championship Week history by draining an unforgettable, America East-winning three and then led tiny University of Maryland-Baltimore County to the biggest upset in NCAA history, is now trying to make his mark with the Utah Jazz.

You probably remember Lyles as the best of those little dudes who tooled on No. 1 Virginia in the first round of the NCAA’s this year, scoring 28 points on 9-of-11 shooting and willing the 16th-seeded Retrievers to a near-inconceivable 74-54 win.

Now, the (listed at) 6-2 guard is proving he belongs on the floor with the best young talent in the world, in the NBA Summer League.

Back in March, Lyles lit up the stunned Cavaliers, knocking down 3’s, attacking the basket and rendering ineffective the vaunted Pack-Line Defense, unnerving Virginia players and befuddling head coach Tony Bennett. He was, shockingly, the best player on the floor, and it wasn’t even close.

He was clamped down on and held to just 12 points in a second-round slugfest loss to Kansas State (50-43), but the kid from Silver Spring, Maryland, who was once a Top-100 recruit, had already proven himself on the NCAA Tournament stage.

Lyles was a standout guard at DeMatha Catholic in Maryland, one of the top high school basketball programs in the country, and played one season at VCU. After things didn’t work out there, and after a semester at Robert Morris, he transferred to UMBC, where he put up 20.6 points and 3.5 assists per game in his senior year.

His somewhat-wayward path has led him to Utah, where he’ll try to impress enough to make the roster–or at least a G-League roster come fall.

Lyles scored 8 points in 13 minutes in the Jazz’s 92-87 win over the Hawks on Thursday. He also pulled down 3 boards, dished out 2 assists, and had one steal and two turnovers. He finished with a plus-minus of +9.

Jairus Lyles

Utah Jazz guard Jairus Lyles (18) goes to the basket as San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White (4) defends during the second half of an NBA summer league basketball game Monday, July 2, 2018, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

More importantly, he looked like he belonged on the floor in the time he was given.

Lyles told HoopsHype that the Cinderella run with UMBC was what got him here.

“It gave me a lot and really gave me so many new opportunities. It was the first time a lot of people, especially NBA scouts, saw me play,” he said. “You can really evaluate what guys are made of and it helped me showcase my talent in front of people who were watching for the first time.”

Lyles said he was told to work on his pick-and-roll game, on both sides of the floor. He’s trying to do anything he can to leave an impression.

“Teams already knew that I can score so they wanted to see the other things that I can do — whether it’s defending or keeping the ball in front of me,” he said. “Scoring was able to get me these opportunities and get my foot in the door because I was able to do it so much in college. But it’s the extra things that will stick with me in the league.”

You might think of Lyles as a long shot to make the final Jazz roster, but that doesn’t bother him. He knows a lot about long shots– and big shots–and he’s converted on both.

Just ask Virginia.

Also see:

Hawks guard Trae Young is off to a rough start in NBA Summer League

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