From now until mid October (roughly), D-League teams will be holding local tryouts to fill out their rosters and try to find some hidden talent. Local tryouts usually get some press coverage in the "here's a 29-year old small business owner who played basketball in high school but wasn't good enough to play in college or the pros, but he's taking one more shot at his lifelong dream" kind of way. Which I guess works on a local interest level, but there have been some talented players to come from local tryouts as well. I thought I'd take a look at some local tryout success stories from last season. These are players who participated in either local tryouts or a D-League pre-draft camp in 2008, and who subsequently were either allocated to or drafted by a D-League team for the 2008-2009 season. This also is not to say that every one of these guys made it into the D-League. Do the names Justin Bellegarde, Johnny Dukes or Tack Minor ring a bell? No? Well I'm sorry, but they won't be covered here. What I did was look through a few lists of last season's local tryout players to find guys who got some amount of playing time in the D-League last season - in some cases it was a fair amount, in others only a handful of games. It's interesting to see the types of players who broke through. This will be a two-part series, so hit the jump for part the first.
Ryan Forehan-Kelly (6'6" G/F, Los Angeles)
Lest we get yet another snippy comment, let's start with Forehan-Kelly, who had actually been floating around the minor leagues for awhile, and even was drafted by the Austin Toros in 2005 but went to play in France instead. He got his chance with the D-Fenders last year, and played pretty well. Forehan-Kelly played his college ball at Cal, and even though he didn't score a whole lot he was a good three-point shooter. Last year with Los Angeles his scoring was a bit inconsistent, but he shot almost 48 percent on threes and a decent percentage overall. He contributed in other areas as well, averaging five and a half rebounds, four assists and two steals per 36 minutes. The Lakers have apparently given up a little bit when it comes to developing their own talent, otherwise with a little more work Forehan-Kelly could've become a decent end-of-bench player for them. Instead he'll be playing for the second-division Italian team Scafati.
Rashid Byrd (7'1" C, Los Angeles/Rio Grande Valley)
Byrd began the season with the D-Fenders before making his way to south Texas. He also has been around for several year, playing with the Harlem Globetrotters after leaving college in 2002 and even getting a training camp invite with the Sacramento Kings in 2007. This past season was a bit up and down, as Byrd never really got consistent minutes (playing 26 minutes one game and eight the next, for instance). To a certain extent that's understandable, as he's not the most efficient offensive player and his free throw shooting percentage was an abysmal 37.1 percent, and his own foul trouble played a role as well. His per-36 minute rebounding and shotblocking numbers were pretty good, though, at 8.7 and 2.7 respectively. Fun fact - Byrd was apparently in the movie "Semi-Pro" as the character Harvard.
Keith Clark (6'8" F, Tulsa)
Clark went to college at the University of Oklahoma before being declared academically ineligible, and he eventually made his way to the D-League. He started the season on the bench before some injuries made him a starter in Tulsa. He showed some rebounding ability, averaging nine rebounds per 36 minutes,, and he has the leaping ability to be a decent shot-blocker, though his transition from being a college center to being more of a power forward wasn't always smooth. Clark shot 87 three-pointers despite the fact that he's not a good shooter (and he made only 23 percent of his threes). He's also not always efficient and his free-throw shooting needs work. Clark was eligible for this year's NBA Draft but wasn't picked, but with another year or two of development he could become a solid, athletic power forward for some NBA team's bench.
Dewitt Scott (6'6" F, Fort Wayne)
Scott spent his college career at Indiana University Purdue University-Fort Wayne and finished as the team's second leading all-time three-point shooter. He spent a lot of time behind the arc for the Mad Ants as well; in December, for example, he had two games where he shot 11 threes and one game where he shot 15 threes, and he ended up averaging about four and a half three-point attempts per game. He doesn't contribute a whole lot else, averaging three rebounds per 36 minutes (which might work for a shooting guard but isn't so great for a forward), but he made 37.8 percent of those threes, which is solid.
Jarred Axon (5'11" G, Fort Wayne)
Axon played 14 games for the Mad Ants, though there were only two in which he scored more than four points. He scored 20 points on 15 shots in February and 12 points on five shots in March. Axon was a good three-point shooter at Eastern Michigan, but that aspect of his game didn't really come through in Fort Wayne (again, except for those two games) He also had only 14 total assists, though in his defense Walker Russell handled the great bulk of the point guard duties.
Sean Sonderleiter (6'9" C, Fort Wayne)
Sonderleiter played for the Mad Ants on and off last year, being dropped in favor of Taj McCullough at one point before rejoining the team not long afterwards. He had a limited role on the team early on in the year before working his way into (slightly) more playing time. He's a decent rebounder, grabbing 10.1 per 36 minutes, but he's not going to contribute a whole lot on the scoring end - he had fewer games with double digit points (one) than with zero points (more than one). His main problem is lack of quickness, but he has decent size to play in the middle.
Kirk Walters (6'11" C, Anaheim)
I discussed Walters a little bit when going over the expansion draft, noting mainly that he never really rebounded much, and that's true - the 5.2 rebounds he averaged per 36 minutes last season were right in line with his college output. His minutes were never really consistent last year, but he produced when he got more time, though only relatively. I'm talking 10 points-and-three rebounds-in-32 minutes-"productive," and even then he needed 10 shots to get there. It's up to the Springfield Armor now to see if there's anything there to develop.
I'll pick this up tomorrow, featuring a surprisingly high number of Utah Flash players.