Monday, July 12, 2010 | 2:15 a.m.
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Despite earning Mountain West Conference Player of the Year and third team All-American honors in his lone season at New Mexico, Las Vegas native Darington Hobson already was looking at traveling a tough road toward a roster spot with the Milwaukee Bucks.
This week, it might have gotten a bit tougher for the 37th overall selection in last month's NBA draft.
Hobson, who averaged 15.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.6 rebounds per game in 2009-10 for the Lobos, will sit out of this week's NBA Summer League with a mild groin injury.
The Bucks will begin their five-game Vegas schedule at 5 p.m. Tuesday against the Dallas Mavericks at the Cox Pavilion, but Hobson will be stuck on his perch at the end of the bench.
"It's very tough, especially when I thought I was going in the first round (of the draft) and slipped to the second round," Hobson said Sunday while taking in Summer League action from the stands. "It's tough, and I feel like I have a lot to prove and I don't get to play. I'm just happy for the opportunity, and I'll prove myself in training camp (this fall)."
Had Hobson gone in the draft's first 30 picks, he would be guaranteed a multi-year contract. As a second-rounder, he has to prove he's worthy of it.
Hobson attended Western High as a freshman, but then attended multiple high schools in California, Texas and Illinois before landing at Eastern Utah Community College for two years and ultimately with coach Steve Alford in Albuquerque. He was the centerpiece last season on a team that went 30-5, won the MWC's regular season title and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
He could have returned for his senior season and again headed a loaded New Mexico club, but opted to move forward.
Despite the recent setback, Hobson said he has no regrets.
"Not at all," he said defiantly. "I think I accomplished everything I wanted to in college. I got (MWC) Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year, was an All-American, our team was very good, we were ranked, went 30-5 and broke a lot of records. So those individual and team accolades helped me make my decision.
"I felt like I was ready, this is where the best competition is and I want to play against the best."
The groin pull happened during the Bucks' mini-camp in preparation for this week's play, as he was closing out on a screen. He said he's not quite sure exactly what happened, but he felt the pull, which will have him sidelined for three to four weeks.
"I was happy to come home — I knew everyone was very anxious to see me play, but I know they'll still show support even though I'm not playing, just with the respect that they have for me and how I play the game," he said. "I was very excited to come out and play, and I'm excited just to be sitting on the bench in Vegas with an NBA team. That's another good thing."
Hobson has yet to sign a contract with the Bucks, but said talks between the organization and his agent, Stu Lash, are "looking good." Lash represents veteran forward Drew Gooden, who Milwaukee this month signed to a five-year, $32 million deal.
One thing in Hobson's corner when it comes to his chances of wowing the Bucks into giving him a roster spot is history.
Milwaukee has a strong recent history when it comes to giving second-round picks a chance to flourish with regular playing time, and the results have been some strong careers. Just a few examples include Michael Redd, UNR product Ramon Sessions and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute.
Whether Hobson becomes next in line, time will have to tell.
"They're a very loyal organization, and the No. 37 pick is a very high pick," he said. "I think I'm gonna have a chance to make the roster and sign. Like I said, they're a very loyal organization and they wouldn't draft anyone they don't want."