Though NBA training camp is underway, there's still a while to go before the D-League's up and coming prospects hit their respective stage come this November. In the meantime (in addition to keeping an eye on big league training camp rosters to see which waived young guns fall into their laps), just about every NBADL staff is touring the country in hopes of discovering a potential diamond in the rough or two.
An affiliate of a league-high five NBA teams, the Bakersfield Jam perhaps has the most traveling to do with the most ground to cover. Making several stops on their quest to find talent, Bakersfield aimed to let each of its parent markets represent themselves and then explore and assess the talent level available.
This past weekend, the Jam lucked out by hosting open tryouts in the Atlanta area.
Close to 100 participants came out to their strut their stuff for the Bakersfield staff. Through the two day session, such athletes were tasked with separating themselves from the pack in time to be named one of the final participants invited to come back and compete the second day of tryouts. The Jam narrowed the group down to under 25 players.
Regardless of whether or not they were brought back the second day or not, it was obvious to see there was worthwhile talent from A to Z. The group was filled with players with an array of different skills sets, varied basketball backgrounds, and wide range of ages, as well.
The staff was more than pleased with the turnout in an area known for such rich basketball talent. Following the session, Assistant General Manager Brian Levy spoke with RidiculousUpside.com and told us exactly what his guys were out there looking for last weekend.
"We're looking, for one, the physical attributes," he said. "If a guy's a wing, he's got to have the size, the athleticism, and he has to be able to guard the position. The same goes for guards, centers, etc."
He continued, "And then we're looking for a translatable skill at our level. For guys going from the D-League to the NBA, they're going to be role players when they make that transition. Players at this tryout are, normally, making the same transition. They're going from being an All-Star, an All-American, or an All-Conference type player in Division II or NAIA, to a D-League camp, where they're going to be expected to push a veteran. They'll need to be a defender, a rebounder, or whatever it is to make this team."
Over the course of the two days, plenty of players who were up in their mid-twenties and/or early thirties proved to find success on the court. Levy talked about how much a player's age plays into things, adding, "It's a factor, but it's not an eliminating factor, I'd say. Some of the players here have great experience overseas or from great colleges. We've had guys in their mid-twenties come in here and make our team, so it'll probably happen again."
The executive then went on to break down his staff's mentality between the two days of competition, adding, "On day one, we're looking for the guys that can play. On the second day, we're looking for guys that have a role with us. Once we find that, those are obviously the guys we'll look to bring to [training] camp."
Jam Assistant Coach John Bryant also had a positive outlook on the tryout, having once emerged as a key member of a successful Bakersfield Jam team himself, from such open tryouts. With the team set to embark on a new journey this season and hopefully repeating as top seed in the NBA D-League, Coach Bryant talked about the importance of using such tryouts as an attempt to fill various holes left by those players who have since signed on with NBA teams or ventured overseas.
Coach Bryant said, "These tryouts are very important. I'm not sure what the misconception is about these tryouts, but we take these very seriously. [Head Coach Will Voigt] always preaches that we had (current 76ers big man) Tim Ohlbrecht here last year. He was in this camp, and now he's in the NBA."
The coach added, "We try and have the same mentality with these tryouts as we do with our team. We only have ten guys, so we have our first string and second string. Everyone has to be ready to step up to be that next player. That holds true with this tryout. Last year, we had a great team, great success, with great players. But that season is over. Now those players are finding other success, and it's time for a new wave of players to come through. This is the first step."
As they look to duplicate last season's success, Coach Bryant addressed the challenge an NBADL team like the Jam has in looking to do so with a potentially very different looking roster this year. He said, "We just continue to preach being 'that next guy.' That's what the D-League is all about. Once one guy gets an opportunity, now it's up to the next guy to fill a role. Now it's his time. That's what I love about this league."