Approximately 100 basketball hopefuls filed into the gym at Baruch College in New York City on Sunday morning. All of them lined up in front of joint BayHawks and Knicks staffers as they began the day ready to assess the talent level available.
Of course, just as the staff had their own agenda, so did many of the players. For some, such an experience was about living out a fantasy, or to see if they still had what it takes to compete after years removed from high school varsity. For others, it was about having fun playing basketball for a few hours, then stopping to get a picture with BayHawks General Manager (and Knicks legend) Allan Houston on the way out.
But for an even more talented select group, this was their shot at playing pro ball. There were a bevy of past collegiate stars and/or international studs that hit the hardwood too. Such players wanted to strut their stuff and impress the staff enough to get noticed. Though some present had already secured D-League contracts (such an agreement makes them eligible to be drafted in this coming fall's NBADL Draft), the opportunity to play was still a tremendous one for others as well. If intrigued enough, the BayHawks can end up selecting up to five players from the tryout to take with them into training camp. Needless to say, the stakes are rather high.
As the day progressed, that group of nearly 100 was cut down to about 20. The men were being separated from the boys, and real competition was set to begin.
With that in mind, a good handful of players did, in fact, impress throughout the day. Though it wasn't very difficult to pinpoint the more talented young guns, here's a look at some of the more intriguing players, or as we'll fittingly call it, the All-NYC BayHawks' Open Tryout, team.
Akeem Ellis, Coppin State
Many past draft boards may have Ellis listed as a combo guard or even a forward, but if one thing was clear on Sunday, it's that Ellis is more than capable of serving as a floor general. At 6'6" and 210 pounds, the 23 year old is no stranger to the D-League, having previously spent camp with the Bakersfield Jam.
This past weekend, Ellis may arguably have been the most talented player on the court for the BayHawks. He was quick and ran the floor efficiently, all the while staying cool, calm, and collected. He kept things controlled and made his teammates better throughout the day. Make no mistake, Ellis can score and has decent range, but on Sunday, he was as vocal and as steady a leader as he could be.
Joston Thomas, Hawaii
With a bit more meat on his bones than most out there, the 6'6", 227 pound Thomas fills out most like a swingman. Still, the guard was similarly vocal as Ellis, too. An owner of good on the court instincts, Thomas kept his teammates focused and knew how to motivate them throughout the day.
As far as his skill set goes, Thomas was very solid early in the day, pushing the tempo and looking for his shot, be it via an opening through the lane or an opportunity to fade away for a jumper. Luckily for him, Thomas had the talent necessary to back up his shot selection.
Dami Sapara, College of the Ozarks
If there was anyone who made a run at Ellis' unofficial "best player on the floor" title on Sunday, it was Sapara. That said, he waited until later in the day to truly explode and let things fly...literally.
A freakishly athletic specimen, Sapara might have more raw talent than Ellis, as good as they both performed this weekend. In competition, the swingman displayed versatility, running the ball up the court and keeping up with his man at all times and swarming him on defense. But pretty soon Sapara was able to separate himself from the pack completely by throwing down double clutch dunks, slamming it in, over and literally on top, of defenders, etc. Even his competitors were in awe.
Brian Addison, Buffalo University
A veteran of international competition, Addison seemingly had a leg up on most of his comrades on Sunday. At 6'10" and 235 pounds, the big man displays a certain skill set not known to many players his size.
Surprisingly enough, Addison was seen running the ball up the floor a bit (and controlled it quite well, in fact) and knocked down a handful of jumpers from around the perimeter. The finesse Addison shows is very impressive for a big man.
Kyle Hunt, Middle Tennessee State University
Talk about looking like a man amongst boys--- at the very least, Hunt certainly looks the part of an NBA player, let alone a D-League one. At 6'10" and 225 pounds, the big man used his body all day to cash in on easy looks inside.
Like Addison, Hunt is a finesse player with intriguing ability to handle the ball and knock down shots around from the gym. Much bigger and stronger than most present on Sunday, however, Hunt went to work down low. What's more, he also displayed good defensive instincts, working hard to set screen for his teammates throughout the day.