Daniel Ewing was among college basketball's top point guards while at Duke, but he's not in Durham, N.C., anymore.
The NBA classroom is even tougher than the Clipper rookie expected, and lessons are delivered nightly. Ewing, however, is a good student, the Clippers said, and he has capitalized on an early opportunity.
Eager and willing, Ewing has made a good impression on the older guys.
"It's not easy to make the transition from the collegiate level to the pro level, especially at point guard, but I feel he can make it," forward Elton Brand said Monday after practice at the Spectrum health club in El Segundo.
"I've always felt that point guard is the toughest position to master because they have to run the team, and when you're running NBA sets instead of college sets it's ... let's just say it's night and day.
"But he's picking it up well and he's playing solid. He started against Steve Nash the other night, Steve Nash the MVP, and he held his own. Just playing against Nash has to be daunting for a young player, but I liked how he handled himself out there. I'm definitely proud of him."
With second-year point guard Shaun Livingston sidelined because of a lower back strain, Coach Mike Dunleavy has turned to Ewing to play behind starter Sam Cassell.
Ewing started and played well in Saturday's 90-87 exhibition victory against the Phoenix Suns at America West Arena. He had 12 points, five assists and committed only one turnover in 29 minutes.
Defensively, Ewing exceeded the Clippers' expectations against Nash, the NBA's top point guard.
"He does a good job defensively on the ball," Dunleavy said. "And he's made some big shots, some important shots, for us coming down the stretch of the game. That's been a positive for him."
Ewing made timely jumpers in the fourth quarter against Phoenix, and scored seven points off the bench Oct. 12 in the Clippers' 95-80 exhibition victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
"When you play pretty well, whether in the exhibition season or the regular season, it's always good to have games like that," Ewing said. "Just to know that I can play well and be able to defend Nash the way that I did was good for my confidence.
"It was my first time going against him, and he did beat me a couple of times, but you really don't know what to expect playing against a superstar player like that. He's great at everything."
As are others in the NBA, Ewing has learned.
"All-Star caliber players do things to separate themselves, but everybody is really good," he said. "You can never take anybody for granted at this level, you can never sleep on anybody, because any guy can put up some big numbers. You have to be prepared every night out, and that's what I'm trying to do right now."
After three exhibitions, the battle for the backup small forward position remained wide open, Dunleavy said.
Rookies James Singleton and Yaroslav Korolev -- the team's No. 1 draft pick -- and fourth-year player Rodney White are vying for the spot behind starter Corey Maggette.
Center Chris Kaman, who recently underwent an X-ray on his injured left thumb, said he still experienced pain after practice. The Clippers planned to review the results of the X-ray Monday.