Cannady ’20 works toward finishing degree and auditions for a spot in the NBA

Devin Cannady ’20 is trying to become Princeton’s first NBA player since 2002.
Photo: Michelle Farsi/NBAE via Getty Images
Midway through his senior year, Devin Cannady looked like Princeton basketball’s next pro player — an agile, long-range shooter on track for a career in Europe, if not the NBA. But that came to an abrupt halt in the early hours of Jan. 18, when Cannady was arrested at the campus Wawa on charges that included assault, after allegedly trying to punch a Public Safety officer.

Cannady, a native of Mishawaka, Ind., has discussed the incident in interviews with the South Bend Tribune and Indianapolis Star: He was stressed, he tried marijuana, he argued with other customers at the convenience store, and it ended badly. His legal case was resolved in March with a conditional discharge that included 20 hours of community service. That was a few weeks after Cannady had decided to take a leave of absence from the University. The heavy lifting was still to come.

“Ultimately, it came down to checking in with myself physically, mentally, and spiritually,” Cannady told PAW. “[Leaving Princeton] was one of the toughest decisions I’ve had to make but ultimately one of the best decisions I’ve made.”

At home in Indiana, Cannady didn’t touch a basketball for two and half months. He started therapy and confronted the things that had led to that night in January — feelings that he said many Princeton athletes experience: “stress, anxiety, depression, that feeling that the weight of the world is on your shoulders.” 

“I came to Princeton to get my degree and to be in the NBA,” Cannady said. “At the time, I didn’t think either of those things were going to be an option.”

But with a fresh mindset and a greater awareness of how to seek help when he needs it, Cannady said, he is “back on that journey.” This fall, he’s completing his senior thesis and his final two Princeton courses, with plans to graduate in the Class of 2020. And since late October, he has been playing with the Long Island Nets, the affiliate of the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA’s developmental G League. 

In his pro debut Nov. 9, Cannady scored a team-high 23 points, including six free throws that clinched the game in the final 30 seconds, as the Nets topped the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, 121-117. 

G League teams play a 50-game season from November through March — nearly twice as many games as college teams in roughly the same amount of time. Though the league is just one rung below the NBA, its pay scale is a world away from the multi-million-dollar salaries seen at the sport’s top level: In 2018–19, G League players made a base salary of $35,000 for the full season. (Cannady signed with the Brooklyn Nets during training camp, and the terms of his deal as an NBA assignment player include a $50,000 bonus.) But the opportunity for promotion is real. More than 40 percent of players on the NBA’s opening-day rosters this year spent time playing in the G League. 

Princeton hasn’t seen an alumnus in the NBA since Steve Goodrich ’98 played nine games for the New Jersey Nets in 2002, and Cannady is determined to end that drought. “I’m proud to be a Princetonian doing this,” he said.

For the Record

This article was updated to clarify Cannady’s status as an NBA assignment player for the Brooklyn Nets.