Some may feel that playing in the NBA is only a dream, but NBA hopefuls took an opportunity to potentially make that dream a reality. The NBA Development League began to hold its annual tryouts, and made its first of four stops on May 12th in Los Angeles, Calif. Everyone had their reasons for coming out, but most were just looking for a chance.
“My dream is to play in the NBA,” said Tyquan Brown, 22, “I had a dream to play in the NBA since I was a young kid and I’ve been working at it, and I feel like this is my opportunity.”
Approximately 200 NBA prospects showed up at the Next Level Sports Complex to showcase their talents, and hopefully be offered a contract. Over the next month the D-League will screen hundreds of prospects in Los Angeles, Chicago (June 2), New York (June 16) and Houston (June 17) in order to select the best.
“One of my departments main responsibilities is to scout, recruit and sign all the players for the NBA D-League, so this is just one step in that process were we get to see a lot of players,” said Chris Alpert, Director of Basketball Operations and Player Personnel. “We’re going to identify the best prospects that are here, whether that’s one or whether that’s 100.”
Once selected, the players will be put into a database where they will await the conclusion of the four tryouts. After that process has ended the D-League will contact those players, and offer them a contract to get into the D-League Draft, which is set to take place in early November.
“To be offered a contract would mean the world, it would actually change my life,” said Jamal Moore Jr., 18. “This would actually be the first step to my overall dream to be somewhere where I can play basketball 24/7, have a gym available to me, have good coaching and good teammates that I can call my friends and my family.”
An array of talent showed up for the event, and featured players of all ages, sizes and experience. There were some players who last played in high school, overseas and some who last played in the D-League and are looking to get another chance. Some, like Moore Jr., heard of this opportunity and traveled from out of state in order to take advantage.
“I’m from Arizona, I traveled last night to get here for this. I’m all about basketball and any opportunity I can get I’m going to take it,” said Moore Jr., “L.A. is the home of talent, I can say that now because in Arizona we don’t have a lot of players that can play at a competitive speed like this, and to come out here and see how my game can transition to an upper tempo is good.”
After receiving a motivational talk from NBA champion A.C. Green, the players were broken up into 20 teams of 10. Each team then had a chance to take the court and play two 40-minute exhibition games. Each team received a 30-minute practice period prior to their first game, and a break in between the two games to get acquainted with their teammates and coaches.
The Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers and L.A. Lakers were just some of the NBA teams that came out to scout the event. They were alongside NBA D-League coaches from the L.A. D-Fenders, Canton Charge and Bakersfield Jam.
“We like to find size if possible. We like size and athleticism, like all coaches, and then we like guys with experience,” said Conner Henry, assistant coach for the D-Fenders. “If we can find one guy that can play a position that has good size or great speed it’s a bonus for us.”
When evaluating hundreds of players coaches have to look and evaluate a player in a short amount of time. Alpert emphasized the importance of a players athletic ability and their basketball skill.
“You’re looking for basketball know how,” said Alpert, “Are guys experienced? Do they know how to space the court? Do they know the proper way to set a screen? Are they guarding? Are they on the right weak side defensive help position? So you’re looking at all those things to get an overall picture of whether or not the player can play in the NBA D-League.”
Along with the players, coaches and referees are also at the event to hopefully get a shot in the NBA. The referees and coaching staff are all there in a sense to try out. During the course of the day they are being evaluated to see if the right calls are being made, did the coach draw up the right play and just to see their overall understanding of the game. Since 2002, all 17 NBA referees that have been hired came from the NBA D-League. In addition, as of Sept. 2008 there are 19 coaches who improved their skills by working in the D-League.
Looking at the different rosters I noticed each team was built of players ranging in a variety of ages. Some teams had players ranging in ages from 18 to 34. I caught up with D-League prospect Cardell Butler, 31, who felt that regardless of his age he has what it takes to play at the next level.
“What makes me stand out from other players are not just the tattoos,” said Butler with a laugh, “but I think just playing really hard on both ends of the court and staying aggressive…You can always tell the difference between an older player and a younger player, but with me I just play basketball, I have a passion for the game so I just go out and play. Age is really nothing but a number just like the jerseys you see.”
Butler traveled from the Bay Area in San Francisco in order to try out, and hopes to one day play for his hometown.
“I would want to play for the Dakota Wizards because they are represented by the Golden State Warriors and I’m from the Bay Area,” said Butler. “If I had a team to play for it would be the Warriors, because it’s my hometown.”
Butler said he continuously works out because he never wants to miss out on an opportunity by coming out rusty. Butler is just one of the many who hopes to receive a call from the D-League office, and having this try-out be one more stepping stone in their basketball career. Butler spoke about his passion for the game and what he would do if offered a contract.
“Oh man I’d probably cry. I’d probably cry honestly because I been playing street ball for so long, but of course the NBA is really were I want to be at and that’s one thing I should be at,” said Butler. “If I were to get a D-League contract I would cry, but then I would be the happiest person, because this is what I’m here for.”
From youngest to oldest, each player hopes to be the exception to the rule, and get their chance to play in front of millions. Over the next month 800 players will be evaluated, and of those 800 only the best of the best will be given an opportunity to play with the elite.
“Any one of these players could be the next Dennis Horner that goes from an NBA D-League tryout to making an NBA roster, which would be a significant accomplishment,” said Alpert, “This is really the first step in these players dreams of potentially playing in the NBA, so we’re giving them that opportunity to try to get to the NBA because we’re a league of opportunity.”
2012 Tryout Dates/Locations:
June 2 – Chicago at Moody Bible Institute
June 16 – New York at Basketball City
June 17 – Houston, TX at Legends Sports Complex