As the NBA D-League continues to build a reputation as the best spot to potentially develop up and coming talent (in hopes of helping them get to the next level) many player agents are beginning to realize its true value.
With an increasing number of call-ups and an array of single NBA affiliations heading into next season, the D-League is making strides to becoming known as the official minor league system of the NBA.
And agent BJ Bass of RBA Sports is among those who have been rapidly catching on.
With a client list that includes basketball grinders like Vernon Goodridge and Marvin Phillips, as well as young guns Tony Taylor Jr. and Rashad Bishop, Bass' group is full of promising players just looking for their big breaks.
In fact, lending a helping hand to those who deserved to get recognized is how the agent's passion was realized. Long before Bass was an agent, he took notice of George Beamon, a special local product from Bass' hometown of Roslyn, New York.
"I was just looking to help a kid from my neighborhood. I was disappointed to learn that George, who was on the verge of leading Roslyn High School to their first Nassau County championship, was not getting any ‘Division I' scholarship offers," Bass said.
"I got involved as a friend because I recognized the talent George had. I helped him get his scholarship at Manhattan. After that, I ended up partnering with Brian and Barry Rubenstein, both of whom are shareholders in Basketball City. That was pretty much the genesis of the agency," he added.
Looking to sign some of their first prospects, Bass and RBA hosted a combine of over fifty players from the Big Apple. Chris Alpert (Vice President of Basketball Operations for the D-League) was in attendance to show support, and it was there that Bass found Goodridge.
Bass hit the ground running as he looked to promote the big man's skills and find him a well-deserved opportunity. After participating in Summer League with the 76ers in 2010, Goodridge eventually signed with the Warriors for training camp. As he worked diligently, Bass began to feel reassured of his investment, in addition to his own eye for scouting.
"I remember being there during a Clippers/Warriors preseason game, and seeing all of the Clippers' players watch Vernon dunk during warm-ups," the agent recalled.
"It was sitting there that I began to realize that my ability to evaluate talent was really translating. Unfortunately, Vernon didn't make the team out of camp that year, but that's when we put him the D-League draft. The Springfield Armor selected him with the fifth overall pick."
Goodridge was getting a chance to display his talents and prove he was the real deal in the D-League. In the meantime, however, Bass was making some important connections as he looked to open up even more doors.
"The year prior in Portsmouth, I introduced myself to the Lakers' Mitch Kupchak and talked to him about Vernon. Once he started playing in the D-League, I had Mitch coming back to tell me that Vernon was displaying exactly the type of talent I said he had," Bass continued.
Sensing that his methods were starting to work, Bass said, "I hustled. I went down to MSG a lot and made my way out to a lot of college games too. In fact, I ended up meeting Glen Grunwald at Fordham one night. We've developed a great relationship to the point where he's come out to scout our players before. "
"I was beginning to meet a lot of General Managers and I wanted to tell them what I was all about. I had a few clients who I was going to start developing and training at Basketball City. It was important to keep the lines open with the executives," the agent continued.
"Even though Vernon hasn't made it just yet, I feel as though just because of his talent-level, I've gained a lot of credibility with key guys," he added. "Executives like Mitch, Donnie Walsh, and even Pat Riley. Pat went as far as comparing Vernon to Sergie Ibaka."
Bass' strategy when marketing his clients to NBA teams has been to make them realize that all of his clients are niche players who can fill certain voids. Whether it be shot-blocking, rebounding, jump-shooting, or play-making ability, each one of his clients seem to have a special skill or two they certainly excel at.
Many executives seem to agree with Bass, too. Many of his clients have seen workouts with and/or have been scouted by teams like the Knicks, Celtics, Nets, and Grizzlies over the last couple of months. It's likely a couple of them will even be in veterans' camp within the coming weeks as well.
But until then, Bass understands the benefits of setting his players up on D-League teams in the future. NBA fans will see quite a few of his clients (should they not be in NBA camp) enter the D-League draft this coming fall.
Recognizing just how progressive the D-League could be for his clients, Bass added, "I wouldn't put them there if I didn't believe these guys could play in the NBA. The D-League is a great platform for guys that are below the radar and need that opportunity to prove they belong. The D-League can potentially be the stage that helps a lot of these guys find the right NBA team for them."
As Bass continues to seek out ideal opportunities for these skilled players who may otherwise go unnoticed, he also continues to prove his eye for scouting, evaluating, and developing young talent may soon rank with the best in the business. Low and behold, he's completely ready to use the D-League to help him prove it.