Tony Gaffney is getting a second chance to live out his lifelong dream of playing in the NBA.
Gaffney, who graduated from UMass in 2009, was invited to Memphis Grizzlies training camp last week.
“I always felt like he had NBA potential,” UMass coach Derek Kellogg said of Gaffney. “His ability to rebound the basketball and his timing on blocking shots were just some of the few things NBA scouts noticed in Tony.”
Undrafted after graduating from UMass, Gaffney signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 and participated with the team during that year’s Summer League. Gaffney’s performance over the summer landed him a spot in Lakers training camp prior to the 2009-10 season. However, Gaffney was the final player waived by the Lakers one day before the season started.
Later that season, the Boston Celtics signed Gaffney to a one-year deal, including a non-guaranteed contract for the 2010-2011 season.
But the Celtics later released Gaffney in October 2011, narrowing his chances of ever making another NBA roster.
Gaffney wasn’t going to give up that easy though.
In the summer of 2011, Gaffney finally settled in with the Telekom Baskets Bonn, a professional team in the German Basketball League. In his first season with the team, Gaffney became a league all-star as he averaged 13 points and six rebounds per game.
“Tony was one of those guys who everyone looked up to in the locker room,” Kellogg said. “His high energy and high character made him a better player.”
After transferring from Boston University following his sophomore season, Gaffney instantly made an impact for UMass. In 65 career games wearing the Maroon and White, Gaffney became one of Minutemen’s best performers. He averaged 7.0 points per game to go along with 7.6 rebounds over his career.
It was his senior season when Gaffney solidified himself amongst Minuteman greats. Averaging 10.2 rebounds, 3.8 blocks, and 2.8 steals per contest, Gaffney was awarded the Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year. His efforts also earned him a spot on the All-Conference Defensive Team and all-conference second team.
Gaffney also received national recognition, becoming only the sixth player in NCAA history to record over 100 blocked shots in a season. His 115 blocked shots in his senior season is good for third all-time in the NCAA single-season record books.
Kellogg was thrilled that Gaffney could become the eighth UMass player to make it to the NBA.
“This is great for the program,” he said. “Kids from high school looking at our program can use Tony as an example of where hard work and dedication can take you.”
Kellogg also had some advice to players taken later in the draft or to those who went undrafted.
“NBA teams are looking for guys that can help them win,” he said. “They love rebounders and players who specialize on a specific craft. Every team has their superstars, but it’s these guys who can help make a difference coming off the bench.”
Gaffney will make his second attempt at an NBA career on Oct. 1 when he reports to Grizzlies training camp.
Andrew Cyr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.