With a well-known NBA veteran like Ricky Davis and a couple of Knickerbocker affiliate players like Jeremy Tyler and C.J. Leslie from training camp gracing the team's roster, the Erie BayHawks looked like a contender to start the D-League season on a strong note.
Unfortunately, some early struggles derailed such hopes in Erie. The BayHawks started the year off going 0-7, leading the coaching staff to mix things up a bit as they aimed to cook up a winning recipe in town once again.
One of the most notable changes has been the team's decision to look Justin Brownlee's (also a Knickerbocker camp addition) way a bit more. Ready to be depended on, the forward has absolutely delivered in the past couple of weeks.
The year of 2014 has been a good one so far for Brownlee and the BayHawks. The team has managed to go 3-2, and it's been the young forward who has clearly led the way. Averaging 18.6 points (on 62% from the field and 53% from deep), 8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists, Brownlee also came through with an offensive explosion at the NBA D-League Showcase last week. He scored a season-high 35 points against the Toros on January 6th.
"It was a great experience. Playing well there was a big confidence booster for me," Brownlee told RidiculousUpside.com in a recent interview "We would've like to get both wins out there as a team, but it was great to get some exposure and at least come out with one win."
As noted, Brownlee isn't as known for his scoring prowess. Still, he said proving that he could put the ball in the basket if need be at the Showcase was a relief with all sorts of NBA executives and scouts watching him in Reno.
"It was definitely a relief, because going into the games, you want to play well. You know who's out there, so there's a little pressure on you to do that," Brownlee added. "My teammates helped by finding me when I was open and getting me the ball. They played well by doing other things, like playing good defense. That helped along the way. But it was definitely good for me to go out there and play well in front of the NBA general managers."
Brownlee followed up his 35 point effort with a near triple-double in a BayHawks win over the soaring Idaho Stampede later in the week. Getting back to what he does best, the 25 year old further proved that he could just as well fill up the stat-sheet in different ways while making a positive impact for his team along the way.
Discussing the types of things that may make him appealing to NBA teams, Brownlee said, "I try to make plays, because I think I'm an all around player. I do a little of everything on both ends of the court. I was fortunate enough to get it going and have a big scoring night during our first game."
He continued, "I can do those things, but I try and focus on being a team guy. I do the dirty work and all the little things to help the team. That's more my role. That's probably what my role will be at the next level also."
As Brownlee continues to piece together a string of strong performances in hopes of garnering consideration from NBA teams, he has a terrific support system in Erie. The St. John's University alumni gushed about being associated with the Knicks' organization (and now the affiliated BayHawks) over the last few months.
Beaming, the young gun added, "Oh man, it's been very good. I was with the Knicks in Summer League and then training camp. And now I'm with the BayHawks. The organization's been very welcoming. I guess they see something in me, because they've been working with me."
Addressing the type of guidance he's been given thus far, Brownlee said, "I talk to Allan [Houston] and he tells me what I can do to better myself. Coach Cross is a great coach. He helps me with off the court things, as well as what to do in different basketball situations. It's been good to have that organization behind me and constructing me as a player. Hopefully one day, I can get that call-up. "
After starting the season 0-7, the BayHawks have gone 4-6 in their last ten games. What's more, they've continued to remain competitive throughout contests, regardless of the outcome. Such success may not be all too overwhelming just yet, but it's undeniable that this team is back on the right track as they begin to turn things around.
Unsurprisingly enough, they have a player like Brownlee to thank for his clutch play as of late.