Each and every NBA season, the league is watching more and more players rise up through the ranks on the heels of finding success in the D-League.
Though he didn't go through the minor league himself, Speedy Claxton still understands what being the underdog is all about. While he only played through seven NBA seasons due to injuries, the point guard's career in The Association lasted a decade. Standing at just 5'11" and coming out of a smaller school in Hofstra University, it's safe to say Claxton defied the odds in many aspects.
An NBA champion in 2003 with the San Antonio Spurs, Claxton also holds solid career averages of 9.6 points, 4.3 assists, and 1.5 steals per contest.
But since retiring in 2010, Claxton has ceased to leave the game he loves so much. After his playing days were over, the Hofstra product caught on with the Golden State Warriors, his former team, as a pro scout.
"I knew I wanted to stay involved in basketball after my career was over," the veteran told RidiculousUpside.com at the Speedy Claxton Skills Academy in Long Island, New York. "The Warriors presented me with an opportunity to scout, which is a very good gig. But it wasn't for me, because I want to try and impact the lives of young kids through coaching."
This coming season, Claxton will move on from Golden State and return to his old college stomping grounds, embracing a new role as Special Assistant to the Head Coach of Hofstra University. Still, he learned quite a few things over the last couple of years as a scout. Such experience, paired with his background and different experiences, make it easy for the former guard to relate to D-League players and other up and coming young guns, regardless of where they come from.
"Going to a smaller school is sometimes beneficial if you're trying to get into the NBA. If you go to a small school, and you're able to showcase your talent, you'll get a better look. That's what I'm trying to tell these kids that come to Hofstra now on visits.," he said.
Working for the Warriors, Claxton was sent to high and low places to scout out all sorts of players, including those NBA and/or D-League hopefuls. He added, "I know I had to go to some very small gyms, that even I wasn't too happy about. But if they could play, I had to check some guys out. Even this past season's Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard, came from a small school."
Having scouted players that the Warriors may have considered exploring and developing through their D-League affiliate in Santa Cruz, Claxton was asked about his belief in the minor league as a potential path to The Association. He asserted, "It's a step in the right direction. As long as you can be playing basketball for a profession, there's nothing wrong with that."
Now a few years into his "post-retirement" life, Claxton is still making his presence known through his local community by holding a camp for young kids. He runs the camp with the help of family and friends, including past college teammates and brother Michael Claxton.
Nevertheless, Claxton will now venture back to Hofstra University with a bevy of different experiences under his belt. Having defied many odds himself to go on to play NBA ball, and then moving on to scout college and/or D-League athletes, it's clear he not only has an eye for talent, but knows what it takes to reach a certain level. Hopefully he'll be able to hit the ground running with regard to passing that on to the game's next generation of talented players set to jump through similar hurdles.